India head into the final test knowing that this is one more series that they cannot lose. So Dhoni's record of not having lost a test series is still intact. That is quite an achievement in my opinion. Lets hope it continues for the rest of this year at least.
With the second test match badly affected by rain, the draw was the appropriate result in the end. But I admired Dhoni's guts in declaring early giving his bowlers enough time to bowl out the opposition, and also throwing the carrot to the WI in terms of runs to get. It shows the confidence this team has in itself and that is a good sign for the future.
The batting did not live up to its potential once again. 201 is definitely way under par for this team with the talent it has, even though we are missing a few of our top players. Virat and Vijay are beginning to realize the difference between test cricket and ODI/T20. In my opinion, the selectors have got it right by not persisting with them and dropping them from the England tour so that they can go back to the basics and work hard to get their place back. At the same time, it was nice to see Mukund fight it out in the middle and once he was set, look to play his shots. He appears to be a good prospect for the future. He still appears to favor the leg side a lot and needs to improve his off side shot making significantly, but the 48 runs he got in the second innings will do him a lot of good for the immediate future which includes the third test and the first England test at Lord's. In England, he will not get legside freebies like he got in WI, so that off side play has to improve quickly. It was heartening to see Laxman back in form and rescue India once again in the first innings, this time with Raina, who continues to impress. The change in Raina I am seeing is that, he appears prepared to work hard in the initial part of his innings and looks to play straight most of the time. Only when he gets set, he brings out the hoick over midwicket and other horizontal bat shots. I think he has sealed the number 6 spot for the England tour.
Ishant is another one who has been very impressive on this tour. I have always thought that Ishant is a good test match bowler who lost his way because of ODIs and T20s. On this tour, he appears to be doing the basics right and does not try too much. He has a good wrist position most of the time and if he continues to pitch it up like he has, he will trouble most batsmen. Given his pace, it is tempting to ask him to bounce the batsmen or bowl short. But that is not his game. He gets wickets with the full length and sideways movement that he generates, not with bouncers or short balls. So he needs to continue to not experiment too much and make the batsmen play him more often. He will only benefit from Zaheer's presence for the England tour. PK continues to impress and is definitely a long term prospect for India in test matches. In fact, I would love to see PK open the bowling with Zak in England. For that to happen, I suspect he needs another good performance in the last test, something in the range of 5-6 wickets in the match. Then the team management will find it difficult to leave him out in Lord's in order to bring in Sreesanth or Munaf.
Harbhajan continues to under-perform with the ball, and that is putting it mildly. He seems to have lost his wicket-taking ability and appears to spear it in quickly instead of relying on flight, loop and spin to get wickets. I suspect he has continued to be in the team more for his batting skills and with the hope that he will come good with the ball. Since India cannot lose this series from here, I would go as far as dropping him from the final test match and bringing in Mishra. That would send him a strong message, just like dropping from England tour sent messages to Virat and Vijay. But my gut feel is, with Harbhajan being so close to 400 wickets, the team management will play him and issue dumb statements like, 'he is a proven match winner, we back him to come good very soon' or some such nonsense.
Before I wrap up, I just want to make some comments on the team selected for the England tour. For probably the first time since I started watching cricket in my childhood, I have agreed completely with each and every selection for a tour. I cannot find any faults this time with the team selected for the England tour. On paper, this team looks brilliant, but we all know, the talent needs to be translated on the field for 5 days in order to win one test match. England are in very good form and know their conditions better than most other teams know theirs, especially with the ball. So we are in for a tough contest there. And lets not forget, our batting order in the first test, will have 2 key members who are returning from inactivity of almost 2 months. With the ball, we will have our main strike bowler coming back from a similar situation, but knowing Zak and how much he is in control of his game these days, I am not too worried about that aspect. It is the batting that concerns me. India have a tendency to start slowly in any away series, especially with the bat. So it will be interesting to see how the batsmen shape up in completely different conditions to the one they are facing right now. The only relief is that we are not going to be carrying any wild cards or passengers in the batting line up and all 7 are proven performers who have been around with this team for a while, except maybe Mukund.
Lets hope for a good test match in Dominica and that India win the series 2-0. My next post will be after the conclusion of this test match. I will be traveling till the 17th, so my next post may be after that, but I will definitely post before the Lord's test which starts on 21st.
Lets hear it from you guys now. What is your take on the WI series ? Do you like the team selected for the England tour and what do you think are our chances there ? Do write in with your thoughts.