India sorely missed Dravid and Laxman

11 Feb 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in India VS South Africa Test Series 2010

There are plenty of lessons for India to learn from the debacle at Nagpur, none bigger than the fact that they shouldn’t pick unfit players in the side no matter how big a player is. As we all saw, there was talk that VVS Laxman could be drafted in at the last moment if fit.

However, it wasn’t to be and, as sheer bad luck would have it, stand by Rohit Sharma also twisted his ankle, moments before the game. It didn’t cost India the Test, but must have surely dented their psyche severely, as they had no option but to pick Wriddhiman Saha as the seventh batsman. India’s plans completely went for a toss and their performance in the Test reflected it.

Except for the initial half an hour, when Zaheer Khan struck two deadly blows, the Indian bowling look completely insipid. Nothing should be taken away from Hashim Amla, who batted brilliantly as well as Jacques Kallis, who proved that there is still enough fire in his belly to fight tough battles. However, there are no two ways about it that India could and should have definitely done better.

The bowling has been a worry for quite a while now for India and the signs are hardly encouraging. Zaheer Khan is the only quality bowler around, and he too is approaching the dangerous mid-30s. Ishant Sharma may have done well against Bangladesh, but against a quality opponent like South Africa, he was back to his insipid worst. The change in action hasn’t made an inch of difference. Ishant has to do some real soul-searching.

There was a time in Indian cricket was spinners used to run through the best of opponents at home. But, since the retirement of Anil Kumble things have definitely changed, and how. Everyone now seems tired of pointing out that Harbhajan Singh is not the same bowler he was in 2001. He has lost the zip and nip that made him such a force to reckon with.

One can of course give him the benefit of doubt saying, he bowled on the first two days of the Test when the pitch was at its best. However, the fact of the matter remains that such performances have become far too common for comfort from India’s point of view. Unfortunately, he is still the best spinner we have on offer. Speaking of Amit Mishra, he had an impressive debut against Australia, but has done precious little since. The leggie needs to prove sooner rather than later that it wasn’t a one-off.

Despite the disastrous batting performance, one would do well not to read too much into it. Gautam Gambhir’s failure was long overdue. Virender Sehwag could not carry on to make a big hundred and Sachin Tendulkar’s ton wasn’t enough. Also, one cannot replace legends like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman overnight. The duo has led the Indian fight back on innumerable occasions and was sorely missed. Even so the youngsters need to be given some time to settle down into the scheme of things.

Amidst all the calamitous happenings, there were a few positives. Debutants S Badrinath and Saha did show some spunk, which augurs well for the future. Murali Vijay looked good, but yet again fell in his nervous 30s. At the end of the day, India may have lost embarrassingly, but it wasn’t a bad result considering the long-term targets of the team, as they unwittingly got a peek into the future.

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