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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Indian cricket team back on momentum??

Team India, once impassable at home, is now a mere shadow of its reputation. The ascendancy in Gary Kirsten's era as a coach seems to be a forgotten story. India was also ranked No. 1 in Tests when Dhoni's men reached the summit and conquered the 2011 World Cup. Since then, the tides have turned and they have been subjected to a free-fall.

Plenty has gone wrong for MS Dhoni in the last 20 months: India have been thumped in overseas Tests, and then lost some more at home too; his captaincy moves have been questioned; and his batting form in Tests has been pretty ordinary - 958 runs in 33 innings at 33.03 - and those stats were propped up by home runs against New Zealand and West Indies. There's one aspect of his game, though, that has remained untouched by all these recent debacles - his ODI batting has been quite spectacular recently, even if all his runs haven't led to victories.



Since the end of the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni has played 27 ODI innings, scored 1166 runs, and averaged 83.28 at a strike rate of 92.39. The average has been helped along by 13 not-outs, but even allowing for that, these are amazing numbers: in these 27 innings he has gone past 50 on 11 occasions, and scored a century when coming in to bat at 29 for 5 in seaming conditions against a potent Pakistan attack. He has guided the team when wickets have fallen around him, consolidated during the middle stages of the innings, and been there during the slog overs, performing each role to perfection.

There has been criticism about him batting too far down the order at Nos. 6 or 7 - he has batted higher only three times during this period - but it can also be argued that he has given the specialist batsmen in the team the best opportunity to build their innings. That he has been left with so much to do is a damning indictment of the lack of form of the top-order batsmen. In these 30 matches that Dhoni has played, he has scored 16.38% of bat runs scored by all Indian batsmen, a pretty high percentage for someone who bats outside the top five in the 50-over format.

It is more of an emotional outburst to call for Dhoni's sacking. Despite results not going his way, Dhoni has performed consistently in the shorter formats. In Tests, it isn't fair to expect a No. 7 batsman to save the game every single time. The top order has hit the skids, the bowlers have struggled to pick 20 wickets and eventually MS Dhoni has had to bite the bullet. India has certainly not found its next Test or ODI captain yet. However, a T20 captain? Yes. It's perhaps time Dhoni is relieved of that responsibility. The grey hair is an indication of the stress he's had to bear over the last couple of years. Virat Kohli, who many believe is our future captain, can get a fair test handling the T20 side as he's proved to be India's run machine for the previous two years. There's Yuvraj too who can take over the T20 side.

It will be a never-ending discussion if one starts pointing out the loopholes in the grass root level where budding talents are born. Instead, the team management, selectors and the players should collectively think that it's never too late to bring about a change. Be it in terms of individual fitness, attitude towards the game or team-spirit. The game needs a strong Indian team. There is enough talent. The million dollar question is, 'will there be enough effort put in?' We'll find out in days to come.


It's about time the team management gives Rahane a go, even if he has to bat at the top of the order. For that to happen, either Sehwag or Gambhir should make way. The former has been living on thin ice for over a year now. Nobody knows, for how long his reputation can grant him a place in the side. The latter - Gautam Gambhir - has hit a dry patch too. Despite having an ODI average of over 40 in the last year (with most of his good knocks coming at the start of 2012), he has been under the scanner for repeatedly committing the same errors. Gambhir's rapport with captain MS Dhoni has also been a talking point. Who would you drop?

Rotation policy, once employed to reduce player fatigue, can be a solution to India's dilemma. Give Rahane a fairly long run while you alternate between Sehwag and Gambhir for different matches. It doesn't just give Rahane some breathing space, but it also creates a sense of competition among the senior players to save their place and perform to the best of their abilities. It is a matter of saving their career, after all. Similar approach can be used to figure out who among Manoj Tiwary and Rohit Sharma will cement his place in the ODI XI. The young talent will also gain some valuable experience this way.

India is in dire need of a bowling coach, a mentor of sorts, someone like a Wasim Akram or a Glenn McGrath who has the talent and the experience to help the Indian bowlers surge ahead in these testing times. Praveen Kumar, S Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra and several promising bowlers have succumbed to injuries on a consistent basis. Of course, one can't totally eliminate injuries at the International level, but preventing injuries to the extent possible will be one of the areas that should be addressed by the BCCI and it can be carried out by proper mentoring.

Most fast bowlers will fancy their chances against Dhoni in Tests, especially overseas, but in ODIs Dhoni has tackled them pretty effectively. Batting outside Asia remains a tricky issue for Dhoni - he averages only 33.13 in chases outside Asia, compared to 63.89 in Asia - but given his current form, he is India's best batting bet in ODIs regardless of the conditions.

Dhoni is although consistent when team team is passing from a bad phase. He scored century against Pak when half of the team was back to pavilion. Last two matches have awaken hopes for team india and jadega also has impressed with his performances. Will team india will be able to keep his winnning tune on and will get the momentum back??

It will be a never-ending discussion if one starts pointing out the loopholes in the grass root level where budding talents are born. Instead, the team management, selectors and the players should collectively think that it's never too late to bring about a change. Be it in terms of individual fitness, attitude towards the game or team-spirit. The game needs a strong Indian team. There is enough talent. The million dollar question is, 'will there be enough effort put in?' We'll find out in days to come.