Sudhansu R Das
Former Australian Captain Ricky Ponting has reportedly said to NDTV, “I wouldn’t ever be negative towards Virat with regards to his captaincy, I have seen what he has done with the Test team over the last couple of years, and MS has not been around for that. However, I think that the little bit of presence he brings on the field and a certain calmness to the batting when India is in a pressure situation is invaluable. I missed his batting in the last three games (vs Australia), which is also probably why India did not win,” India after winning two ODIs suddenly lost track to lose the last three ODIs. Resting Dhoni in the last two matches was a blunder and India paid for this with a bilateral series defeat. M S Dhoni’s absence was a main reason behind India losing the series, said Ricky Ponting. India took a 2-0 lead in the five-match series but lost the last three games due to faux-pas. Now the biggest challenge is how to make Team India a fighting unit for the world cup.
The young Australian team exposed Team India’s foot work flaw. Even India’s top order failed to negotiate the swing, bounce, spin and flight of the young Australians. Leg spinner Zampa had a field day as he could afford to give more flight and duped Indian middle order one by one. The Australians fielded superbly to back up the spinners who experimented wide variation in bowling. Team India should leave behind the scare and prepare for the World Cup with much gusto.
India is still a batting powerhouse with a line up world class batsmen who have piled up many world records. Barring a few namely Virat Kohli, M S Dhoni and Rahane, the rest are not free from silly footwork flaw which proves costly for the team. Rohit Sharma and Sikhar Dhawan are terrific players with wide range of strokes. Both face problem when the ball moves and climbs a bit with little more pace on a grassy wicket. If the fielders are exceptional like the young Australian team, they are going to face a tough time in England where weather and grass are real trouble for the pushy footers.
It is the steely nerves and determination of the batsman which can tame the bowlers in England grass topped pitches. The only remedy here is to press Rahul Dravid the great Indian wall into service. He can correct the foot work flaws of the Indian players. Sachin Tendulkar should spare some time in the net as he can pull their reluctant legs to the line of the ball with body behind making enough room for the strokes. A lot has to be done to correct the middle order who are lucky go lucky type batsmen. They should remember that any batsman however great he may be, he has to master the basic defence to stay in the wicket. A good bowler in a friendly pitch backed by good fielding side can easily remove any batsman with footwork flaw.
A master batsman can handle pressure, extra pace, swings, bounce and spin on difficult wickets. But, a team can’t win with only master batsmen. There is need for a balance. In world cup everybody should contribute from everywhere. The team management should keep in mind that England will offer grass topped wickets and the weather condition there will support bowlers. A team with two three quality bowlers and good fielding skill can trouble Indian batsmen. Somebody has to work on team India’s mind also as high level competition needs steely nerve and coolness of mind to overcome pressure situation.
Sikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have to survive the initial overs with good foot work and a bit of patience. Both Kohli and Dhoni are potential finishers and the best players in the slug overs. The bowlers: Bhubaneswar Kumar, Bumrah, Shami, Kuldip, Jadeja and Chahal have to sharpen their batting also. Team India has to hunt for the fourth pacer who can bat well in the middle order. India’s batting depth should continue till 8th down.
The disadvantage for India is none of the six bowlers have shaped up into reliable all rounder who can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with lusty hitting. The second disadvantage is that our top order batsmen can’t bowl well like our veterans Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh. They were effectively used as changed bowlers. The third disadvantage is that our spinners have not matured into the standard of Anil Kumble or Ravichander Ashwin. A winning team needs not have a number of top batsmen of the world but perfect balance to fit into every situation. India’s team management has failed to look into this aspect before the world cup. India is far behind a world cup combination.
The much needed diversity in the Indian team is missing. But the good thing is that Dhoni is still in good form. He still controls the game. “Dhoni is the most difficult batsman to bowl in the slug overs,” said Wasim Akram, the veteran fast bowler of Pakistan. Dhoni’s presence behind the stump always puts pressure on batsmen in the crease. He is still among the top wicket keepers of the world. Dhoni is always cool and confident which gives strength to his team mates in the field. He can give the piece of valuable advice to Virat Kohli in difficult situation. Team Management should quickly look for a new chief coach to clear the mess. A coach should be a friend, philosopher and guide for all team members and should not remain aloof in deep contemplation.
Much depend on the captain, Virat Kohli. He has to maintain his calm, hide his anxiety and grin in the field. His straight “Bash up the opponent approach” will not click always. He has to mix it with tact and lure his opponents to well-laid out traps. Look how Dhoni laid trap for the world’s most feared batsman Chris Gyle who always fell into his trap. India can bounce back with little diversity, sound foot work, innovation and inner strength. The IPL should have been delayed. The short format may adversely affects the batting skill which is required in 50 over format. If any of our key players is injured during IPL tournament, it may affect India’s prospect in the world cup. The team management has to pick up the right combination for the world’s biggest cricket event- the world cup 2019.
Sudhansu R Das