India vs Australia: A pessimistic view of Indian cricket amidst the glaring optimism
As India take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Border-Gavaskar series with an all-round team performance, one wonders about the veracity and the depth of the team’s actual strength and potential, especially after its struggle to maintain its home-ground supremacy against the English team just a couple of months ago.
Though against the Australians, the team’s performance has been quite solid and inspired, not much has been altered to make it so. With the exception of a few odd players here and there, most of the Indian line-up has remained unchanged. And more importantly, most of its dire hiccups still continue to persist, hanging over the team like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Sehwag’s batting woes continue to pose a problem, and however well-intended Dhoni’s decision to try and retain him in the playing eleven might be, the constancy of his inability to raise a formidable score definitely raises innumerable questions about his selection rather than justifying it. The onus still continues to remain on the middle-order batsmen to take charge, which is what happened in the second Test at Hyderabad.
Where Pujara and Vijay rattled the Australian bowling apart with a mammoth stand of 370 runs, after the near-consecutive departures, the rest of the batting order collapsed with just one 50-run partnership between Dhoni and Jadeja. Although by that time it didn’t really matter, because all eyes were on Australia to prove the rightness of their decision to declare in the first innings, against more demanding opponents, this inconsistency will be a stark picture painting the Indian team red in case of any failure.
The same goes for a few of the bowlers. In the sub-continental playing conditions, against an already depleted Australian squad against whom most of the Indian bowlers have struck gold, the same set of bowlers seemed ill at ease while bowling to the Englishmen. With a potential tour to South Africa coming up later in the year, it remains to be seen as to how these Indian bowlers adapt to the completely different playing conditions. Particularly when pitted against the likes of Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, to emphasise a few.
Not discounting India’s performance against the Australians till now, all and sundry who follow the intricacies of Test cricket will have to admit that India’s success has come against a squad which is nowhere near its Test playing best. A side that’s fast running out of options, both on its batting and bowling fronts, the present crop of Australian cricketers touring India are a pale shadow to the teams that toured during the 80s, 90s and even at the start of the new millennia.
As the Australian newspapers question and comment on Michael Clarke’s dubious captaincy skills in India, these comments and criticisms come in the wake of an acceptance that the Australian team touring India was going to be majorly tested and tried. And where Michael Clarke finds himself as the subject of negative scrutiny, MS Dhoni is basking in the glory of discussions about his newly regained form from the Indian newspaper counterparts. In his case though, the complete turnaround from calling for him to step aside from the Test captaincy mantle to one awarding him merit to stay on will be tested further as the cricketing season progresses further.
What with IPL round the corner to add to a slew of cricketing tournaments scheduled for this year, soon there’ll be a lot more than competency issues facing India, as it begins its overseas tourneys. It’ll then be proved as to whether India’s present run of confidence was indeed the precursor to a long-enduring affair with stability, or a chance occurrence, fit to be cast aside, even as unforgettable as they seem now – at this moment.