It was great to see India complete an efficient innings victory in Kolkata in the second test match against the West Indies. Also, like I had hoped in my previous post, India batted first and were able to post a huge first innings score with most of the batsmen getting good runs and spending time in the middle. I am sure the confidence of the batsmen is back now after the battering it had received on the England tour, which is a good sign with the tough tour to Australia looming ahead.
Sehwag and Gambhir gave us the perfect start, but it was disappointing to see both of them throw away the chance to get a hundred with loose shots. This shows that while they are on the way back from their injury lay-off, they have some way to go before they can claim that they are back to full form. Rahul, as usual, did not miss out on making a big score on the flat track and Laxman got his confidence back with an important, though easy, hundred. Sachin also gave it away when looking set once again. I think the hundredth century is definitely playing tricks in his head, even though he will not admit it. It was obvious in the way he suddenly accelerated in the second innings in Delhi to an extent that he was actually taking too many risks, and it also showed here when he got out playing a loose shot. Sachin without any pressure in his mind, would have played a little more cautiously and made full use of the docile track and the friendly bowling to get a hundred. I am beginning to think that he will only get his hundred in the ODIs and not even in the next test match. But if he does, there can be no better place for him than Mumbai to get the most coveted of all milestones he has so far.
It was sad to see Yuvraj struggle in test matches once again. Yuvi has a style of batting that is better suited to one-day and T20 cricket. The high back-lift, flourishing blade and playing away from the body, somehow does not fit into test cricket, though Veeru has done very well with those same traits. But one important thing to remember is that Veeru bats at the top of the innings when there are lots of gaps in front of the wicket and bowlers take a while to get into rhythm, which could result in a few loose balls at the start of his innings. Also, once Veeru settles down a bit after the initial flurry, he does show a fairly tight defensive technique and has a very good sense of picking the right balls to hit. When Yuvi bats in the middle of the innings, bowlers are sometimes pumped up after taking a few quick wickets, or they get the second new ball which they see as a new lease of life, and are willing to put in some extra effort in their bowling and with the fields relatively spread out, he does not get boundaries as easily as Veeru does. To bat at the number 6 position, you need a decent defense and an ability to wait for the bad ball, rather than try to make a good ball into a bad one and give it a whack, like Yuvi does often.
In that sense, I am not too disappointed that Yuvi has been left out for the Mumbai test and that Rohit gets a chance to stake his claim for the number 6 position ahead of the Australia tour. I am sure it had more to do with the way Yuvraj batted in the two test matches, rather than the actual scores he got. It would be nice to see what Rohit has to offer. In fact, I would like to see Rahul or Laxman rested for the Mumbai test match and even Virat get a chance to show his credentials before the squad for the Australia tour is selected. Also, maybe Ishant can be given a break and Varun Aaron can be tried in Mumbai. If that happens, probably for the first time ever, we will see two fast bowlers from India bowling in tandem at 140+ kmph. Just the thought of that makes my mouth water and I hope the selectors see it the same way as I do.
Lets talk now about the bowlers. Yadav continued to show improvement and has become a decent prospect for the near-term future. He hits the right lengths and gets the ball to reverse and do a bit of the seam as well. The one area I would like to see improvement is in his bowling with the new ball. He does not seem to get much swing, even though there is help from the conditions, particularly as seen in Kolkata. Maybe his wrist position is not quite correct, or his release needs to improve. But it would be nice if he is sent to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore after the test matches to work on those little things before the Australia tour. He should not be played in the ODI series since that would be too much load for him and he could get injured or even worse, could lose his zip because of bowling too many overs. In any case, we have PK, Aaron and maybe Vinay Kumar for the ODIs, so we should not over-burden Ishant and Yadav for the ODI series. The other bowlers also stuck to their task and their job of winning the test was made much easier once they got the WI out for 153 in the first innings.
As Dhoni said, I like the look of this Indian bowling attack in terms of pace as well as spin options. It is a varied attack, particularly with the spinners. When Zaheer comes back, this attack will look even more rounded and dangerous in all conditions. Speaking of Zaheer, I hope the selectors ask him to play at least one or two first class matches where he bowls around 20 overs per innings, before they decide on his fitness and form. The worst thing that could be done, is have Zak play a couple of one-day matches where he bowls 8-10 overs in each game and use that to declare his form and fitness. He needs more bowling than that under his belt before the first test against Australia. I hope Zak and the selectors are thinking about this.
One more point before I end this post. I am glad that Cheteshwar Pujara is back to fitness and will test out his fitness and form in the Ranji trophy match on 29th November. Of all the candidates for the number 6 spot - Yuvi, Virat, Raina, Pujara - (we have not seen Rohit bat in tests yet), he looks the most comfortable in the test arena and it would be great if he scores some runs and makes a good comeback before the selectors sit down to pick the squad for Australia. He is also a good fielder, especially close to the wicket and can play a defensive role (as witnessed when he helped Laxman add some crucial runs in a test in South Africa, though he made only 10) or attack as the situation demands (as seen when he made those wonderful 72 runs on debut in a potentially tricky fourth innings chase). So I have my fingers crossed for that Ranji match on 29th November.
Lets hear it from you guys. I did not see a single comment on my previous post. I hope you all are reading my blog and enjoying my analysis and comments about the India matches. I am looking forward to the next test in Mumbai and I hope India can complete a clean sweep there, which would be the second clean sweep after the torture of the England tour. I will post after the Mumbai test, so stay tuned.