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Indian Cricket: Deserving Duo

The climax of the Chepauk Test has been sweet for Team India. Most of the boxes ticked well. Spinners were expected to do well on a turner and they did extremely well, right from day 1. Ravichandran Ashwin re-ascertained his position as the leading spinner of the country after a dry series against England. Unlike the Poms, the current lot of Aussies is also a team in transition, much like Team India. The absence of heavyweights in Ponting and Hussey hurt the Australian side more than they expected.

The middle order of Pujara, Kohli, Tendulkar and Dhoni performed exceedingly well. While Pujara may not have got a big score, he looked solid and confident during his stay. He has a long way to go in his career but is one man whom India can rely upon to fill the big shoes of Dravid in future.

Kohli was back in the groove after missing against England and in the subsequent ODIs. Given his success in limited overs and his temperament, Kohli is likely to be the nucleus of Indian batting in days to come especially once the big fish Tendulkar quits.

Dhoni was magical at No 6. His technique may not be best suited for the longer format and may be found out in tougher conditions, but cometh home pitches, he is a batsman with few comparisons. He snatched the match away from the Kangaroos in the most brutal manner possible. With his captaincy under scrutiny and his batting under the scanner, MSD has now responded with two innings at Nagpur and Chennai that he is still worth his place in the side for batting alone. Promotion to No 6 has helped him to deliver and in the final context, he has left his critics, including yours truly, awe-struck with two different yet extremely effective innings.

Tendulkar, in his 23rd year of his career, is still a treat to watch. He was batting like his twenties and the two boundaries and two sixes of the first two balls he faced in the two innings was a treat after a long time. Given his imminent retirement any time in a year or so, every innings from the great man from now on will be crucial in the team’s context.

Pacers did not have much to do and are likely to be doing the same job in the coming Tests too. Ishanth, as usual, bowled his heart out without any success. Bhuvanesh might not have made his ball talk but he made a stellar contribution of holding the other end when the skipper went berserk at the young Australian attack.

Harbhajan, in his 100th Test, was expected to do much more than what he actually did. Despite the second innings performance, the Turbanator has to mentor the young spinners with all his experience. Jadeja failed with the bat and was not too great with the ball.

The only gray areas were the openenrs. Virendar Shewag being Shewag can have a good day or bad. But in recent times, he has not made any telling contributions, barring the first Test at Ahmedabad against England. Having lost his place in the ODIs, it is high time he makes another knock with his stamp of approval or face the situation of being booted out from the Test team as well.

Vijay’s selection to the Test side was debatable. His Ranji season was a big failure. In fact, Mukund was better in the Ranji compared to Vijay. But two knocks in the Irani Cup, at the start and the end of the season, won him the place in the side. On home ground, he had a wonderful chance, but Pattinson made him look a pauper in both the innings.

Jadeja was another controversial pick. Picking him in place of Pragyan Ojha was a great disservice to the Hyderabadi. Ojha was the pick of Indian spinners against England and has been doing his job as the second spinner to both Ashwin and Harbhajan with distinction in home Tests.

Jadeja might bring in some batting strength to the side and is a far better fielder than Ojha. He did have a scintillating season in domestic cricket. He deserved the inclusion in the Test side without doubt. But in the context of the playing XI, he is did not seem a right choice to me. Harbhajan is in the XI for his record against the Australians and Ashwin is our lead spinner. Neither does Jadeja bring in a variety compared to Ojha nor do we direly need a seven batsman formula in home Tests.

Another big omission from the side is Ajinkya Rahane. A man with a 60 plus average in First Class cricket, Rahane has done well whenever given a chance. He has been waiting in the wings for a long time. And he, with Kohli and Pujara, is expected to form the next generation of batters for Team India. This was a good chance to test him in Whites.

Jadeja may not be adequate to face the rampant South African bowlers at the end of the year. We will need an extra batsman and Rahane looks to be the best bet. He has got technique to succeed in difficult conditions but needs to be groomed. India missed a great opportunity here. What more can a man do?

If not for Jadeja, a swap for Vijay could have got the Mumbaikar his due. Rahane has been opening in ODIs and T20s and is a top order batsman. He is used to facing the new ball and could very well be the opener with Sehwag for India. Again, he was booted out for Vijay, who is trying to play stylish cricket without having a sound technique.

With Pujara almost confirming the No 3 slot to be his for a long run, Rahane is not someone suited to bat at No 6. Tendulkar and Kohli at No 4 and No 5 will not be moved out for sure. Hence, the best place to slot in Rahane would have been the opening and a straight swap with Vijay is the best option available. Another failure at Hyderabad could shut the door for the Tamil Nadu opener and in such a case, Rahane must open for the best interests of the side.

All in all, the likely squad for Hyderabad Test would be perfect if we can see Rahane coming in for Vijay and Ojha for Jadeja. Let us not forget the fact that Ashwin is no pushover with the bat and averages in mid thirties despite batting at No 8. So a promotion to No 7 for the offie could not be a bad bet.

Harbhajan himself has two centuries, including one at the same ground two years ago and the two off spinners considerably strengthen the lower order. So India can afford to play with five batsmen, five bowlers and Dhoni. That would serve the side in the long run. But Alas! MSD is MSD and we will see two good potential stars sit out for lesser talented individuals. All the Best Team India!

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