This India-England Test series could go down in history for various reasons. With all sort of signs pointing towards an early Mayan ending on 21st December, the latest sign- related to this series- has been most compelling. Ravindra Jadeja will, in all probability, make his test debut in Nagpur. Just five weeks ago, Jadeja was just another India-discard trying to make his way back into the T20 scheme of things after a lukewarm IPL season. His first-class career was barely a year old, and his triple century last year was treated as a fluke on a flat Rajkot pitch. Within 5 weeks, the 24 year old has gone from the most overrated T20 player in India to a debutant that has leapfrogged over first class journeymen like Manoj Tiwary and Rohit Sharma. All he did was score two MORE triple centuries in 4 games, along with a 6-for and two 4-fors with his ‘handy left arm’ offspin.
Cooking up a storm
Yuvraj Singh, India’s most sentimental pick in 2012, has been dropped again from a test squad- something that he may have to come to terms with when he talks to his grandchildren one day. Zaheer Khan, India’s ‘bowling Tendulkar’, has been ‘left out’ for the first time in years- the BCCI’s first blatant disregard of experience and past records. If it is intended to send a message to somebody, it won’t work. Couple that with Harbhajan Singh being chucked out of a squad he had no business being in anyway, and the ‘wholesale changes’ won’t really have much of an effect in the Nagpur Test.Throwing an inexperienced but promising Awana into the mix is a gamble, but that would mean giving Ishant Sharma the responsibility of leading the attack. He has played 4 tests this year and averages a high 90-odd. With the ball.
With these 3 changes to the squad, let us take a look at what prompted these brave decisions in the form of a report card for the Eden Gardens Test:
Gautam Gambhir (6/10)
Guilty of failing to convert starts into bigger scores, the southpaw looked unconvincing for most parts of both innings- a shadow of the opener that scored 8 centuries in 10 matches in 2008. Fighting bad form is a plus, but one wonders how long he can go on against the seaming ball- after running out most of his in-form partners. He was responsible for the wickets of Sehwag and Pujaraover two innings.
Virender Sehwag (5/10)
Again, throwing away starts seem to be his thing (23 and 49). Unlucky in the first innings, his lack of footwork against the turning ball in the second innings after playing himself in still gives an impression that he isn’t as hungry for runs as he was a few years ago. His batting remains most crucial to his team’s setting a first innings total.
CA Pujara (3/10)
A rare double failure for the machine. Done in by Panesar after setting himself up for a big one in the first innings, Pujara was run out by Gambhir in the second innings before he could go about rescuing his team. A hard lesson after a prolific first few tests, Pujara will remain responsible for dropping Cook on 16, and letting England go on to add 500 more runs.
The next SRT or the current SRT?
SR Tendulkar (4/10)
A fighting 76 in the first innings proved to be his downfall in the second- with his powers of concentration clearly on the wane. His desire has nothing to do with his fading ability against ‘good’ balls- that he would often fend away earlier in his career. Being beaten by good bowling is no disgrace, but for a man of his standards, it is the beginning of the end.
V. Kohli (1/10)
Continues his reckless test streak into Kolkata, with two bad shots wafting outside off- raising doubts of his temperament in the longer form. After playing unforgivable shots in Mumbai, Kohli is finding it hard to adjust to being called the best batsman in the team.
Yuvraj Singh (3/10)
Guilty of a very soft dismissal in the first innings after a well-set 32, where he could have gone on to make things easier for his team. His lack of fitness shows on the field, and on the pitch too- with his concentration often wavering after getting into double figures. Not yet ready with the discipline or fight needed to survive in whites.
MS Dhoni (3/10)
A first innings half century does not take away the fact that his captaincy is going from bad to worse- replacing slip fielders toying with their confidence, and not being able to inspire his team enough on the field with his ‘indifferent’ body language. He topped things off with a second-innings duck that really exposed his lack of ability in test cricket, on a ground that is supposed to be his hunting field. The long rope is getting shorter, as we speak.
But of course, I have no clue.
R Ashwin (4/10)
5 wickets in the test coupled with a few very impressive batting performances would make sure any player is rated highly. But Ashwin, the bowler, has been a colossal failure this series- with his 5 wickets coming in redundant situations costing him more than 50 runs a wicket. His variations don’t work in the longer form, with Ojha sticking to the basics and outperforming him. His batting could get him into any team on such form, even replacing one of the top order batters, but for that, India have to take a good hard look at his role in Indian cricket. Even Steve Waugh started as a bowler.
Z Khan (3/10)
Can’t be faulted for effort, but the fact is that he isn’t getting wickets. The only reason he has been dropped is to send a message to other aging seniors, because he still bowled a lot better than young, toothless Ishant Sharma- who is still being groomed for a doomed future. He still possesses great ability with the old ball, but his lack of penetration (and luck) at the beginning of an innings has hurt his role in the team. Could be the end of an era. It’s not a coincidence that his bad form and India’s terrible test form have come at the same time.
I Sharma (2/10)
Replacing an injured Yadav does not a comeback make. His inability to bowl on the stumps and make the batsman play, coupled with his 130km/hr quicker ones don’t make him a valuable addition to the worst bowling attack in world cricket. The difference between tall bowlers like Morkel and Ishant- is sheer pace, which Ishant has lost since his comeback from injury.
P Ojha (6/10)
India’s best bowler by a mile in this series. Who would have thought? No partnership though, still means he remains less effective as far as forcing results are concerned. Trying out a Chawla in tandem with him could be a gamble, but as mentioned, we have nothing to lose. Ashwin could even replace one of the batsmen, but the BCCI aren’t known for making more than 1 gutsy decision at a time.
India moves to Nagpur in an unfamiliar situation, 2-1 down in a Home series. This could just be the jolt the team needed, and many fans- whether they admit it or not- will be hoping for a draw or loss simply to shake Indian cricket up during their worst-ever phase.