Sunday, 15 January 2012

What connects a broken laptop and a broken Test side?

Despite a positive response to Friday’s post, I was unable to post a report of the 2nd Day’s play for two reasons – I slept through the entire day, and a fall from one of my housemates that resulted in a severely cracked laptop screen. A replacement PC was sought after, and found at lunchtime today. I realise that any analysis of the last two days (OK, four sessions) will be found wanting having not watched the game live, and anything I say about the 2nd Test will be purely based on reading other reports and Cricinfo scorecards. Essentially, I might as well post a list of links with “read these” written in large font.

So instead, this will be more of a general musing on both the remarkable decline in India’s Test Match fortunes against world-class opposition, and what the next twelve months might hold. Since their World Cup triumph, India have lost every Test they have played against teams that weren’t the West Indies – in fact, they’ve basically failed to avoid humiliation in any of them. They have been somewhat without luck, it’s true. An injury to Zaheer Khan and a batting line-up that suddenly consisted of only Rahul Dravid during the Pataudi Trophy coincided with a dramatic return to form for several England players and Broad’s bat-before-wicket hat-trick. It could be argued that the plethora of bad umpiring decisions from Marais Erasmus at Melbourne was no more than they deserved given the BCCI’s stance over DRS, but one still felt for Dhoni as he saw decision after decision go against his side. But it’s simply impossible to blame four innings defeats in six months on bad luck alone.

First, let us scrape what we can into the column marked “positives”. Umesh Yadav, while still leaking runs like a sieve is at least picking up wickets. Zaheer Khan can still trouble the best in the world with his medium-pace swingers, and while Ashwin might not be an Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh, 26 wickets and a Test hundred are not a bad return from 5 matches. In the batting department, Dravid has been not so much The Wall as The Mountain Range, putting his team-mates to shame with his considered approach. Kohli looks to have great potential, and while Sachin’s search for that ton goes on, he is still getting runs for the time being. Even the fielding has improved since Donkeygate.

Sadly, in the Test arena at least, that’s all I can muster. Gambhir scored two half-centuries in the whole of 2011, VVS can’t buy a run, and one could argue that Dhoni’s ban could not have come at a better time as he comes under pressure for his captaincy and batting. The bowling attack is a long way behind the smorgasbord of young guns on show for England, South Africa and Australia, and domestically prospects look little better, with only 4 bowlers having taken more than 30 wickets after 8 rounds of matches.

Before they face England and Australia on home soil next winter, India are, according to the ICC Future Tours Programme, due to play three three-Test series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, with only New Zealand at home. Given current form, I am disinclined to agree with BCCI President Srinivasan’s assertion that they will win all three home series. On the contrary, unless a significant number of players either find form, or are unearthed from domestic cricket, I believe the next five series could all represent significant challenges for the Indian Test side – and for the cricketing world as a whole, that is a crying shame.

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