The last time India played at the Feroz Shah Kotla, they beat Sri Lanka by a huge margin. Tendulkar scored a century and Kumble took a 10 for in the match. Irfan Pathan was the frontline fast bowler for India. He also opened the innings and scored a career best 93. Dhoni had just made his debut in the previous match and although Sehwag didn’t play the game, he was still a central figure in Indian cricket.
That was close to 2 years ago. Since then, a lot of things have happened. Pathan lost his in-swing, his pace and then his place in the team. Sehwag too lost his form and was dropped. Although Pathan has made a comeback into the ODI team, Sehwag is still not a permanent fixture.
Tendulkar went without scoring a hundred in the next 10 games and finally broke the streak with 2 centuries against Bangladesh. He has been averaging only 36.87 since the hundred at Delhi and if we take out his scores in the series against Bangladesh, he averages just 28.68.
Saurav Ganguly was dropped too and Yuvraj Singh (who had a 100+ partnership with Dhoni in the second innings) has been in and out of the team. Laxman’s position has also been in doubt during this period in spite of his 40+ average.
The one player who has had a consistent presence in the Indian middle order has been Rahul Dravid – the wall, although he has since given up his captaincy. He has been averaging 53+ during this time which is only slightly lower than his career average of 56.50. The other positive thing for India is that they have found two good openers in Jaffar and Karthik (or have they?).
In the bowling department, Kumble has been consistent as ever, although Harbhajan Singh dropped out of the team owing to poor form. This may well be Harbhajan’s comeback Test.
The fast bowling department has improved by leaps and bounds with Zaheer Khan finding his rhythm and the emergence of RP Singh and Sreesanth (although, the two may not play tomorrow owing to injury).
Now, that’s the story so far. What should we be looking out for in this test and this series? Here is my list –
- How the openers perform: Sehwag has been kept out of the team in spite of a 90+ average against Pakistan. If any of the openers fail twice in a row, I would expect Sehwag to be back in the team, although a lot of people would argue that he shouldn’t open the innings anymore.
- Performance of Laxman and Ganguly: I am pretty sure these two players are on notice in spite of some decent scores in England. Unless they perform in this series, it would pretty much be the end of their careers.
- Kumble as a captain: It would be interesting to see how he goes about captaining the team. I would also like to see he reacts now when someone misfields 🙂
- Dravid and Tendulkar: I expect both these players to score well. Dravid in particular has a point to prove after he was dropped from the ODI squad. I also hope that Tendulkar’s true turn to form will happen in the ground where he scored his last “real” hundred.
- Bhajji’s bowling: Harbhajan has bowled well in the ODI series. But that is completely different to Test match bowling. Pawar has had some excellent performances in the Ranji Trophy tournament and unless Harbhajan delivers, it is either Murali Karthik or Pawar boarding the plane to Melbourne in December.
What about the team for tomorrow? Kumble has hinted that Yuvraj may not play. With RP Singh and Sreesanth injured, India may turn to Munaf Patel (who has been called in as cover) to open the bowling with Zaheer Khan. I think this may be the team that plays tomorrow –
Dinesh Karthik, Jaffar, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly, Dhoni, Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Patel
And for a bit of trivia before I finish up:
- India has a six-match winning streak at the Kotla
- It is a lucky ground for the captain, Kumble having taken 48 wickets @15.45. He also has his best figures of 10/74(!) in this ground playing against Pakistan.