Four years wasted
On the verge of the start of one of India's most important test series, it is a good idea to take a trip down memory lane. Four years ago, India ended up competing rather well with Australia, and falling just four wickets short
of a totally improbable and unprecedented series win in Australia.
The way the individuals involved in that series overall conveys a picture to me that the intervening four years have been wasted mostly.
It is probably a measure of how well India were playing, or the absence of sufficient backup, that only 13 players played the four tests. This is how the 13 have fared between Australia-2003/04 and Australia-2007/08
Chopra - Nearly out of the reckoning now. Played four tests after being identified as the fall-guy to accommodate Yuvraj at Rawalpindi
. His confidence was shot, and he responded with 0, 5, 9 & 1 against Australia in 2004.
Sehwag - Promised so
much for a couple of years, giving hope to Indian cricket followers that he would be India's next-generation batting hope along with Yuvraj & Kaif, as he piled up a triple ton
, the second fastest double ton
, nearly scoring two doubles
in a series
and almost 100 before lunch on day one of a test
. After that, his form dipped alarmingly, and Australia is perhaps his last chance of getting a permanent batting slot.
Dravid - Consistent, as usual, except for the past few tests. But one expected him to make that giant leap and start getting mentioned in the same breath as Lara, Steve Waugh, Tendulkar, etc. (to list out some contemporaries) after his great run last time
. But his inability to convert 50s into 100s even as Ricky Ponting scored hundreds for fun
means that Ponting now gets categorized as 'great' while Dravid, in the eyes of many [not me], despite breathtaking stuff like the twin gems at Jamaica in 2006
, is seen to fall just short.
Tendulkar - Injury and loss of form have contributed to a marked decline in his aura. He is no longer as authoritative as he used to be, or can be! Was the Sydney 2004 innings
was perhaps an indicator of things to come? Instead of moving ahead, after his Multan near-double
, the consistency has certainly been lacking. Shockingly, he is just about managing one century per year now!
Ganguly - Poor form leading upto the 2003 series in Australia was forgotten once he scored his Brisbane century
. Questions about his form didn't quite result in anything, but once Greg Chappell took over, he read out the riot act
, resulting in Ganguly being out of the team for a long duration. He's back
now though, and in a new & improved avatar, hopefully! Yet, it is plain and obvious that his inability to sort out his batting mess resulted in him losing out on more than a few test matches!
Laxman - Like Dravid, he didn't kick on after the last tour. Every now and then he promised to make the leap from good to very good, and thereby become indispensable. But no, until a couple of months ago, if someone needed to be accommodated in the middle order, or an extra bowler needed to be played, there was every chance that his name would be scratched out. He was vice-captain for three tests
. No-one knows why he was appointed, and why he was sacked from the job!
Parthiv - Perhaps his fall was inevitable, given that he was never a good wicket-keeper to start off with. The rise of Karthik and then Dhoni resulted in him being cast aside, despite some ability with the bat. Apparently Parthiv Mark II is a much improved keeper, but will he get the opportunities to succeed or fail?
Agarkar - He symbolizes what this post is all about. If
he had done anything
after his Adelaide 2003 showing
, he'd be the leader of India's pace attack. It is so cruel that although he is just 30, he's never going to make it back to the test side. But he probably has himself to blame, as 7 wickets in 150 overs (6 tests), a strike rate of 128 and an average of 74 in the tests he played after the last Australian tour show.
Harbhajan - In the lead-up to the 2003/04 series, Harbhajan was the #1 spinner, with Kumble missing out on quite a few games (especially on tour). He got injured at Brisbane, but he only had 1/169 against his name. Aside from the odd-game now and then (two hauls in the West Indies
, a 7fer against South Africa
and a superb showing at Bangalore against Australia
and a match-winning show against Sri Lanka
), he has done precious little to suggest that India's spin bowling attack is in safe hands when Kumble retires. He has had sufficient opportunities to do so, despite sometimes being at the receiving end of Chappell's ire. It is likely that he may feature in a couple of tests this series. He needs to do something
to show that the selectors must continue to have faith in him. There are a few young spinners around and they'd really benefit from learning under Kumble.
Zaheer - After Srinath's retirement, and since Agarkar was unable to show any sort of consistency, Zaheer had a great opportunity to cement himself as India's #1 quick bowler. Yet, far from it, he did poorly enough to get dropped, spending most of 2006 playing domestic cricket in India and England. After that, he hasn't quite looked back
. With competition from Sreesanth, Munaf, RP Singh and a rejuvenated Irfan Pathan, he needs a good showing in Australia. But he most certainly is nowhere near where he ought to have been. He is nearing 30, and should aim to play test cricket for the next 3-4 years at least.
Nehra - He played one test after the last tour of Australia and hasn't played a ODI since September 2005! He either kept getting injured, or bowled pathetically. Even if you ignore the one test he played in 1999, he has played 16 tests in 6 years, and is now totally out of the reckoning as far as a place in the Indian team is concerned, and he's not yet 29. What a real waste!
Kumble - He's probably the only one who has made progress after the last series in Australia. He is now captain
, the #1 spinner for the side, has 1000 first-class wickets
, is at #3 on the all-time wicket-takers list and even scored a test century
! He is definitely conceding more runs per wicket, but he's getting the wickets quicker than before, with some beautiful changes of pace [up and down!]. He probably has 2-3 more years of test cricket still left in him - sufficient time perhaps to get 50 wickets a year and end up behind Murali on the wicket-takers chart, and on the way help nurture the next generation of Indian spinners.
Pathan - A surprise package last time around, he was named the Emerging Player of the Year in 2004
and by 2005/06, was considered all-rounder material
. Yet his bowling fell away shockingly, and he spent nearly 1.5 years without playing test cricket and wasn't picked too often for one-day cricket either due to his own bowling form, entrances by Sreesanth & RP Singh and Zaheer's comeback.
In summary, the Indian team has regressed majorly since India's last tour of Australia. The intervening four years have been wasted. India should have been challenging Australia for the top spot. But now, they've to contend with Sri Lanka, South Africa and England.
Labels: agarkar, akash chopra, australia, dravid, ganguly, harbhajan, ind v aus 2008, india, irfan pathan, kumble, laxman, nehra, parthiv patel, sehwag, tendulkar, wasted, zaheer khan