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A reason to celebrate

by Homer

And not just because it is Republic Day. In the on going test at Mirpur, India's injury count has gone up to 5 with Sachin Tendulkar joining Rahul Dravid, VV Laxman, Yuvraj Singh and Sreesanth in the infirmary. And am I the only one who thinks this is about the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket with the South Africans scheduled to tour for a 2 Test, 5 ODI set?

India should have experimented with its middle order against Bangladesh. But the selectors were a) not brave enough or b) risk averse. Either ways, we let slip a golden opportunity to blood the next generation middle order in what was a fairly easy series without the attendant pressures of a marquee series, but at the same time played away from home.

And now our hand has been forced. Which is not exactly a bad thing, given the circumstances. Consider this

1. A home series
2. Against the #2 side in the world
3. A short 2 Test series

So while the intensity will be up because of the strength of the opposition and the length of the series, a lot of it will be mitigated by the fact that we are playing at home. And it forms just about the ideal backdrop for testing the next generation middle order - an opposition less ordinary than Bangladesh but at home.

With Murali Vijay moving back at 3, #4 ,5 and 6 will be the open slots.

Md Kaif has struck back to back centuries in the Duleep Trophy batting at 4, so he has to be seriously considered. And with Kohli, Che, Sharma and Pandey all showing good form ( and possessing the requisite pedigree), whats not to like with the current situation?

Heck, we can even go with a 5 bowler option if we so choose.And Shashank Manohar is free to roll out a green top at Nagpur ( in a reprise of 2004). And even that wont be a bad thing!

PS:- Mickey Arthur's resignation just before the tour helps too. And with Ashwell Prince not cementing the opening spot, South Africa have their fair share of problems. Now, only if the selectors pick a strong enough side for the BP XI to further accentuate the negatives in the South African line up ( and mindset), the Force will well and truly be with us.

PPS - 2 Test 3 ODI set and not 2 Test 5 ODI set as written in the post. My bad.

18 comments:

Mahek said...

I think Tendulkar and Laxman will play. I just hope they don't stick Vijay in the middle order, it's not fair to him or the guys who have batted in the middle all their life. The top 6 I'd like to see is Gambhir, Sehwag, Laxman, Tendulkar, Badrinath, Pujara.

Homer said...

Mahek,

Vijay played one drop for TN this season so he can fit into Dravid's spot. Pujara and Kaif both bat at 4, Pandey and Sharma both bat. Kohli is the wild card here - if played, where would you slot him?

Cheers,

Homer said...

Pandey and Sharma both bat at 5.. Apologies.

Shridhar Jaju said...

I would like to see Vijay at number 3 for the simple reason that he deserves his chances. He has shown in his 3 Tests that he has it in him to compete at the top level. A fit (hopefully!) Tendulkar should be followed by a fit Laxman (again hpoefully!) at 5. Though I don't want Yuvraj to be given a chance again, I know he will play.

Homer said...

Sridhar,

I would rather Sachin, Laxman and Dravid get fit for the IPL. After all, as an Indian, I really dont care about the "primacy of Test Cricket".. The only game I care about is Twenty20. :)

Cheers,

Mahek said...

Why does everyone but Laxman get to bat at 3? There are a lot of other batsmen who deserved their chances in the middle order. Instead, Vijay gets to bat there based on two tests in which he opened. I'm sorry but it's a travesty that guys like Badrinath and Pujara sit out while the Nohits and Virats get their chances. We might as well stop giving any weightage to first class performances.

Homer said...

Mahek,

Are we talking in general or for these two test? Because a Laxman sitting out nursing his hand is better than a Laxman playing with a hurt hand.

Cheers,

Mahek said...

Both. I'm not sure a few stitches would keep him out of a test match. There's plenty of time for the wound to heal.

Rohit said...

How come Badrinath is getting so much sympathy these days? The only reason he hasn't played a Test match despite being 30 is that he wasn't good enough. Do you think he was half as good as Pujara at 22? He was a steady performer all his life without being spectacular, a la Mumzumdar, only to have really picked it up in the last 3-4 seasons.

Sometimes I think he's made out to be better than he his. He's no Hussey, and he hasn't taken the few chances he's got.

Sehwag, Gambhir, Vijay, Tendulkar, Pujara, Sharma. My top 6. Sharma more out of hope than anything else...

Mahek said...

I'm curious what chances you're talking about. He was part of the side in the two home series in 2008 and was dropped thereafter even though he didn't play a single game. I'd pick him based on performance rather than go for Nohit with a hope and a prayer.

Homer said...

Rohit,

Kohli and Pandey although Pandey has to fail once before he can be picked. Which means that if Rahane is in the runs next season, there is one more bat to consider.

Cheers,

Rohit said...

@ Homer...

Rahane should be in the consideration already, shouldn't he? He averages a stratospheric 65 and has barely put a foot wrong! He's all substance over style though...that shouldn't be a problem but then again I am the guy who selects Sharma on nothing but style!

@ Mahek

Was referring to the 'few' chances, namely 3 ODI's and the IPL. You just pick whatever chance you get, whatever format it maybe. That's what Pandey did. Badrinath has disappointed in the Challengers as well. That's where I (and presumably, the selectors) fell in love with Sharma.

Mahek said...

So we're picking test players based on LOIs? Apart from that hundred in the IPL what exactly has Pandey done in that format? Bear in mind Badrinath played a few good innings for his IPL side, not that anyone noticed. It's a bit difficult to impress every game when you don't get to bat thanks to coaches who think Kapugedera should bat ahead of you. You want to see who's got enough chances look no further than Nohit. Even Raina and Kohli have been given a good run.

kny789 said...

To add to the debate, I would think Abhishek Nayar is thrown into the mix especially after the 259 he just scored. He's beginning to prove this season that he's more than just a limited overs specialist... hopefully the selectors look at his batting rather than his all round ability because then he'll receive negative points for his bowling.

My preferred choices to get Laxman, Dravid AND Yuvraj Spots - Vijay (only at no 3). Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Nayar. I concur with those who say that Pandey would be a bit premature. After Vijay, Rahane and Pejara have to be the first choices and it would justify their recently announced retainer contracts.

Homer said...

@Rohit,

Rahane has been up and down this season although he more than held his own in the Emerging Players tourney.

I think batsmen, like bowlers, need atleast 3 seasons in the Ranji before an informed evaluation can be made of them - a lot of them begin with a bang, have a mediocre second season and it is only by the third season that the true value of the player begins to shine through.

@kny789,

Not sure if Nayar can slot himself as a Test bat.The boy is clutch, but is he a Test #6? What Nayar should do is work on his bowling to become a Bracken lite - lots of cutters and slower balls and spinners to keep the batsmen off balance. He does that and I dont see why he should not become a permanent fixture in the ODI and T20 line up.

Cheers,

kny789 said...

@Homer

Rahane and Pujara have both had up and down seasons compared to their performances last year. Their stats have been given a big boost by a double century each. Wasim Jaffer also has had a relatively (literally "relative", 600 runs @ 53 is not bad at all) bad season thanks to being forced into the position of makeshift opener as have other batsmen who had great seasons last year (Abhinav Mukund is another). Do we then leave these guys out in favour of Kohli/Rohit/Badri? Personally I wouldnt be chuffed if they are in favour of the first two, but I do reckon they should get more of a chance than Badrinath seeing as they are just as consistent but are young enough to still develop.

The thing that stands out with Nayar for me has been his bailing out of Mumbai when the going got tough. It's probably just favouritism on my part (Nayar has been my pick to make an impact for a couple of years now) but I see him as a player who would end up not getting a chance simply because he isnt as flashy as the others.

I guess the only thign I can say is this is definitely a reason to celebrate, it's a rare opportunity these kids are getting and hopefully whoever is picked makes the most of it.

Homer said...

kny789,

Like you, I dont have much time for Badri - the guy has all the talent in the world, but I have serious doubts about his ability to perform when the spotlight is on him.. In inconsequential matches, he will score runs for fun, but in the crunch , he inevitably falls short.

And Nayar has been my boy since he scored the 97 to bail Mumbai out in season 06/07. And I am a parochial Mumbaikar, the worst of the lot you can find :).

But I am not convinced that unless Nayar can make a step up with his bowling, he will break into the Indian squad.

btw, CI reports that the selectors are "sweating over" team selection for the SA series and may pick the team only for one Test... And if that happens, we have ourselves to blame - 40 lakhs per annum for being a pussy!

Cheers,

Rohit said...

@ Homer...

I'm not sure about the 3 season theory for bowlers, especially in India. Three years of bowling on Indian pitches is enough to make a medium paced trundler out of a Akhtar. I say the Pathan-Ishant way is the way to go. Throw 'em in young.

I'm as parochial a Mumbaikar as anyone but Nayar? I don't see him featuring in Tests and if he wants to get into the ODI's squad he has to really set the IPL alight....don't know if it's gonna happen... Am still waiting for Pathan to find that in-dipper..:-(