Where does India go from here, Tests-wise?


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…

– Srikanth

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23 responses to “Where does India go from here, Tests-wise?

  1. I thought D Karthik did a good Job as an opener under tough conditions in England and South Africa.

    Unfortunate for him he didn’t click in the Pak series where everyone else did but for a solitary fifty.

    He started of as a Good wk batsmen. But I guess they use him more like a 12th Man. He did well in the tour game they played against ACT XI.
    I feel they should give him more chances to prove himself.

    I don’t see any potential in him as an ODI / T20 player. But I think he will defly make a good test opener.

  2. I thought D Karthik did a good Job as an opener under tough conditions in England and South Africa.

    Unfortunate for him he didn’t click in the Pak series where everyone else did but for a solitary fifty.

    He started of as a Good wk batsmen. But I guess they use him more like a 12th Man. He did well in the tour game they played against ACT XI.
    I feel they should give him more chances to prove himself.

    I don’t see any potential in him as an ODI / T20 player. But I think he will defly make a good test opener.

  3. Good post Srikanth. Right timing.

    I know you’ve said that the phasing-in-phasing-out process should start with the England series in December. I am of the opinion that this process should commence during the South Africa series.

    I might even be bold enough to suggest a rotated phase-out/in. For the future strength of Indian Test cricket, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar should agree to phase-out/in with Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, S. Badrinath and Rohit Sharma from about the 3rd Test of the South Africa series onwards.

    This year sees India play South Africa in March-April (3 Tests), Zimbabwe in May-June (2 Tests), Sri Lanka in July-August (3 Tests), Australia in October-November (4 Tests) and England in December (3 Tests).

    This year is going to be a Test-feast for India with 2 already done and 15 more to come during the year! This is, therefore, the best time to start the PIPO process (phase-in-phase-out)!

    Especially for the last Test against RSA — when the series will be stitched up by then! — and then against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and England — no disrespect to Sri Lanka 🙂

    — Mohan

  4. Srikanth Mangalam

    I did not realize we had 15 tests this year. I would like to think the fab 5 would like to retire on their respective homegrounds. At least four of them, VVS may have to choose an adopted ground like Kolkata. SA series is being played in Chennai, Kanpur and Ahmedabad, not the ideal places to retire for them except for Chennai…

  5. Re the spinning options, Murali Kartik seems to be the forgotten man of Indian Cricket, despite a stellar performance in the home one day series against Oz.

    He had been picked out of the blue for that series at Dhoni’s insistence and rewarded the trust resposed in him, with the crowning glory being the 6/27 in Mumbai.

    At 31 and a bit I’d suggest he still has age on his side.

  6. @Srikanth

    I’d like to see at least 2 of the Fab Four retire during the England series. We don’t quite know where these games are being played. But it may be a good series for (say Ganguly and Laxman) to bid adieu. Hopefully by then Yuvraj Singh and Badrinath are ready to step up to the plate.

    Mohan

  7. Suresh Raina seems to be a forgotten man in the scheme. He was supposedly a superb talent.

    To groom, pace talent, MRF Foundation was formed with Dennis Lillee as the coach. After 10 years, we have many fast bowlers.

    Similarly, India should setup “spin” Foundation and invite Terry Jenner and Shane Warne.

    Not sure if the great spinners Bedi, Prasanna, Shivalkar, Rajendra Goel, Venkat want to teach the young kids, with all their egos and politics.

  8. theblackirishman

    Grooming & Planning(PIPO) is a great idea but simply has no place in the current Indian (cricketing) culture. It needs
    1. The administration to have a vision for future
    2. The senior players to be able to deal with their cricketing mortality
    3. An open dialogue between the administrators & seniors.

    Very few examples of any of the above spring to mind in the Indian context. A lot has to change in the Indian culture before that sort of succession planning can begin to happen.

  9. Paddy, I believe it is starting to happen in hockey. I could be wrong but that is what I think is happening in that space.

  10. While looking ahead is always the right thing to do, especially for the national team, lets not forget the just concluded series marks the end of an era that began a certain SRT landed on the shores down under 18 yeara ago. A look at champions in twilight…
    http://outsideedge.wordpress.com

  11. gnbmdr,

    I am not sure why you would want to label Indian greats as egotist or political minded.

    I have found Venkat to be a very simple man during my interactions with him in Houston. For example, I had just started bowling off-spin about 4 yrs back and met Venkat at a party in Houston. I casually asked him if he would teach me a few tricks and spot any corrections to my actions. Venkat arranged a coaching session for me (free of cost) the very next weekend and spent about 1 hour with me pointing out minute mistakes in my hip rotation and gave me pointers on how to bowl slower thru the air even while running at normal pace to deceive the batsmen and other technical details. This despite me being a 30 yr old guy at that time. Another time Venkat was enthusiastic to vist our team practise session and spent 2 hours withe everyone in the team and even bowled to us.

    Frankly, the BCCI has done nothin to honor these guys all these years. Besides, people like Shivalkar and Goel may already be training youngsters in their state and why call them egotist without knowing what their contributions are?

  12. Indian spin Octet 🙂 “Bedi, VV Kumar, Chandrasekar, Prasanna, Venkat, Shivalkar, Goel, Doshi” would be the best in the world in terms of spinners – The equivalent to the bowling capacity of Roberts, Marshall, Holding, Garner, Croft, Bishop, Wayne Daniel, ….

    It is a pity that after Kumble, Indian spinner talent is barren. I wish some young spinner would go to VVK or Prasanna to learn the tricks.

    My comment stems from that.

  13. Any reason why you’d want any of these 5 players to retire from tests this very year, as all of them did well on a tough tour to Australia?

  14. I am sorry to be the only discordant note here, but based on what I see, I dont believe Rohit Sharma is test match material. I might live to regret having said this, but its my opinion based on what I have seen of him till now. Infact, I will go so far as to say that none of the new breed players in the current one day side will qualify in my books as test class, on current form. One of the primary requirements for a test match player is hunger for huge personal runs and willingness to be patient over long periods of play for the same. An indication of that would be a triple century or huge scores at the first class level. Since I am not one who is well versed with the domestic circuit, have any of these one day wonders produced such scores during their cricketing careers so far?? If the answer is yes, then that gives me the first indication that they are ready for test matches. If the answer is no, then that is a chink in their armor. The second criteria for excellence at the test match level would be an attitude for flexibility. In a test match career, one is bound to have lean patches. It will require tremendous resolve and capability to correct ones technique, in order to overcome these lean patches. Tendulkar, even today after so many years in test cricket, keeps making adjustments to his batting to excell at this level. I see more arrogance than humility in the current breed of cricketers, as demonstarted by Yuvraj and Harbhajan. One should clearly be educated early on in their career, that the game will catch up soon. Constant self appraisals and improvements are the only way to have long test careers. And finally, do these players themselves see a preference for excellence in test match cricket over the shorter forms. I feel that the famous five strongly believe in test match being a superior cricketing format. This is reflected in our consistent performances in this format and our climb in ranking over several years. In recent times, there is clearly added hunger to stamp their name in that form more than the one day variety.
    While I have stated all the above, there are exceptions like Gilchrist and Sehwag who defy such fixed formulas and bring a flavor that thrills fans worldwide. Only time will tell whether our bench strength is good. Else we will be following the footsteps of West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand.

  15. Very well written Bharath

  16. Srikanth Mangalam

    Bharath,

    I am not sure I get your point. Are you suggesting the big four should continue playing till we find with all the qualities that you have mentioned? We might as well ask the four greats to play for another 10 years or so. Also, barring probably Tendulkar, I do not believe the remaining three necessarily had “great test players” written on their faces when they arrived on the scene.

    Barring Mohd. Kaif, my understanding is that everyone else mentioned in the list have scored double hundred in domestic games. Expecting a triple hundred from an Indian may be a little too much. Only VVS Laxman has scored a triple hundred amongst the fab four.

    The bottom line, is that these are the best we have got. I am a little more optimistic than you are, and I believe unless they are given a chance to prove, there is no way for us to determine if they are ready.

  17. I think Anil Kumble would be a better opener in aussi bowl. But he is on the way out.

  18. Srikanth,
    You know cricket as well, if not better, than I do. And we both know that any predictions or analysis we make, might be proved right or wrong irrespective of the amount of information we take into consideration while making that analysis. I was using three very simple criteria to judge whether any of these current breed of players will make it successful in the test cricket arena. I agree with you completely that the famous five cannot play for another 10 years and that inspite of what any of us feel about the younger guys, their performance might prove any of us right or wrong and unless they are given a chance, we may never know.
    But, as with any field, whether its carnatic music or cricket or acting, there are some of us that find every musician or cricketer or actor as being good. There are also some of us who are very picky [due to an ear or eye for subtle nuances of a genius that others might not care that much about] and do not easily accept someone as a good musician, player or actor. When it comes to cricket, I must confess that I am very picky. The first thing that strikes me in a test match batsman is the ability to make the opposition bowlers sweat it out in the heat to take his wicket. If I see that quality in him, I know I have my test cricketer. Greats like Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, Ravi Shastri etc are some Indians I can think of who can make the opposition really come to their knees. I feel I can see that quality even when a player is playing one day cricket. Other than Dhoni, everyone in the current group seems to be in an enormous hurry all the time, which is what I have huge problems with. Their patience runs out the moment they face five dot balls. This ploy has consistently worked with even a seasoned test match player like Sehwag. The aussies dry up the runs and know that in a few overs, Sehwag’s patience will run out and he will throw his wicket away. The famous five will bide their time, and when the opposition lets its shoulders drop, they will pay heavily. To me that is test cricket. The day I see this quality in any of the current breed players, irrespective of the technique of the batsman, I will completely accept them as test match quality. I think Dhoni is definitely on his way there.

  19. Bharat,

    True that patience is most important in test both for bowlers as well as for batsmen. But all these guys are very young and are bound to be impatient or should I say, less patient than our seasoned veterans. They have hit double tons in FC cricket where the quality of bowling is not great, pitch is not very testing, fielding is not world class and all that. So obviously they have not been tested enough. ‘A’ tours are necessary because of that. And I suppose Yuvraj is losing big time because of not playing FC cricket at all.

    Otherwise, I don’t think these guys are ready for the test match grind as yet and I’m talking about Rohit, Manoj and Raina here.

  20. Bharat

    If you had applied your “triple innings or huge scores” long-innings criteria, we would not have developed the Fab Four! To the best of my knowledge, none of those guys had played 250+ innings in First Class cricket before they got selected. So, good theory. But sometimes talent-spotting is an Imran-Khan-like thing that can’t be codified in an operations process manual.

    Ian Chappell said of Rohit Sharma the other day on commentary, “I like the look of this guy. His knees are bent beautifully on a cover drive and the follow through is just perfect. But most importantly, I like the position of his elbow when he cover drives. He should play a long innings for India.” (or words to that effect)

    Sometimes, that is all that might be required to make an investment in developing a career.

    — Mohan

  21. Ricky Ponting says Ishant Sharma a Dangerous Bowler
    Ricky Ponting Australian Captain was suitably impressed by Ishant Sharma.
    http://www.metrojoint.com/blog_more.php?pid=28485&userid=33997

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  23. Pingback: Welcome back, Mr. Kaif! « i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

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