Yet another futile winter full of Team India’s unsuccessful shots at overseas glory has transpired; a young unit is left grappling with the myriad wounds emanating from the morbid blows showered upon its fragile morale by the rampaging foreigners. What seemed like a renaissance under the leadership of MS Dhoni a year ago, when India hammered the hapless Australians 4-0 at home after being freshly minted out of an embarrassing Test series loss to the touring Englishmen, has only slouched back into the deepest caverns of hopelessness and despondency. The jury is still out on whether, after yet another season characterised by winless tours, the time is just ripe for the phlegmatic MSD to make way for a younger face donning the captain’s robes. Here is a collection of all that I have observed and concluded after being witness to the tumult that the Indian team has had to undergo in the last two months.
- The need for a fast bowler who can be the captain’s ‘go to man’ during tough situations - A cursory glance at some of the most successful teams in the history of cricket goes to show that no team can, for any appreciable length of time, dominate proceedings on the international stage in the absence of impact bowlers who specialize in ‘making things happen’ at times when the opposition appears to have taken the contest by the scruff of its neck. Juxtapose this theory with the way teams like South Africa and Australia have emerged from inescapable morasses in the recent times just by virtue of their bowling prowess, and you shall know perfectly well why the Indian team has been struggling to win consistently in overseas conditions. Indian fast bowlers have rarely been able to bend their backs for any considerable period of time without being plagued by career threatening injuries. For this grim trend to be stymied in the future, the BCCI needs to be proactive in ensuring that the faster bowlers are provided adequate assistance during the domestic matches.
- Indian batsmen need to be gauged properly before being drafted in as long term elements of the team – Even though the Indian batting is still being touted as ‘one of the best’ in the world, most of the batsman are yet to prove their worth in situations that matter. While Rohit Sharma’s uncomfortable stint as an opener in ODIs has yielded mixed results in the last one year, experiments with the middle order has hardly yielded anything conclusive, either in the shorter or the longer formats of the game. The longevity of the opening combinations of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan in Tests and that of Rohit and Dhawan in ODIs are still under the clouds of uncertainty. This necessitates the recall of Gautam Gambhir for the upcoming English tour in summer in order to bring him back into the international fold before the all important World Cup commences next year.
- India needs to finds spinners who can ‘spin’ the ball when needed – The unfortunate dearth of spinners in Indian cricket has been primarily responsible for the humiliations that the team has had to endure abroad in the recent years. India had managed to make considerable headway towards dispelling the gloom of unabated overseas losses in the last decade owing to the rich collection of spinners in the team’s repertoire. The situation has changed dramatically now with Ravindra Jadeja becoming the primary source of spin in a country that has traditionally been famous for producing legends in the spin department. The elusive search for good spinners in India shall lead to hardly anything positive until the tracks in India are not made rewarding enough to those who wish to make a living out of the art of spinning the red cherry. It shall surely be excruciatingly difficult to find potent replacements for the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble in an age where slap bang cricket rules the roost, yet the Indian talent hunters must keep searching for effective spinners if at all the administrators wish to see the team winning anything remotely worthwhile outside the subcontinent.
The tour of England in the coming summer shall be a key sojourn in Team India’s journey towards the World Cup 2015. The opportunity to play overseas before the WC must not be wasted in trifles; instead, all possible permutations and combinations must be tried out in both formats of the game for the team to be ready enough to play on the hostile tracks of Australia and New Zealand in a year’s time.
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