The last two months have been a good journey for Team India, after they came back from a well deserved break. The Indian team had to bury the nightmares of the past year. The break saw the retirements of two Indian stalwarts which meant a new beginning was on the horizon for the Indian team by the time they took the field again. They did come back in style by winning the Sri Lankan series without breaking a sweat. The only time they faltered was in the second ODI when they were bundled out for less than 150. The main contributions came from Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and Irfan Pathan. Other than that there is nothing much to say about the Indian performances. Zaheer and Sehwag were pretty mediocre and they didn’t look like any of their old selves.
The next assignment for the Indian team came against a lowly ranked New Zealand in our home conditions. India closed out the two match series 2-0. The major contributions came from Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and MS Dhoni in batting. The only other batsman to get a 50 was Suresh Raina. Had our spin bowlers not picked up the amount of wickets that they did, India could have been in deep trouble. None of the seniors including Gambhir, Sehwag, Sachin and Zaheer did anything that’s worth mentioning. Even in the T20 match played between India and New Zealand, the main contribution came from Kohli. The team collapsed from a winning position after he got out.
Let us rewind a few years back. India’s batting was in shambles and the bowling was found wanting most of the times. The lone man who waged a war and who stood among the ruins was Sachin Tendulkar. He was the only player who used to perform in almost every match around that period and still India managed to lose the match somehow either by poor bowling or mediocre batting by the other batsmen.
The Kohli situation today and the Tendulkar situation back then are very similar. But this all changed once the seniors were dropped or they retired. Young players came in and changed the fortunes of Indian cricket by taking some responsibility off Sachin’s shoulder. These were ofcourse Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS and Kumble who came into the team and performed really well to take the team forward. Same way, my belief is that the seniors like Sehwag, Gambhir and Zaheer are taking their place for granted and it shows in the way they are approaching their game. Sehwag has really been out of sorts and it looks like he doesn’t want to make a change to his game. He still wants to play his shots irrespective of whether he can pull it off or not and it is costing the Indian team heavily. He should either realise his mistake and play responsibly or make way for a youngster.
Gambhir, off late has been playing mind games, having captaincy aspirations and that is affecting his game very badly. He has been founding wanting while playing outside his off stump, poking at the balls and giving catch practice to the wicket keeper and slip fielders. This has been his problem for a long time and from the way he’s getting out he hasn’t sought to rectify it. Agreed, the jab if played correctly could be useful in shorter formats. But he should realise that, that is not the only way to play. And it certainly won’t help in test matches. So for him to continue as a opener, he should rectify this immediately or be ready to lose his place.
Zaheer too hasn’t been impressive since his comeback, one of many many comebacks that he has made into the team. His career has been plagued with injuries. Though he has been our strike bowler, he has failed to keep up with his fitness issues and that has been a drawback when the Indian team played an overseas series. He needs to look at his future and decide a course of action soon enough. He should pick one format and leave the other for his own good. If he plays only one format he can prolong his career and be useful for the team.
Therefore dramatic changes have to be made and tough decisions have to be taken if Indian cricket has to reach new heights. Virat Kohli needs support from players of his age to aid the team. I feel that the transition should be smooth and players like Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary should get an extended run in the team. These players barring Rohit Sharma haven’t got 15 consecutive chances to prove themselves and this situation should change and new players should be tried out.
The biggest question is “Who will be brave enough to execute these changes since Dhoni is already bearing the brunt for the supposed role in the retirements of Dravid and VVS? Will BCCI uses its ironhand to weed out irresponsible players from the team and replace them with youngsters? Will the new batch of selectors have enough nerve to drop non performing seniors? Only time will tell.