Yet another final, yet another defeat. The surprise victory in the Asia Cup final notwithstanding, the Indians continue to struggle at the final hurdle. As if this perennial problem wasn’t enough, the woes of Team India were compounded in the series courtesy yet another below par performance by the youngsters. With just over five months to go for international cricket’s most prized competition, India have plenty on their plate to ponder upon. Crucially, the decisions taken in the aftermath of the Dambulla loss should not be in haste, and must adhere to sound cricketing logic.
I am saying this because the easiest scapegoat could be, and perhaps will be, Dinesh Karthik. When Gautam Gambhir returns to the team, he might not be needed. However, it will be unfair to discard him solely on the basis of his disappointing scores in the recently concluded tri-series. It must be taken into consideration that he is primarily a middle-order player and was opening only to fill in for his more illustrious team-mate. He even recorded a match-winning score in the Asia Cup final. However, when it conditions got tougher for batting, his technique was found out.
A utility player like Karthik, and a complete team man, deserves a fair chance to prove that he is good enough to represent India consistently at the international level. And for that, he needs to be played in the lower-middle order. The question then arises is can be afford seven batsmen. Well, the problem should all but solve itself owing to Ravindra Jadeja’s uninspiring efforts with the bat. It isn’t great news for India that they can’t find an all-rounder a la Angelo Mathews. However, that’s the truth and they need to make do with it. And unless they want to give Yusuf Pathan another go – which would be worth a try — it wouldn’t be illogical to slot Karthik in at number seven. He could even keep wickets and relieve some pressure off captain MS Dhoni’s back.
Even as the Karthik dilemma needs to be solved in right earnest, India need to look beyond Rohit Sharma and possibly even Virat Kohli for occupancy in the middle-order slots. Both started off in international cricket in highly promising fashion, but haven’t shown the consistency to be trusted upon, unlike Suresh Raina, who too took his time to blossom, and is now one of the backbones of this Indian side. Also, some of the shots the two played in the tournaments were shocking, and they could be axed for that purpose itself. Of course, Raina too had an unsatisfactory. But, it has to be taken into account that his debut Test series must have taken a toll on him.
Considering the uncertainty in the middle-order, it would be logical to give the veteran Rahul Dravid one final go. He did pretty well when recalled for the Champions Trophy in the absence of Virender Sehwag, only to be dropped for reasons best known to selectors. The argument here could be that the great man had a torrid time in Lanka. However, knowing Dravid the cricketer, it shouldn’t be long before he has sorted out his batting flaws, unless his powers are on the wage.
The brightest spot for India from the ODI series in Lanka was performance of Virender Sehwag. Had he not been tragically run-out in the finals, who knows what might have transpired, considering the murderous form he was in. Anyways, let bygones be bygones. What Sehwag needs now is some stern support from the other end. The return of Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar should help, but having their names on the scorecard alone won’t transform into runs. Everyone needs to battle it out in the middle.
Call it a surprise or what you might, the bowling that was expected to be India’s Achilles Heel turned out to be rather reasonable, although they would have liked to do better in the finals. Praveen Kumar, especially, was below par in the summit clash. He is one of those curious cases for India. When the ball moves around, he is lethal even at his pace. But when he delivers the same stuff on an unresponsive, he is easy meat for the opposition batsmen. As such, while it will be a good idea for India to have him around, he shouldn’t be a certainly for all games, considering the flaw in his game. The other three pace bowlers were impressive at various phases in the tournament. However, they have far from achieved their desired consistency.
All of this means Dhoni faces his toughest test as captain in the months building up to the World Cup.
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