Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some good lessons to be learned !!

Back again on this blog after two months !!! And two months of non-stop T20 cricket, first with the IPL and now with the World T20. And for MS Dhoni, life seems to have changed quite a bit in these last two months. In mid-April, he returned with the Indian team with a test series victory after 41 years. He was being hailed in the media as the best Indian captain ever (starting with the 2007 World T20 victory, the CB Series truimph in Australia followed by ODI series victories in Sri Lanka, test series wins against Australia, England and New Zealand). But as Indian hopes in the World T20 faded (in tandem with the mid-summer days sun setting on London on Sunday), there were already calls for his head !! How things change !!!!

But I have been pleasantly surprised to see the T20 game develop over the past two months. In South Africa, against all expectations, we saw the spinners coming into their own on the late-season slow tracks there. A species of cricketers thought to be cannon-fodder for the rampaging willow-wielders suddenly became a potent weapon. Even part-timers like Jean Paul Duminy began to bowl 4 overs in most games, keeping the runs in check and taking important wickets. Now, on fresher wickets in England, it is raw pace and aggression that has become important. And the Indians, quite plainly, have been found out.

So the first important lesson for the Men in Blue is that raw pace (accurately directed, of course, else Brett Lee would not have suffered so much in the Gayle-storm) will always remain a weapon in any form of the game. Make no mistake, more than anything else, it was the surprise that both West Indies and England threw up in the form of chest high balls that did India in. Our top order, already missing a prolific cutter and puller in Sehwag, simply did not have the practice and experience in handling such pace and fell easy prey. So it is back to the drawing board for Raina, Rohit and co. and one hopes that Gary Kirsten, with all his experience and skill in handling opening bowlers, will fix up that lacunae soon.

Another important lesson to be learnt is in the team selection itself. In the last two games the bench strength was: Ojha, Karthik, Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan. None of them a top-middle order batsman. After Sehwag was ruled out, it suddenly turned out that the Indians had not selected a back-up batsmen in their squad of 15 !!!.. And even then, the selectors had no one to turn to and finally settled for Karthik based on this IPL performance. So quite clearly, there is room for one or two young, pure batsman in the T20 team. As for Ravindra Jadeja, one felt sorry watching him bat at Lords. Evidently, the 'pace attacks' one faces in the IPL are no comparison to international bowling. But I do hope he returns after this scarring a better cricketer and man.

So a lot for the team to think to when the put their feet up after a week or so (after playing a set of irrelevant ODI's in the Windies !!). And hope to see them return in the coming season, a better team. One setback, after all, should not undo the good work of the past eighteen months or so.