It has been an extended absence on my part and precisely 40 days since my last post. The break was to an extent unavoidable, and to an extent forced. That is another story but first and foremost, as I said in my previous post Away Blues, I had made a big mistake in pompously pronouncing India as firm favorites for the test series Down Under. A team that is good on paper has to go out there and perform to prove their worth. The performance that the team came up with in Australia just tarnished an already damaged reputation even more. Another whitewash ensued and so much has been already said and written about it, that it makes no sense to add to all that criticism any more. Some corrective measures have to be implemented and quite soon at that if we have any ambitions of doing well overseas, only if we have any ambitions at all that is.
The good thing is that it is not a repeat of England (where we lost every single international game) and the team is back to winning ways in the limited overs format where the personnel are up to the mark, the intensity is there and the unit is settled. More importantly the skipper feels completely at ease in this format and exerts his authority as probably the best finisher of the modern limited overs game, a fact that he has proved time and again. Add to it his honest, witty and straight from the heart comments in the post-match presentations and press conferences, it makes his character all the more endearing. Let us all hope for the sake of every fan of Team India, that we come back with some silverware albeit in the 50 over format. The fact though, still remains that it cannot erase the nightmare each of us has gone through while witnessing 2 consecutive whitewashes away from home.
|Virat Kohli: The silver lining for India|
The only positives to have come out of the test series are two youngsters: Virat Kohli and Umesh Yadav. I probably have to agree with Gautam Gambhir who said that Umesh Yadav is the find of this tour. Someone who can consistently clock 150 kph with movement is going to cause plenty of problems for any batsman in any conditions. His economy rate in the test series was a bit of a concern as he has been quite wayward at times; but with experience, he is going to be (fingers and toes crossed) India’s lethal weapon. Virat Kohli has already made a brilliant start to his one day career. His run scoring has been prolific and his performances have been consistent. He has shown enough proof of the fact that he is going to be Team India’s middle order mainstay for at least the next decade if he can keep his focus; something that he has done remarkably well so far. The fact that the team management persisted with him for 4 tests reaped rich rewards as his innings in Adelaide showed us. He has got the class obviously, but he also showed that he has the patience and the temperament to succeed in the longest format. At such a young age and so early into his test career he rose above the stalwarts in the team to stamp his authority and truly show that he belongs here, even in the longest format. His success begs the question as to why Rohit Sharma did not get a chance to prove his worth, even after continuous dismal performances from the middle order time and again. But as I said, too much has been said about it already, so let’s not get there.
Meanwhile 2011 has been a fantastic year for test cricket where we have witnessed various exhilarating contests and it has been the year of debutant bowlers with Vernon Philander, Pat Cummins, Ravichandran Ashwin, James Pattinson, Umesh Yadav, Doug Bracewell, Marchant De Lange, Nathan Lyon and the likes have made waves with their impressive performances. Last year saw some memorable series like India vs South Africa at the start of the year, Australia in South Africa was a nail biter, followed by Sri Lanka’s tour to South Africa where they brilliantly bounced back to win the second test but the Proteas managed to clinch the series 2-1. New Zealand beating Australia in Australia after so many years was a brilliant contest that went down to the wire and Warner’s unbeaten innings in that match was another highlight of the year. Zimababwe’s resurgence and strong performances against Bangladesh and New Zealand also augur well for the future of test cricket.
|A resurgent Pakistan|
The first 45 days of 2012 have been full of action as well and the year has begun on a very exciting note. England have got a taste of their own medicine as they were subjected to a comprehensive whitewash in Asian conditions by a rejuvenated Pakistan under Misbah Ul-Haq and the quality of their spin bowling led by Saeed Ajmal. England were completely outplayed and this result has shown that a lot of work still needs to be done by the Brits and also that in world test cricket today there is no side that can claim to be the best. All allegations made regarding Ajmal’s action were baseless and his bowling is a joy to watch. Although most people expected England to struggle in the one day matches as well, they have put up valiant performances so far led by Captain Cook (I so wanted to use that phrase once) and have garnered an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 4 match series. Pakistan need to work on their fielding and lower order batting to stand a chance of squaring the series at 2 each. The ICC deserve a special mention here for making it possible for Afghanistan to play Pakistan in an ODI. Let’s hope such matches are more frequent as it massively helps the improvement of the Associate and Affiliate nations. This is the way forward in making cricket a truly global sport. The triangular CB series down under has also provided quite a few humdingers in its first half and the margins of victory have been minimal. If Sri Lanka can win a couple of matches, it could be a very interesting second half of the competition although the matches so far also have been a great advertisement for ODI cricket irrespective of the results.
The resurgence of test cricket in the past few months has been an absolute joy and it has proved that Test Cricket is the real cricket and the true test of the skills of any international player. South Africa have a chance to go to the top of the rankings (and deservingly so) if they achieve a 3-0 score line against the Kiwis in New Zealand. Australia are looking good under Clarke but their real test will also be away from home in subcontinent conditions. England and India have a lot of questions to answer. Sri Lanka are trying to come out of administrative turmoil and have had a complete overhaul in team management recently. These are indeed exciting times for world cricket with no clear dominant force, leading to unpredictable results. The chance to dominate world cricket is out there in the open. What remains to be seen is which team seizes the initiative and grabs this chance with both hands.
Just as we look forward to these unpredictable and hence exciting times, let us not forget how unpredictable life can be. Let us make sure all our prayers and wishes are with Yuvraj Singh as he fights his battle with cancer and is steadily but surely winning the battle. As Gary Kirsten said he is the Superman of Team India; and we want our Superman back. There are few better sights in world cricket than watching Yuvraj in full flow smashing the bowlers with effortless ease. All I can say is that I can’t wait to see him back in action. So let us just pray for him and wish that he is back soon to where he belongs – in the blue Team India jersey.