Thursday, October 14, 2010

Strength in Reserve

(Also posted at: http://www.criticaltwenties.in/sport/strength-in-reserve)

In what was an outstanding series (if one can call a two-test clash that) victory, the most encouraging sign for India was the strength of its batting reserve. For some time now, India has had a top-class batting line-up – Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir as openers, a combination of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman and Yuvraj Singh in the middle, and the might of wicketkeeper-batsman M.S. Dhoni to boot. But, a replacement for any one of these batsmen has never inspired much confidence. Yuvraj Singh has flirted in and out of the team, and for all his elegance, he lacks the so-called ‘Test Match temperament’. Although Yuvraj’s glittering talents should have seen him make his place permanent upon Ganguly’s retirement, through a combination of poor fitness and poorer attitude he has whittled his opportunities down.

Over the last few months, though, in spite of an apparent feeling that they may be ill-equipped to deal with the rigours of the longer format, India’s young batsmen have performed with aplomb. First, Suresh Raina, fashioned an excellently paced century on debut in Colombo and followed it up with half-centuries in his next two games. Second, Murali Vijay, who as a replacement for the injured Gautam Gambhir, combined fine grace with a tough disposition in conjuring up his maiden test-match hundred at Bangalore. And finally came, possibly, the most important act of reassurance. Cheteshwar Pujara on debut, promoted above Rahul Dravid, at one-drop, played a fabulous hand in India’s run chase and thereby showcased that he belongs at this stage.

Regardless of how irreplaceable Dravid is considered to be, there has been a need for India to find someone who can seamlessly takeover the crucial number three spot, when he decides to call time on his career. There is of course the option of promoting Laxman to his preferred spot, but his excellence in guiding the lower-order is too precious to be thrown away. Pujara, with heaps of runs in domestic cricket in his bag, demonstrated on a wearing final-day pitch that he has both the technique and the temperament to shine. No doubt, there will be far tougher tests to come, especially in the bouncier tracks of South Africa and Australia, and in swinging conditions in England, but the early signs are certainly promising.

4 comments:

Rahul Saha said...

A good series and a good advertisement for test cricket but as you say the real test will be overseas. I still have little faith in Suresh Raina's ability to face the bouncing ball.

Suhrith said...

I agree with you. Raina has much to prove against genuine short-pitched bowling.

Ankit said...

The success of Pujara definitely gladdens the heart. Its a nice story of a domestic performer from a less fancied domestic team getting a call up and proving his competence. If anything, it validates the point that domestic performances still count and its not only success in the IPL which counts.

Suhrith said...

Spot on Ankit. I think the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, and Abhinav Mukund could be two other batsmen who may eventually make the Indian team based on their domestic success.