Cricinfo’s Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan, in an excellent analysis at the end of Day-4 of the recently concluded 1st Test between England and India, indicated that India went into the Test with an egg-shaped strength graph but came out of it with the strength graph looking strangely like an hour-glass.
And so, we have a strange situation of it being an egg (or a gilli — of gilli-danda fame) turning into an hour glass.
Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan’s thesis is that India went into the Test match with its much vaunted middle-order as its key, underpinning strength. What we got at the end of the game was a situation whereby the players that we expected relatively lesser stuff from stood up, put their hands up and asked to be counted.
Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, R. P. Singh, Zaheer Khan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sree Santh came out of it with their heads held high. The personnel that were expected to slaughter the greenhorns in the opposition had surrendered meekly — twice in one game.
It is so true. Tim de Lisle talks about this as Goliaths being in awe of Davids!
I suspect that it is a case of IBRADM too. Somehow, the Indian middle order needs to get out of its slumber and deliver the goods. Far too often in recent memory, the middle order has surrendered the initiative through purposeless and listless batting.
Sure Englands’ bowlers bowled well. But these are champion batsmen that we are talking about. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman have scored nearly 30,000 Test runs between them! They are not wet behind the ears! Surely they can do better. Surely they can turn their 30s into 60s and their 60s into hundreds!
The bowlers have shown that they can pull things together — I say this inspite of the horror start to proceedings in both innings. Zaheer Khan bowled well in patches. Sreesanth seemed to have great difficulty bowling to left handers. Kumble was not as penetrative and did not ask as many questions as he normally does. Inspite of these deficiencies, the bowling stuck to the task. I thought Dravid marshalled his bowling resources brilliantly. I have hope that this department will improve in the 2nd and 3rd Tests. If the bowling improves — and they will, I believe — then, what is needed is a rethinking of the batting strategy.
India cannot go into the 2nd Test with a “everything will be right” attitude with respect to the batting. Something has got to change. There has to be fresh thinking. There has got to be fresh blood. There has got to be a shake-up.
I know that my suggestion may not be palatable to some, but one of the following has got to happen:
(a) One of Ganguly or V. V. S. Laxman will have to step down and make way for Yuvraj Singh. From what I saw of Ganguly, I observed a willingness for the fight. I saw the fire still burning. He wanted to be in the fight and he also delivered India an important breakthrough with his bowling. I did not see the willingness for a fight in Laxman. He is no Michael Hussey at #6. And so, I would suggest that Laxman sits out this next match.
(b) If (a) doesn not happen — for whatever reason — then at the very least, Sachin Tendulkar needs to swap his position with V. V. S. Laxman.
For India to go into the next match with the same middle order would be — in my view — a folly. In this 1st Test, against a weak attack, India got out of jail. Surely, India can do better than that!
India will go into the 2nd Test in a positive frame of mind. It is certainly better going into the 2nd Test with a scoreline that reads 0-0 rather than 0-1. The bowlers bowled the opposition out twice for under 300. India’s 2nd innings score equalled Englands’ score in the 2nd dig. One could say that but for the crazy first hour, India may have done better. However, the fact remains that the egg-shaped graph failed India — twice. And that is a trend that has existed for quite some time now.
This is the right time to start infusing new blood into the team; new blood that will bring with it personnel who want to fight in a real Test of their mettle. This is, I believe, the opportunity to commence the process of ringing in the changes.
Dinesh Karthik shows that he wants to be there. He wants to fight. Every outing is treated by him as a gift — and potentially his last outing! We need more of his tribe in the team.
It is time for Indian cricket to start its own changing of the guards. The time is now…