India have won the ODI series against WI with one game still to play. There is no surprise at the result, given the lack of serious talent in the opposition. However, I am glad this young Indian team kept their nerve in crucial moments and sealed the series in 3 games itself. I have not been watching the games with great interest, but I am following the matches on Cricinfo since Indian batting mostly takes place when I am in the office :) Let me share some of my thoughts on the games so far and on some individual performances.
* The biggest positive to come out of Indian batting performance is obviously Rohit Sharma. What was good to see was, even though India chased and won in the all the 3 games, the challenges thrown at Rohit were different. In the first game, India faced a smallish total, but lost a few wickets early before Raina stepped in to take care of the slow run-rate and took some pressure off Rohit, which allowed Rohit to focus on his own game and ensure that he stayed till the end. In the third game, he faced the biggest challenge - loss of all main batsmen with lots of runs still to get. Once again, Harbhajan stepped forward to give support and Rohit played his natural game and together with PK, won the game with ease in the end. I hope this performance gives Rohit the confidence to take his game to the next level and deliver more consistently for India
* The best bowler for India in these games has been Amit Mishra. It was very nice to see a leg-spinner unleash his full bag of tricks in ODIs and the WI batsmen had very little clue against him. Mishra at his best can be very good because he does have variety and is fairly accurate as well, unlike someone like Piyush Chawla who does not possess a proper leg-break and when low on confidence, can go for plenty. Once again, I hope the selectors and Dhoni were watching and have already made notes to have Mishra in their plans for the future
* PK made a seamless return to top-level cricket and is bowling very well. The best thing about PK is that he does not experiment too much (unlike a Sreesanth, who needs to be told before every game that he should stick to what he does best) and when PK bowls well, he bowls a lot of maidens which definitely add to the pressure on the opposition batsmen. It is heartening to see PK in the test squad. I have been maintaining for a long time that PK needs to be in the test team as well. He can be a good support bowler to Zak because he gets the ball to nip both ways and maintains good control over line and length at most times. Lets see what role he gets in the absence of Zak and how he performs if he is given a chance in the starting lineup for the tests
* There has not been much to note regarding Raina's captaincy. He has been doing his job efficiently, without needing to show any brilliance in strategy or planning. He has been around for a while now and played under Dhoni a lot as well. It showed in some of his moves. He did not try to do too much, and in a way that is good. He knows that he is a stop-gap captain and is only the third choice behind Dhoni and Gambhir
* Now for some negative feedback. It was sad to see that Yusuf did not take his chances in the 2 games that he got to seize his opportunity and put some doubts to rest regarding his capability. He seems to have gone back to bad shot selection that plagued him before his turnaround innings against NZ last year. I think Yusuf has outlived his chances for now and should be benched with someone (maybe the coach Fletcher or Dhoni) telling him to work on his shot selection once again
* I continue to be unimpressed with Parthiv's keeping. Time has stood still as far as his keeping is concerned. He continues to miss simple takes, especially on the leg side to spinners. Watching Parthiv highlights the one aspect of Dhoni that is least talked about, his keeping. It would have been easy for Dhoni to lose focus on his keeping with so much attention being paid (rightfully so) to his batting and captaincy. But not only has he kept that facet of his game efficient, he is actually better than just safe behind the stumps. He is quite good and does not miss much. Parthiv's batting also does not impress me too much. He is good for 30-40 runs, but even when he walks out to bat, you know that he will not get you a hundred or even a 70-80. That is a pity because he looks good when batting and is a natural. I would suggest putting Parthiv on the back burner when Dhoni returns and looking for a replacement other than Parthiv for the next time we need to play without Dhoni
* I hope India win the last ODI. That will show everyone (including themselves) that the 4th match was just an aberration and that they have learnt from their mistakes. These little things are important, especially for a young team like India is at the moment. It will give them some confidence going into the Test series, which I would like them to win at least 2-0 unless the weather intervenes. Even though Sachin is missing along with Zak, it will be good to see Dravid and VVS in action in the tests and I will definitely be watching Dravid's performance in particular. I am of the opinion that Rahul should retire now when he will still be remembered fondly, rather than after a few more failures, especially with guys like Virat, Badri etc. ready to step into the test side. But if he has a good series (something in the range of 300 runs from around 4-5 innings), then I am ok for him to continue and test himself in much tougher conditions in England before making the call on his retirement
That's all I have for now. Lets hear it from you guys. Have you been watching the WI series and if so, with how much interest ? What do you think of the performance of the team and of the individuals ? I will post again before the start of the first test with my take on the team composition etc., so stay tuned.