WI tour - lessons learnt..notes taken..looking forward to Test series
My notebook runneth over..and since the ODI series turned out to be a completely forgettable one (hopefully the lessons learnt by Dravid and co would be remembered) I would rather go into a preview-ish look on our prospects in the coming test series, based on how events have unfolded so far.
1) First the good news...Sehwag will make runs. He looked to be playing his test-like game in ODIs, and succeeded well enough. Sure the test in Tests would be tougher, with all those short pitched balls, its not his first time. And WIndies bowler, despite what they dished in ODIs, are not Hoggard and Freddie. They dont have the discipline to test him consistently. Most importantly, his confidence and hunger seems to be coming back.
2) With Yuvraj reaffirming his rich form of the season, and with Rahul reliable as ever, atleast the batting prospects are not as shaky as they seemed before the start of the series. Now, its upto Jaffer and Laxman, the other two sureties of the test lineup, to shrug off their indifferent form of the last few matches. In case we play six batsmen, Kaif is also in pretty good nick.
3) Now for the bad part...the question about team composition strategy. The team management has made no qualms about the fact that they prefer the five bowler strategy, and unless we come across a rank greentop, I expect them to stick by it. But, as also in the ODIs, this strategy has relied on Dhoni and Pathan for more than compensating for that sixth batsman. And going by the struggle these two have shown in the ODIs, not just to score quickly to fulfil their ODI roles, but to just *score* at all, the chances of their making up for that sixth batsman are not all that bright. Mind you, I still think that Dhoni is good enough to get some runs, no matter what conditions, just that the expectations, atleast for now, need to be toned down.
4) Which means we may have to re-think the five bowler strategy, even for non-green tops (although I don't expect Rahul to do this...its just a problem I am highlighting). And if we do decide to go in with four bowlers, including two spinners, that leads us to the next problem. Pathan's showing with the ball has been disappointing (curiously enough, one of the reports suggested that team insiders say he's looking completely exhausted!) and if he's one of the four-pronged attack on an unhelpful track, we are taking a major risk. Mind you, this is not really a new development...throughout the season we've seen Pathan struggle on unhelpful tracks in test matches, and I couldn't picture him, even then, being part of a 2+2 attack most of the time.
5) But above arguments aside, if we do go in with the 3+2 attack, Munaf is most likely to be one of the pacemen. And his ODI showing, so far, has been mediocre at best. Sure his yorkers are still working (although at high 130 kph at best, and with little other variations, he wasn't troubling many with it) but he didn't show much else to inspire confidence. His speed was regularly below Agarkar's and often below SreeSanth's as well. Although if one really wants straws to clutch at, he was bowling mediocre even in the English ODI series, just after his good test showing. So, maybe he's not an 'ODI-type' bowler afterall.
6) Finally, there's little time for the team to rest, recover and regroup after the poor show. The itinerary is terribly designed, and I was shocked to learn yesterday (maybe my mistake) that we're not playing a 2 day warmup game, but 2 one-day warm-ups instead! While at it, why not play 4 twenty20s...what the heck! Anyway, so thats what we have..to regroup, and sort out some of the above problems. I would expect Jaffer and Laxman to be given a hit right away, with perhaps Yuvraj, Pathan, Santh and Bhajji being rested. Munaf and VRV need to be tried flat-out, and if indeed Munaf has fallen below the mark, VRV needs to be looked closely.
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