Winning back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy - Is it really a turnaround?
Not long ago, the Indian team looked in some clear trouble. The talks of ‘the end of an era’ were on. The batsmen were not making runs, the bowlers were scoring runs instead of taking wickets. The captain looked lacklustre and daggers were out and waiting for a signal to strike hard. But things changed and how dramatically. The Australians are beaten comprehensively (3-0, with one Test to go).
Despite the regular openers (who by the way have to work really hard now for a comeback), despite Tendulkar still not scoring his much elusive century (only God knows what else he has to do. His previous 100 centuries are not enough. People still want more.), the runs are flowing. The likes of Vijay and Dhawan have latched onto the opportunity. Pujara is looking better with each outing. The middle order looks much better with an in-form Dhoni. Coming to the bowling, the pace bowling still looks mediocre. Bhuvneshwar Kumar can bowl well in helpful conditions, but take that away and he looks average with some ‘medium pace’ bowling. Ishant Sharma is losing pace with every outing. He already has topped the charts for the ‘worst’ strike rate amongst current specialist bowlers who have played 50 or more Tests.
The spin department looks good only with Ashwin and Ojha. The team still does not have options beyond them. Harbhajan looks far from the threat he originally was. The bowling department needs more options. The pool of bowlers need to be nurtured, the prime purpose for which the MRF Pace Academy and NCA were created. They need to realign themselves. Jadeja has done himself good by picking some wickets on the dust bowls, though his batting has been below par. Team India has to look beyond him, considering the next tours include South Africa and New Zealand. India needs an all-rounder which allows MS Dhoni to bat at 6 and in the upcoming tours, it has to be a fast bowling all-rounder. The current crop includes two such candidates – Irfan Pathan or Abhishek Nayar. Who will the selectors opt for is the thing we need to wait for. Also, the next Test match is in November in South Africa. In between, we have the IPL, the Champions Trophy and ODIs against West Indies, Zimbabwe and Australia.
The selectors have to think of all these issues. Also, the critical issue of retirement of Sachin Tendulkar will have to be thought through. And once he moves, the batting that looks stable will suddenly look brittle. There are bigger questions to be asked. The time for retrospection is now. If Duncan Fletcher is happy with the fact that his contract has been extended by a year, he also needs to worry that this one year is extremely critical for him and even more for Indian cricket. It would be interesting to see how the events unfold in the next 6-8 months. Hence, I am not going to read much into these wins considering these are stop gap arrangements. The real fight starts later. Therefore, are we sure that this is a turnaround or just really a very myopic view of the situation?