From the desk of a fan: A very bitter series defeat for India
The first month of 2016 hasn’t quite gone according to plan. Perhaps there are some things that are always carried forward regardless of time and place.
Australia used the correct sponsor for the recently concluded ODI series against India – Victoria Bitter (VB). However, the tournament itself turned out to be very bitter for the 2011 World Cup winners. A third series defeat is not going down well with die-hard fans.
Team Director Ravi Shastri is called a Man for all seasons – but even he must be feeling really angry at the abject way that his wards surrendered at the Manuka Oval on Wednesday night. Who does he turn his ire on now? Will he continue with his defiant and aggressive stance, which is fast becoming a comedy routine? Talk less and do more, Sir; your cricketing house is in shambles.
From a fan’s perspective, there are quite a few players who should be in the firing line for their cavalier and devil-may-care attitude towards the entire series. Here’s a peek at them:
Time for a change of guard and role – Dhoni the batsman is needed more than Dhoni the leader
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was quick to give up Test cricket during the disastrous 2014-15 tour of Australia when his side was already 0-2 down. With that step, he also relinquished his leadership of the side to young Virat Kohli, contending that the “strain of leading in all three formats” was getting to him, and also that the Delhi batsman was “ready to take over”.
Fair enough. But with embarrassing defeats against Bangladesh and South Africa (both in subcontinent conditions), losing in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup and surrendering without a fight in the preceding tri-series, it seems that Dhoni had put his thinking cap on backwards. Or was it more of a desperate move to hold on to a crumbling throne in the limited-overs format? Maybe a PIL (public interest litigation) suit needs to be filed, as the skipper himself suggested last night.
An opposing school of thought states that the Jharkhand native is still the best bet to lead the side in the coloured clothing format. In that case, why not have a smooth transition? Just like how Sachin Tendulkar ceded leadership to Sourav Ganguly over a decade ago. He knew it was time to go; why doesn't MSD accept that his shelf life as captain is over?
Fan verdict: Let Kohli lead for a few games to get used to the pressure of the job in the ODI arena at least, with Dhoni playing as a specialist wicket-keeper batsman. Because right now, India needs the champion finisher even more than the captain.
Ravindra Jadeja – If this is the best answer to India’s all-rounder woes, more such losses will follow
He is really maligned in the social networking sphere, and sometimes even on the streets by common folk. Saurashtra’s Ravindra Jadeja (dubbed Lord Sir Sri Ravindra Jadeja by Twitterati) is actually a hard-working cricketer experiencing the worst breaks a young international player goes through at times.
But what good does it do to label him as an all-rounder? Or, to put it much more bluntly, a bowling all-rounder? What is he supposed to do with 70-odd runs to get and a handful of overs to go? The logical answer would be to rotate the strike, get the odd boundary, etc. etc.
I see no logic in Jadeja's thinking process during that Wednesday night. He was the senior batsman among newcomers Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Rishi Dhawan; yet, he stood by while they perished in pursuit of glory via huge hits. And when the asking rate climbed, he didn't clout the ball into the stands even once.
This player is not an all-rounder. He is a bowler with good fielding abilities, but lacks the finishing prowess of a Yuvraj or a Raina.
Fan verdict: Test match performances do not automatically serve as an indicator of a player's good form in limited overs. Ravindra Jadeja should step away from cricket for a while and work on adjusting his balance in the shorter formats.
Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey – India's hope in the middle order
Had it not been for a freak injury sustained while fielding in the fourth ODI, Mumbai player Ajinkya Rahane would have certainly got India over the finish line. This is not a wishful thought, but a conclusion based on his recent performances.
While the confusion over his batting position still prevails, the unassuming 27-year old is the side's best bet in holding the middle order together. A wide array of shots, quick running between the wickets and a safe pair of hands anywhere on the field are just some of his positive traits. Situation-based playing is his forte, so his role becomes that much more crucial given the lack of experience lower down the batting chart.
He can't do it alone. He needs support from a partner who is on the same mental wavelength as him. That’s where Manish Pandey comes in.
The Karnataka batsman played one of the best innings India has seen in recent times last night. At no stage did he look ruffled or pressurized. There is a certain serenity in his approach that India sorely missed during run chases. With him and Rahane occupying the fourth and fifth batsman's slots, exciting times lie ahead for the Men in Blue. For Pandey, these are still early days, but he is one talent earmarked for the immediate future.
Fan verdict: Both batsmen are capable of staying calm and playing the big shots. It's only a matter of time before they re-create the Yuvraj-Kaif magic of 2002.
India’s showing was once again laced with disappointment. You could easily see that the mistakes they had ironed out three years ago were back in full force. The bowling has been a major let down, and this has been covered widely. The habit of imploding by a very inexperienced middle order is an old malaise, and it needs to be nipped in the bud before it blossoms again.
I recommend a set of very harsh, decisive measures that need to be taken. In short, it's time to shake things up in the ODI setup.