Team India: Last Hope at Kanpur
Whatever happened to the idea of a home ground advantage? The Motera curators served South Africa a dream wicket. Team India completed the gift with a disgraceful performance in the first innings . The match was all but over by lunch on day one. The lone highlight of the match for India was Saurav Ganguly’s fighting knock of 87 in the second innings. Ganguly was outstanding. His sweep shots, late cut and straight drives were a terrific addition to his sweetly timed cover drives. But it was too little too late. What India needed was a huge second inning score to make SA bat again. That never materialized and the game was over on day three as expected by many. The curators at Kanpur will do well to prepare an all out spin wicket that gives the home team an advantage. Its about time!
The Openers: Time to Try Pathan Again?
Virender Sehawag is a hit or miss kind of batsman. The last Test was a “hit”, so its not surprising that this Test was a miss. But given the dramatic game-changing nature of his hits he is still worth retaining in the team. His partner Wasim Jaffer has been around for a while but seems to struggle with consistency. His position seems to be in doubt almost every third Test. It won’t be a huge surprise if the Indian captain picked Irfan Pathan again to open in place of Jaffer.
The Number 3 Spot: VVS over Dravid
This a tough call but probably due. Rahul Dravid has been India’s mainstay for many years. But of late he has struggled. Despite the odd good score he is a picture of hard work and determination rather than confidence and control. Unfortunately, the number 3 spot is a pivotal position and needs a free stroking batsman who can take the pressure off even in the event of an early wicket. Unfortunately, Dravid has struggled. In the Chennai Test he walked in with a huge score on board on a dead wicket and struggled instead of keeping up the scoring tempo. In the Ahmedabad Test he walked in early and did pretty much the same. This pattern was on display in Australia as well. The Wall clearly seems to be past its prime. VVS has waited in his shadows for too long. VVS is a very free stroking player and when he is at the crease the score board is always ticking. This is very similar to Ricky Ponting and Sangakkara both of whom do a terrific job for their teams in Test cricket. India could do well to drop Dravid down the order and number four (when Sachin is not around) or number 5 when Sachin gets back on board and move VVS to number three.
India’s Bowling: RP Deserved to Be Sent Packing
RP Singh was a huge disappointment and his dropping for the third Test comes as no surprise. The return of Ishant would be a welcome change. In the spin department, the return of Romesh Powar is a good move. Despite the wickets that Harbhajan has taken in this series and Kumble’s preference to bowl with him in tandem, Powar is a far more aggressive bowler who could serve as a better bet for Test cricket than Harbhajan. Over the years (thanks to ODI) Harbhajan has become a far more defensive bowler with the result that his wicket taking ability in Tests has dropped significantly.
Kumble’s Absence in the Third Test?
If Kumble were to miss the third Test because of fitness trouble it will be very interesting to see MS Dhoni lead the side. In all probability Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan and Romesh Powar will play in the eleven along with Ishant Sharma were Kumble to miss out. Would he include Pathan over Jaffer? The team composition will give us some insight into the future Test captain’s style and preferences. On the other hand there is talk of Dhoni missing out as well due to fitness problems. If that happens Dinesh Karthik’s return might make room for Irfan Pathan in the team ahead of Jaffer.