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The State of Indian Cricket: Roundtable Discussion (part 2)

In the second part of our discussion, we continue to evaluate the state of the Indian team, and look ahead to some important tournaments coming up:

 

1. Are India really that bad? They have dominated most sides at home and have lost only one test series at home for 10 years?

AS: I think the real question we should be asking is whether India was really that good. They haven’t consistently dominated the likes of Australia, South Africa and England at home, and while they haven’t been losing, they also haven’t been winning Test matches. On the ODI front, it’s been the overseas curse as always. So I’m not sure India was ever that good.

RR: India are not that bad, they just have no set roles and responsibilities yet. Once players are given their roles, they will be able to perform more consistently. during the world cup 2011 win, India had this down pat. Fast Bowling is a problem and this is the reason India lose away. We cannot always depend on batting to save us. Until India gets better death bowlers and fast bowlers, We will have to always chase in ODIs if we win the toss as that allows our strength (Batting) to chase any target.

DD: Putting together home and away performances over the past 3-4 years, India has always been a middling team. There was some luck involved in us being ranked #1 in Tests for a 15-18 month period – on the back of some good performances abroad. Our home performances have never been in question; I think we have lost two and drawn three series at home since the turn of the century. In that respect, no, we are not that bad. The 8-0 blanking away versus Australia and England is a black mark against the team – injuries and poor selection of bowlers exacerbated the problem, with three senior batsmen about to retire and two openers terribly out of form. On the bright side, we had some good bowling performances against NZ and SA. More importantly, I think our batting legends are beginning to be replaced. The batting held up way better than during the 8-0 blanking.

AP: Not sure what you mean by “that bad”. The ongoing record is there for all to see. But we have to also see that India currently is the holder of both the major ODI championships, one of which was at home and the other was in England.

 

2. Thoughts on Amit Mishra? Should he be in the line up for the World Cup?

NP: Absolutely. Quality spinner. Proper spinner, not like Jadeja and Ashwin who were batsmen first and have developed their bowling through T20 cricket. I like Jadeja a lot, but a wrist spinner can come in very handy in the World Cup next year and my view is that he should start in the World Cup.

AS: Works on subcontinent pitches but I don’t think he should be in the WC squad. Also a liability in the field and I think that’s more important right now.

PB: He is a good bowler, but too slow in the air for my liking. May do well in helpful conditions but I am not convinced about his ability in Aussie conditions. In NZL, if the pitch is a bit damp, I might be tempted to play him as a wrist spinner is tougher to play when the ball stops on you.

RR: Yes Amit Mishra should be in the world cup.

DD: Of course. We don’t have any other wrist spinners.

AP: Yes. Need to have the optionality of a wrist spinner. He is also miles better than Dhoni’s lucky charm, Piyush Chawla.

 

3.      Your starting line up for Adelaide on February 15, 2015 when India take on Pakistan in their first game of the world cup?

NP: Dhawan, Gambhir, Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, Dhoni, Jadeja, Mishra, Shami, Yadav, (Another pacer)

Notice Gambhir in there. Thought we could use some experience. Haven’t been the his biggest fan recently, but a reasonable run of form in domestic cricket, coupled with his record overseas and his fighting nature wins him my vote ahead of Rohit Sharma and others in the middle order like Rayudu.

AS: Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli, [Another batsman], Rahane, Dhoni, Jadeja, Ashwin, Shami, B Kumar, (Another pacer).

I’d pick Rohit for the WC especially because he has the technique to play fast bowling on Aus/NZ pitches. I’d give him an extended run.

PB: Dhawan, Rohit, Gambhir, Virat, Rahane, Dhoni, Jadeja, Harbhajan, Shami, Yadav, “Miracle”.

RR: Rohit/Sehwag(please come back to form!), Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, Yuvraj, Rahane, Jadeja, Dhoni, Bhuvenesh, Shami, Zaheer 12/13: U Yadav, A.Mishra.

MN:  Dhawan, Rahane, Kohli, Yuvraj, Rohit, Dhoni, Jadeja, Harbhajan, (Seamer), (Seamer), Zaheer

I actually think Rahane is the most talented batsman in India right now, but obviously nobody on that list had been able to translate talent to runs the way Kohli has.

AP: As things stand: Rohit Sharma, Dhawan, Kohli, Rahane, Samson/ Rayudu (this spot is up for grabs. would personally prefer a young guy here), MS Dhoni, Raina/ Rayudu, Jadeja / Ashwin, Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mishra/Umesh /Ishant Sharma.

DD: Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli, Rahane, MSD, Raina, Jadeja, Bhuvi, Zaheer, Umesh, Mishra.

Dhawan, Kohli, MSD, Jadeja are the core of this team. It is telling that there is a question mark, or a mild inquiry at least, over the other seven spots. I think Rohit will do well in Australia, and that his elevation to opener has brought stability to the top order that wasn’t there since Sachin retired. We don’t lose early wickets anymore – this is helping Kohli achieve his feats in no small way. The #4 position is a bit of a punt – we have tried a bunch of players here without success. I attribute this to an error in the selectors’ philosophy about what we need there. In my humble opinion, we need technique and solidity, with the ability to rotate strike and feed it to Kohli or the attacking batsmen lower down. Hence, Rahane. #5 and  #6 are interchangeable. I would personally like MSD to bat up the order, but I understand why he prefers the #6 position. If we find an alternative for a #5 (not Raina, he is not good enough there outside Asia) in the next 15 ODIs or so, then I am happy to see the slot filled. Otherwise, revert to a pan that has worked i.e. Raina at #6. Which places MSD at #5, and I am very comfortable with that. Raina has been our MVP in crunch games so many times before, at that #6 or #7 position. Having him and Jadeja performing in the lower order will be vital, I feel. The bowling is a real mess at the moment, especially in ODIs. There is something going terribly wrong. I realize that I haven’t included Shami in the XI – but he is in the squad.  I have Bhuvneshwar in the XI because he has solid death-bowling skills. I have seen him bowl 6 yorkers in a row in an ODI, and this is a critical skill we need. Shami has reverse swing and pace, but you can’t get much out of a 25-over ball. Bhuvi has to figure out how to bowl with the new ball once again; get it swinging, otherwise he can be first-change.  I feel that we have jerked around Umesh Yadav quite a bit. Of all the pace bowling talent coming through, I thought he was the best – smoothest action, great pace and attacking mentality. If he gets a serious opportunity, I think he has it in him to take it. Australia and NZ will be ideal for his bowling style. We have no option but to keep Zaheer on ice and eke out 8-10 more ODIs from him. The bowling attack needs a shepherd, needs experience and needs guile. He still has it in him. More than anything else, he still has the most control of any Indian pace bowler I have seen in the last 7 or 8 overs. Finally, Amit Mishra (or NOT Ashwin). Offspinners just do not do well in Australia and NZ. As valuable as Ashwin is, my starting line-up would have a wrist-spinner.

ALTERNATIVES: Praveen Kumar, Shami, Pujara, Gambhir, Ashwin, Ojha.

 

4. What do you feel about Duncan Fletcher’s role as coach? Has he done enough to retain his position? What about the fielding / bowling coaches?

NP: Fletcher has done a reasonable job. He hasn’t had the luxury of having the big four middle order and Kumble, Harbhajan and Zaheer in the peak of their careers like John Wright or Gary Kirsten, two of India’s most successful coaches have had. He’s had to work with an ever-changing line up. One area I would like to question him on is tactics and strategy in overseas tests. That is where Dhoni needs the most guidance and I am not sure what Fletcher is doing. Joe Dawes needs to go. India need Wasim Bhai, McGrath, Ambrose, Waqar, someone. Someone who can teach these fast bowlers to bowl overseas, how to think out a batsman. Trevor Penney has done a decent job. I heard a statistic the other day saying Rahane hits the stumps over 80% of the time. India’s young guns can field. I think he’s probably okay.

AS: I don’t have much to say here except that we badly need a new bowling coach.

PB: The role of the coach is not really that important. He can give all the advice he wants, but cricket is not that easy where you can listen to advice and go out there and perfect it. There will be mistakes and players will learn from their mistakes. Its just a phase of building a young team and its only a matter of time before they mature. India need good bowling coaches but not at the international level, more at the domestic or even age-group level. Both seam and spin bowling coaches. India needs to focus on developing its bowling unit, that is the only thing that is gonna lose  matches for India.

RR: Need to write a story on this with my thoughts and need to do more research on Duncan’s jobs behind the scene before I judge him.

DD: He hasn’t done much to suggest that he should be retained. This should be viewed in the context of the power he wields; he has no say in selection, no oversight on the domestic / ‘A’ team setups. I don’t think a coach’s role is that critical unless he can bring some magic to the table. Kirsten had it – I don’t think Fletcher has that connect. Unless you are proposing a revamp of how Indian cricket is organized, I dont think even the ‘best’ coach will make a huge difference. Our fielding coach has good ingredients to work with. The ground fielding is now spectacular and world class. We need to work on slip catching. No need to tinker with Trevor Penney. I have a big problem with the bowling coach(es). They are ruining our bowlers. I think we need more of a mentor – as in Wasim Akram, Warne etc.

AP: Can’t blame the coach if his team doesn’t execute. I think at the top level you need a strategy team, rather than a coaching team. My choice here is Shane Warne (assuming #23 accepts), because I like how he analyzes the game and sets up various strategies for the games.

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