So India achieved the 5-0 result that all Indian fans were hoping for. It was very satisfying to see the manner in which they won all matches in the series. Also, a few youngsters who were tried in this series, impressed and some others consolidated their position.
From an England perspective, they are in a more difficult state than India were after their tour of England. When we went there and lost everything, we at least knew the problem areas. In the tests, it was mainly the batting that let us down and in the ODIs, the bowling and fielding was below-par. So we could at least pinpoint the areas where we needed to show improvement. For England, the situation is worse since they lost some matches with the bat when they collapsed, particularly against the Indian spinners, but they also lost a couple of games with the ball by giving lot of runs to India, particularly in the ODI where we chased down 298 and in the last ODI where Dhoni and Co. scored 91 runs in the last 10 overs. In the fifth ODI, England should have and could have restricted India to a total around 240-250. Given the way they collapsed against the spinners, they might still have lost, but if they had got to 128 for no loss while chasing 240 or 250, who knows, maybe they would have batted differently. Another aspect of the England batting that would be worrisome to their management, is the lack of footwork of the batsmen against spinners. They seem to play the spinners off the pitch, which is very difficult to do since the reaction time is very little. Even the so-called Asians in the line-up like Bopara and Patel, appear to be more English than Indian in their mindset and approach. They need to improve on this and do it soon, otherwise teams will stack their bowling with spinners and hope to win against England that way.
I watched Varun Aaron a little in the 4th and 5th ODIs and I like what I see so far. Like Umesh Yadav, he does not give up on pace even in his later spells and bowls at 135+ on a consistent basis, which is good to see. With his pace, he gets some natural reverse-swing and I think Dhoni understood that, which is why he would bring Aaron on after 15 overs or so. I hope he spends time with the likes of Manoj Prabhakar, Wasim Akram and develops some swing with the new ball. His stock delivery appears to be the one coming in from outside off, but it would also help him and India if he can develop the one that goes through straight. For a primarily inswing/incutter bowler, even the one that goes straight can get lots of wickets. A prime example is Makhaya Ntini of SA who did not really have the away-going delivery, but picked up lots of wickets by simply fooling the batsmen with the straighter one, used well in the middle of his incoming deliveries.
I think India should definitely take Aaron and Yadav to Australia. They will enjoy bowling on those wickets, and it would be nice to see if they can rattle the Aussie batsmen with their pace occasionally. Hope they both have a good series against WI in the mean time, so that their confidence will be high for the tough Australia tour.
I saw an article in Cricinfo today that the selectors are thinking about resting Dhoni from the WI series. If this happens, it will be very very good for Indian cricket in the near and middle term. Dhoni is, without doubt, the hardest working cricketer in the country at this time and badly needs to take his body and mind away from cricket for a reasonable amount of time. It would also give us a chance to look at other contenders for the captaincy role. This is needed in these times, because a player could lose form and confidence very quickly and if Dhoni loses form with the bat or gloves or both, we should not be in the situation that we have to play him simply because there is no other alternative for the captaincy role. Lets hope the selectors rest Dhoni from the WI series, even if only for the ODIs or tests.
I am feeling pretty good with the strength of the Indian ODI team. Like I said in my previous post, when the seniors come back, the ODI team will be even stronger and it has a settled look to it. It is the test team that I have concerns with. I am not sure what is the right way to deal with Dravid, Sachin and VVS at this time. With Dravid, I am more inclined to think that he should go now. Sachin also I think can limit himself to playing only ODIs. But whether we should simply drop them all at the same time and go with young blood, or phase them out slowly, I am not sure at this time. Given the fitness issues of Sehwag and to an extent, Gambhir, if we drop the big-three, we could be looking at a very raw batting line-up and that could cost us a few games. I want India to get back to the number 1 ranking quickly and for that, I think we need some solidity in the middle order, so maybe we can play the big three in the Australia series and if we win and get close to number 1, maybe we can start phasing them out at that time.
Lets hear it from you guys. There ots of cricket to be played in the near future, and lots of things to talk about, regarding Australia tour and future of the test batting (and bowling).
My next post will be before the first test against WI, so stay tuned and keep the comments coming.