Friday, November 4, 2011

India pave the way for a Test revival barring the odd Srikkanth Howler

India finally witnessed some cricketing success after Dhoni and his men pummeled England to a 5-0 defeat in the One Day International Series. The series was played in India and the result really reflected how each team was the “King” only in his own kingdom. India’s 5-0 rout was touted as a payback to the 7-0 whitewash that the three lions dished out to Dhoni’s men in England. Every sensible cricket follower knew though, that the win in India certainly did not nullify the woeful result in England for the men in blue.
The one factor that outweighed England’s victories over India was the fact that the English absolutely thwarted India in the longest and most challenging format of the game – Test cricket. India will surely be aware of the fact that they produced an absolute shocker in England and they will be desperate to make amends when West Indies tours India. What’s more is that the men in blue will look to use the Test series against West Indies as a litmus test for the upcoming tour of Australia. The squad chosen by Kris Srikkanth for the series against West Indies certainly re-instantiates that fact, however, as has become the norm Srikkanth has slipped in the odd howler.
No prizes for guessing who the howler is. With a phenomenal record of 18 wickets at an average of 44.66 this experienced campaigner has played a total of 10 whole first class matches. Wow! Now isn’t that some experience. Really for a player to walk into a Test side of a nation that hails itself as the 3rd best in the world after playing just 10 first class matches is absolutely bizarre and sets a precedent that is downright shameful. To make matters more complicated the bowler has also been chosen at the back of a rather lackluster bowling performance that wielded figures of 0/65 and 2/49 in the Irani Cup match against Rajasthan. Sharma is not known to be a big turner of the ball nor has he produced magical results in the 10 first class matches that he has played, so why then does he deserve a place in the squad? The more one tries to reason his selection, the dizzier the head gets. Certainly Kris Srikkanth does not make it into the famed “Knowledgeable Chennai Crowd” with this selection.
Despite the odd shocker there are a few positives that can be drawn out from the squad selected. Ajinkya Rahane is one such positive who has been rewarded for his consistency at the top of the order in ODIs and has been given a spot in the Test squad. What this has also done is that it has sent out a strong message to Abhinav Mukund who has been dropped to make way for Rahane and that message quite clearly says- perform or else!
The message has not just gone out to young Mukund though, as Harbhajan Singh too has been dropped after a poor showing in England and really owing to a poor showing in recent times that was highlighted by his inability to pick up wickets. Even Suresh Raina has been sidelined from Test cricket and has been replaced by the in-form and more technically equipped Virat Kohli. The biggest positive surely is the return of key players, all of them fit mind you, like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.
One thing that stands out from the selection is that the men in charge have certainly kept the Australian tour in mind. Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron have been drafted in to the Test squad set to play West Indies. This move clearly signifies that the selectors are interested in their pace, a factor that could prove crucial in Australia and a factor that India generally has been devoid of. Praveen Kumar has been given the much needed rest he deserves while Pragyan Ojha has finally been rewarded for some good performances in the English County and the domestic circuit with a place in the side. R.Ashwin and Ishant Sharma too have been included.
It will be interesting to see how many chances Yadav and Aaron are given. India will be playing on tracks that offer spin and quite naturally will be tempted to go in with two spinners and Ishant allowing only one of the young speedsters to get a look in. Rahane too will get limited opportunities as the pair of Sehwag and Gambhir will surely open. Apart from the one howler the selection does look to be one that has been based on performance and the team looks balanced. This side should be good enough to overpower the men from the Caribbean and it will also be interesting to see how the inexperienced Indian bowling attack fares.
Squad for 1st Test: M S Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Virat Kohli, Varun Aaron, Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Sharma
Shashreek Roy for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Shashreek on Twitter @shashreek

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