India lost the final match of the ODI series against Pakistan in Jaipur. The key interest for me in this game was the see how the team fared in the absence of Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh. For me the other interest in this game was to see how Praveen Kumar played in his first ODI.
Overall, although India lost the match, they can take away a lot from this series. In the main, the form of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh are major positives from this series. Although Robin Uthappa failed — and failed quite badly — in last nights’ game, I think his forceful presence in the death-overs is a major positive for India too.
Yuvraj Singh has been in sublime form and would be justifiably upset if he is left out of the Test team for the first Test against Pakistan, which commences on 22 November (at Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi). Harbhajan Singh has bowled quite brilliantly through the tournament too. Although I will admit readily that one should not blindly take ODI form to be a true estimate of Test-match-form, the pointers are certainly good for both Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. Both of them have made compelling cases for inclusion in the Test side.
The main positive from this series has been the stunning form of Sachin Tendulkar. Through two scores in the 90s and a few other short stays at the crease, Sachin Tendulkar appears to have hit peak form at the right time — just prior to three imporant back-to-back series; against Pakistan, Australia and South Africa. The signs are definitely good.
Praveen Kumar had a decent day at the office yesterday. Although one would be disappointed with his batting, he is definitely capable of more with the bat. He kept a cool head while bowling at the death overs and the fact that his captain had enough faith in him to ask him to bowl 3 of the last 5 overs means that he should have a reasonably long stint in India’s ODI team.
The two disappointments for India would be the indifferent form of Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik. After a brilliant showing against Australia, Murali Kartik appears to have faded somewhat in this series. One expected Sehwag to set the ground ablaze with his new found hunger and tighter technique. However, while he looked good in the Gwalior game, he threw away a brilliant opportunity in last nights’ game with a mind-explosion. Both Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik may have lost the opportunity to board the plane to Australia.
We may be tempted to blame the umpire for turning down several LBW appeals that India made that looked much closer than the one that Gautam Gambhir got. We may be tempted to blame the umpire for the shocker that Yuvraj Singh received — his subsequent dissent, justifiably earned him a visit to the Match Referees’ Office and a fine. However, the fact remains that Pakistan played smarter cricket on the day and deserve the applause.
Yesterday’s match also saw two debut performances in the Pakistan team. Both Sarfaraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper, and Fawad Alam, the allrounder, came out of the game with an increase in their stock. Pakistan will possibly go into the first Test in more buoyant spirits now.