I know the one-dayers are on now and it is too early to talk Test cricket. The India Vs South Africa series is about a month away. I was hoping to initiate a conversation on where India goes from here in terms of its line-up for the future. I do not anticipate any changes in the Test side for the SA series but am expecting things to shake up a bit by the end of year in preparation for the England series. One major factor that has emerged after the Aussie series is that for India to maintain a status as high it has reached (2nd in the ICC ranking) it owes immensely to the big 5 and their ability to play Test cricket the way they do. Any phasing out and transitioning from these champions requires serious thinking and strategy. In fact, it may not be a bad idea to have them involved in choosing their proteges.
Too much experimentation and dabbling in youth without any plan or strategy, while may seem to be okay in one day cricket, is going to fail miserably when it comes to Test cricket. For example, the force fitting of Yuvraj Singh into the side at the expense of not playing Virender Sehwag and fiddling with Rahul Dravid’s role was a major faux paus. Not only did Yuvraj Singh struggle because of a lack of clarity on his role, it did affect the thought process of a champion like Rahul Dravid who still came out of the series successfully purely due to his skills.
Some food for thought for the future….
1. Focus heavily on identifying an appropriate opening partner for Sehwag. Wasim Jaffer is too inconsistent a player. India should consider reinvesting in someone like Akash Chopra or S. S. Das. Playing Gautam Gambhir at this point is too risky, we cannot afford to have two flashy players opening for India.
2. I think it is only fair to get a sense of how the Big 4 will be phased out. In my opinion, the four have played roles that have been unique enough to look for a like-for-like match for the future. For example, Dravid’s role should be matched by someone who plays that sheet anchor role at No. 3. Someone like S. Badrinath or C. Pujara or even Mohammed Kaif should be considered. Yuvraj Singh could be perceived as a replacement for Ganguly. Rohit Sharma seems to the have technique and flair that reminds one of both Dravid and Laxman. I certainly see him as a very good prospect. I think it may worth a shot to actually focus attention on some of these guys within the context of the specific roles that they are expected to play.
That leaves us with searching for a Tendulkar play-alike. There, we pray!!!
3. Our pace bowling attack has molded itself well for the future. We have an amazing combination of players in the side and in the reserve that only needs to be nurtured and motivated enough to perform for sometime to come. I do not think we have had a better present and future for Indian cricket as far as pace bowling goes. In fact, India would rely heavily on this bowling attack to see us through the transition with respect to the batting line up.
4. The spin department is a major worry. Piyush Chawla does not seem to possess enough yet to replace Anil Kumble. The Aussie series seemed to indicate that Sehwag is the best off spinner in the country now. Harbhajan Singh, while he has shown amazing improvement as far as batting goes, is a mystery when it comes to his bowling. No one in the domestics seems to be running through sides like it used to be the case a few years back. Sunil Joshi was the highest wicket taker amongst spinners in the Ranji Super League and that says something. R. Ashwin (off spin), P. P. Ojha (left arm spin) are prospects that may go the distance.
Looking forward to interesting years ahead…