Unless Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra are able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the 2008 edition of the Irani Trophy seems to be headed irrevocably to the cabinet of Team RoI.
The Irani Trophy has, in the past, been of significance for several players. I remember Dilip Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev using an Irani edition to propel their international careers.
With the Australia tour just around the corner and with some questions being asked of the Indian middle order, there was a similar opportunity in this edition for S. Badrinath and Mohammed Kaif. While I cannot say that Badrinath blew his chances, I don’t believe he enhanced his reputation too much. Having said this, he did make a composed 36 in the second dig. However, Mohammed Kaif, it must be said, has something missing in his internal circuitry. After getting out to an ugly hoik in the first innings, he had few answers in the second dig in a very short stay at the crease (out for a duck off his second ball). Wasim Jaffer did make a composed 50 in the first innings. However, I can’t see the selectors dislodge the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combination.
It was odd to see Rahul Dravid walk in as the RoI opener! As I mentioned in this blog a few weeks back when the RoI team was chosen, the team did not have a regular opener to partner Wasim Jaffer. When the initial team was announced, Parthiv Patel looked the likely opener. However, that option was discarded in favour of Dravid walking out with Wasim Jaffer.
Munaf Patel impressed for RoI. In Delhi’s first innings, Munaf Patel had fire, fluency and pace that made him a sit-up-and-notice bowler when he first hit the scene. He ran through the crease really smoothly and was nagging in his accuracy almost always. He suddenly looks to be an improved bowler. I am not sure what he has been doing, but it has worked. With Zaheer Khan bowling well and with Ishant Sharma not flagging in the wake of the many shampoo adverts he has had to appear in, the India pace bowling stock looks reasonable. In Delhi’s first innings, Munaf Patel sledged out Aakash Chopra. For some reason, in that spell, Munaf Patel was constantly mouthing off at the Delhi batsmen. The umpire got involved too and seemed to have a word with Anil Kumble, the RoI captain. Soon after that, Aakash Chopra and Munaf Patel exchanged words. In the very next over Chopra edged to the slips and Munaf Patel proceeded to execute a war-dance in front of the departing batsman! This incident is not mentioned in Aakash Chopra’s blog post on the game — I must say that I like Chopra’s writing and am looking forward to reading his soon-to-be-completed book.
Delhi has lodged a complaint against Munaf Patel. The hearing on Saturday morning, to be held by match referee Rajinder Jadeja, will attended by Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble.
And so, it may be tempting for Anil Kumble to go in with 5 bowlers and restrict the batting order to 5 batsmen and Dhoni (Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni) for the 1st Test against the visiting Australians! This would be a risky option, especially with Laxman’s poor-show and Tendulkar’s no-show in the Irani trophy! I’d still go with the Badrinath option to provide some cushion in the middle order. Aaah! If only Irfan Pathan knew how to hold his bowling together for 6 consecutive months!
Meanwhile, here is a thought! Aakash Chopra seems to be playing with hunger and determination. He also appears to be a different cricketer these days. He has brought in an urgency to his batting and is more keen to keep the scorers engaged and involved, when previously, they would have reached for the pillow when he came in to bat! Now, if he produces a stunning knock on day-4 of the ongoing Irani Trophy game to assist Delhi to pull one out of the hat, would it not be conceivabe to imagine the following Team India line up for the Tests against Australia?
Chopra, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Ishant
I do remember saying earlier on in this post, “I can’t see the selectors dislodge the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combination.” So yes. This is the romantic in me speaking. I do like Aakash Chopra’s gutsy approach to batting and fielding and would like to see him back in the mix for India one day.
Meanwhile Australia ‘A’ thrashed India ‘A’ in the tri-series final. The only thing this series confirmed is that Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik imploded totally. The two of them need a fair bit of time off the limelight with their respective clubs and state teams.