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    April 14, 2009

    Where's the ruthlessness?

    It is now a week since India won the test series against New Zealand 1-0. Yet, as has already been commented in a lot of places, the scoreline should really have been 2-0.

    In just 7 tests as India's captain (won 5, drawn 2), MS Dhoni has already twice exhibited a strangely defensive mindset. First, at Mohali against England where the batting was needlessly defensive in the 1st innings and and an unnecessary and unhealthy focus on seeing if Gambhir and Yuvraj could get their centuries in the 2nd innings.

    At Wellington, I don't think the declaration was significantly delayed. I know setting a target of 600+ in the last innings is a bit outlandish, but at least the positive intent was there while batting. The main problem is that the field setting during New Zealand's "chase" was ridiculously defensive a lot of the time, particularly after McCullum was wrongly given out.

    For some strange reason, Daniel Vettori was allowed to pick up singles. Now, he's not a bad batsman and but for the need to preserve the image of New Zealand's "batsmen" he'd have consistently gone in at #5 or #6. Yet, given the state of the game and the immense pressure he'd have been under, there was a real shortage of close-in fielders. This tendency to "allow" the "better" lower order batsman to get off strike with the intention of focussing on the bunny at the other end is something I've seen several Indian teams employ. I dare say, it has failed every single time, for a variety of reasons (poor field placement, dropped catches, bad fielding, plain luck, etc.)

    The ruthlessness that you expect from a side which targets a #1 position in ODIs by 2009 and in tests by 2010 (incidentally the very first time that a short-term vision is being outlined by someone representing the BCCI) has been absent for a while.

    One could point out that South Africa lost the Sydney test while Australia lost at Cape Town. After all, if the other top two sides also seem to take it easy in "dead rubbers", why blame India?

    Yet, why should the Indian team use the current Australian team as benchmark? Why not set new standards?

    In the 18 series that Dhoni has captained, India have lost the final match after sealing the series on 4 occasions (v Pakistan in India, v Sri Lanka away twice and the recent ODI series v New Zealand). Add in the diffidence at Mohali and Wellington and you have to question if the team management is satisfied being a #3 side or if it really wants to be #1 soon.

    There is absolutely no doubt that the side has the ability to do even better. What it does need though is someone other than Yuvraj at #6. Yuvraj is 27 while the others vying for the slot (Suresh Raina, Subramaniam Badrinath & Rohit Sharma) are 22, 28 and 25. In fact, if Irfan Pathan sorts out his bowling soon enough, I'd add him to the mix as well. After Sourav Ganguly's retirement, none of the top 6 bowl anything other than spin (excluding Tendulkar's all-sorts). So Irfan would provide a wonderful option. He can't bat worse than Yuvraj, so all he has to do is to get the bowling together and contribute something like 15-5-35-1 (with the occasional 2-3 wicket "haul") every innings as a 3rd seamer. That would be invaluable.

    So really there's nothing to be lost in giving these chaps a few chances. I wouldn't associate any stigma with Yuvraj Singh not being able to make it in test cricket. He is one of the best batsmen in limited overs cricket. He has had enough opportunities, and I'll stick to my stand. He is an excellent replacement batsman, but he should never be a first choice pick despite him playing the odd sensational innings.

    For all the talk of Michael Bevan not succeeding in test cricket, I think it suffices to point out his ODI record and the number of times he's won a game for Australia. There're several other players who come to mind - notably Symonds and Rhodes (batting & fielding) & Harris and Saqlain (bowling). Does that diminish their achievements? I don't think so. I'm not devaluing test cricket. But assuming that achievements in test cricket count significantly more than those in the other formats of the game is unfair.

    A statistic to end this - Before this series win, the last time India won the test and ODI series of a tour (excluding those involving Bangladesh & Zimbabwe) was in Pakistan in 2004. If you exclude the sub-continent, the last occasion was in England in 1986.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:12 PM |
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    2 sledge(s):

    hey your articles are really should see the live matches column....n the score updates there...

    By Anonymous ipl live (16-Apr-2009, 11:27:00 AM)  

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    By Anonymous Haiku Poems (05-May-2009, 6:14:00 PM)  

    We'd prefer if you posted comments with your real name to add more credibility to your opinions. However, the moderators reserve the right to delete comments, especially those containing offensive or unsuitable language. The opinions in the comments are your own views. You are welcome to provide a URL to your own cricket blog, but the moderators reserve the right to delete comments which only reference sites for viewing live streams.

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