Sunday, September 28, 2008

A new dawn ????

As I clear the dust (so to speak, of course !!) that has gathered on my cricket blog, and start to write a post after 3 months, the Indian team would be also be looking to clear their whites and start a new season (in today's parlance, a month's break is enough to signify the change-over between seasons !!).

But the upcoming series against Australia signifies more than just the start of a new season. But before we come to that, a word about the series itself. There is much to feel happy about the Indo-Aussie clash. Firstly, for the connoisseurs, it is a throw-back to the tours of times long gone by, which used to feature only test matches without any pyjamas or chaddis (as T20 is sometimes disparagingly called) around. So it will be only about 5 day Test cricket for the next month and a half, and one-day specialists will be temporarily relegated to the background. Secondly of course, is the keen balance between the two teams and the recent history they have shared. That in itself would pretty much gaurantee a close and hard-fought series. So the combination of an old-fashonied 'tests-only' series and the fact that India v Australia is currently THE rivalry in world cricket, means that a cricket follower, no matter where in the world he is, would not want to miss any of the action(a 5th Test in Mumbai would have been even more fantastic !!!).

But as far as Indian cricket is concerned, as mentioned, this is more than just a marquee series. It is, indeed, the harbinger of times to come. This series will decide the shape that Indian cricket takes over the next few years. Already, the obituaries of the "Fab Four" have been written (as has been the story of the great man's career, not many seem to care about Kumble's impending departure and how his shoes are going to be filled). In fact ,one of the four legs of the chair has been cut (and the fact that it happened without more than a murmur in Kolkata suggests that even his loyalists have begun to accept that the end has come for Ganguly). Laxman and Dravid will be on trial throughout the series and while Tendulkar can still write his own retirement date, his supporters are beginning to show more than a whiff of restlessness. Infact, I did not find it amusing that he chose to skip the Irani Trophy game and then, in less than a week, be fit for an important test series. Clearly, the end of a golden era of Indian batting seems near, and I say this NOT on the basis of the performance in Sri Lanka.

The more important questions are: who will be ready to take over the baton from Sachin, Dravid and co. One might immediately point out that there seem to be none who can come close to the Fab Four as far as test cricket is concerned. But the other side of the coin is that, simply put, we have not consistenlty tried any middle-order bat in Tests for quite a few years now (with the exception of Yuvraj). Hence, we do not have sufficient evidence to pass judgement on the test capabilities of a Rohit Sharma or a Suresh Raina. The coming series (or atleast the contests against England and Pakistan later in the season) would provide an ideal opportunity to start grooming atleast a couple of guys who can take over from the old guard. Ganguly's exclusion has already created a place in the XI and should any of the other three be sorted out by Lee and co., then we would need two young batsmen to successfully fill the breach. And the sooner we unearth those two gentlemen, the smoother the transition would be. To add to the mixture, we now have a new selection committee at the helm. And if Srikkanth's method of selecting is anywhere close to his method of playing, then we are in for quite a ride over the next few months.

So hope you are gearing yourself up for one heck of a series !!! I sure I am....