India were whitewashed in the test series 4-0 as they put up another pathetic performance with the bat on a benign track in Adelaide. Like most of the Indian fans, I was also hoping that somehow the team would summon up some fighting spirit and try to salvage some pride in the final test match. But as soon as they started batting, it became evident that they had lost the battle in the mind and were not going to show any resistance. Only Virat Kohli played like he had a point to prove and it was great to see him get our first century of the tour. He has been the only positive to come out of the batting in this series and finally, he is beginning to show promise with his talent and attitude in test matches. Now, when I see him walk out to bat, the mind is quite relaxed like it is when he bats in ODIs and T20s and though he still has some things to iron out in his technique, his desire and determination cannot be faulted and that is all we ask for from all our batsmen. Saha also played well in the first innings and showed that he is not out of place in test cricket. This is actually a very good thing for Indian cricket and I will come to that a little later.
Let me write about a few other players that I saw in this series. For me, the jury is still out regarding Ashwin the test player. When he was selected for the test series, the general opinion was that he will enjoy the bounce of the Australian pitches and will be quite effective with his control and variations. But a return of 9 wickets in 3 test matches, 2 of which were in Sydney and Adelaide where traditionally spinners have done well, is not too good. Plus his bowling average is quite high which means he went for a lot of runs while taking those wickets. Whether his modest returns were because he is not that good at test level or whether he was hampered by lack of runs and the defensive fields his captains set for him, is something we wont know till both those issues are sorted out. That is why I say that it is too early to judge him yet. He is another player who will benefit from the fact that India are playing their next few series at home and by the time the next tour comes around, hopefully he would have gained some valuable experience and confidence that he will put into practice in the next foreign tour. I would still persist with him for the immediate future and in my opinion, Harbhajan does not deserve a comeback just yet.
Coming to the matter of what needs to be considered regarding our test squad, here are my suggestions -
1) Dravid and Laxman need to be dropped right away. I read in an article that no one has the right to tell them to retire, and I agree with that, but definitely the selectors have the right to drop them based on their performance in this series and the fact that they seem to be making the same mistakes again and again with the bat. Also their lack of energy in the field is not helping them. Lets drop them and if they still retain the fire to fight for their spot, then they can go back to the nets and domestic level and score runs to put forth their credentials for selection
2) Sachin needs to be requested to select one form of international cricket after this tri-series is over. With Sachin, the situation is a bit different. With his stature and the nature of fanatic following in our country regarding cricket, it would not be a wise thing to drop him from any side. But just like he chose to not play T20 Internationals, he should be requested to choose between test cricket and ODIs and be selected only for that format. We need to start thinking and planning for cricket teams without Sachin and this is the right step in my opinion to accomplish that
3) We need to seriously re-think the utility of Dhoni in test matches. I have written about this before as well. He does not look equipped to handle quality test bowling and the main reason he was persisted with was because we did not have a viable option in keeping as well as captaincy. Now that I have seen Saha bat and keep in Adelaide, I think he can be a good alternative to have with the gloves and bat, and as for captaincy, maybe we can go to Sehwag or Gambhir for the near future. Of course, Saha will not be as sexy as Dhoni, but I have always said we should not look for like-for-like replacements in the aura and charisma department when we replace players. The main things to look for are talent and commitment and in those fields, Saha can match Dhoni, so he should be persisted with
4) If we achieve step 1 and 2 above, we need to think about dropping Sehwag into the middle order. Sehwag has himself said that he would like to bat there, so in my opinion, it is a good option since Sehwag clearly does not inspire much confidence against the moving ball and these days, opposition teams have worked him out to an extent and are able to nullify his impact to a large extent, especially in away conditions. So having Sehwag in the middle order will be good for the Indian line-up as he can face an older ball and be used to move the scoreboard along in the same way as he has been doing
5) Now that the great opening partnership of Sehwag and Gambhir has been split, we should also think about moving Gambhir down to number 3 and going with a completely new opening pair. Of course, the other option is to keep Gautam at the top and simply find a nice partner for him. Guys like Ajinkya Rahane and Abhinav Mukund should be given more chances and persisted with like Virat Kohli was, for around 10 matches before deciding whether to drop them or not
Anyway, it is time now to move on to the shorter formats that the Indian team clearly enjoys playing more, especially away from home. I hope they can do better in Australia in the T20s and ODIs than they did in England. I like the look of the squads for both the formats as I see lots of youngsters, in the 23-25 age group. This means that the fielding will be good and the desire to perform will be very evident. So from a fan perspective, we are looking good already. Lets hope these things translate to results as well
Lets hear it from you guys now. I am sure u all will be as upset and disappointed as I am, not so much in the defeats themselves, but in the manner we just seemed to give up on the field, especially with the bat. Do u agree with my suggestions and do u have any other suggestions to add to these or change some of mine? Do u believe, as I do, that we will do better in the T20s and ODIs ?
My next post will be after the two T20 matches, so stay tuned.