By Nishad Pai Vaidya
India’s nightmarish tour of England is over. Thank God for that! Everything that had to go wrong went wrong on this tour for India. Yet, even in the ruins, there were positives that should augur well for the future.
The Indian ODI team were without 10 of the 15 members that won the World Cup-winning. The absence of the heavyweights - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh – was a humongous blow to India’s chances. To compound matters, Rohit Sharma, India’s star performer in the West Indies ODI series, got injured himself to the very first ball he faced in the series and was out of the tour. India’s casualty list kept mounting by the day.
But one man’s crisis can be another man’s opportunity. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel and Ravindra Jadeja gave the Indian set-up reasons to cheer as they emerged as bright prospects for the future. Their approach was aggressive and at some point, an Indian supporter may not have felt the absence of Tendulkar and company.
Rahane has been the find of the tour. Years of consistency at the domestic level and good performances for India A led to his call-up as a replacement for the injured Sehwag. Filling in Sehwag’s shoes is never easy as he is known to be an impact player and is feared by bowlers from around the globe. Rahane may not bat the Sehwag-way, but he impressed with his intent and application. During the T20 at Manchester, he scored a brisk fifty without playing an unorthodox stroke. Even in a format that is considered crude, the tyro played conventional cricket shots and showed his class.
One would have preferred to see Rahane make his international debut in whites as he is known to be a run-machine in domestic first-class cricket. As the Big Three are nearing the end of their respective careers, Rahane’s looks poised to fill in the breach.
He plays with a straight bat and has a good defensive technique. His grit and guts against the new ball bowlers was outstanding. When the new ball was moving in the air and off the wicket, Rahane showed was class personified with an authoritative range of shots. It clearly showed that he was class apart and a rare talent.
Rahane’s opening partner Parthiv Patel was also impressive. Parthiv saw off difficult periods in the initial part of the innings. The biggest positive about his batting was his footwork. He was ready to go on the front foot on most occasions and that indicates a clear headed and positive mind-frame of the batsman. Some of the shots he played through the off side had a stamp of authority. The short balls were also dealt with disdain. Parthiv’s technique against the short ball is a lesson for some of the younger Indian players. He would get underneath the ball and hit it with power. On most occasions it carried to the boundary as he executed with good control. His short frame may be an advantage while getting under the short ones, but he set a good example of control over those shots. Parthiv had a good tour to the West Indies and carried that form to England. If he continues to display this consistency, he will cement his place in the Indian set-up even when they are at full strength.
Ravindra Jadeja’s comeback was widely criticised, but it turned out to be a good call. He may not have set the world alight after that magnificent performance at The Oval, but he remains a positive from the tour. At The Oval, he walked in to bat with his side in doldrums and guided them to a good total. He was ready to rotate strike whenever there was a chance and also hit boundaries off the loose deliveries. The nervous and clueless Jadeja of old seems to be history and India can say that they have an emerging all-rounder.
Jadeja’s bowling was good as he was ready to give the ball air and toss it up to invite the batsman down the track. He also showed good variations with his turn as he kept mixing the conventional left-armers and the straighter ones. He may have been expensive in the last two ODIs, but even then he showed signs of improvement.
Apart from Rahane, Jadeja and Parthiv, there were other positives which India will take home. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return to form will encourage the rest of the line-up. He has had an inconsistent run over the last year, but during the ODI series he pushed aside that trend and started spending more time in the middle. Some of Ravichandran Ashwin’s spells were good as he tricked the batsmen with his variations. Rudra Pratap Singh improved as the tour progressed and picked up on his pace. Virat Kohli struggled till the last ODI, but his hundred in that game would have given him immense confidence.
Not all is lost for Team India and there is hope for the future.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")