Young talented players like Virat Kohli (left) and Rohit Sharma need to be given more opportunities in Test cricket to facilitate smoother transition in Indian cricket © Getty Images
Young talented players like Virat Kohli (left) and Rohit Sharma need to be given more opportunities in Test cricket to facilitate smoother transition in Indian cricket © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

India’s dismal show in this series against England continues and rhetorical questions pertaining to India’s top spot in the rankings have all been answered. Lack of sting in bowling, failure of the batting order and improper planning has led to India’s downfall thus far and the margin of defeats and difference in performance between both these sides justifies that. Although it was a known fact that India’s bowling would struggle in the absence of Zaheer Khan, it’s disheartening to see lack of intensity from other bowlers. India never played to its potential and were outplayed comprehensively throughout this series by a persevering English side.

 

India’s batting line-up was considered invincible before the start of this series and now it is appalling to see an amateurish approach from the same batting stalwarts. When pushed to a corner, the Indian batsmen went down in heap and never offered resistance to the English bowlers. The openers looked uncomfortable and never got India off to a solid start. The middle-order failed to control the damage except on rare occasions. Injuries to the regular openers were a cause for concern from the onset and this forced the Indians to try three different opening combinations in three matches. Unfortunately for India, none of them could help lay a solid foundation at the top of the batting order.

 

Except in one instance, India’s opening partnership never crossed 20 runs. Moreover, in the second and third Tests, the highest opening partnership for India was eight. The middle-order, too, wasn’t impressive. Apart from Rahul Dravid, the rest of the batsmen following him failed to deliver, barring two fifties by VVS Laxman. In the third Test, after the fall of first two wickets, the middle-order managed a meagre 52 runs in the first innings and 54 in the second innings. The tailenders couldn’t survive the wrath of the English bowlers, except Praveen Kumar, who took Graeme Swann to the cleaners.

 

Rahul Dravid is the only batsman to have scored a century for India thus far in the series whereas Alistair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior have all scored centuries for England. Surprisingly, the rest of the Indian batsmen never looked settled. Virender Sehwag’s return was touted as a major boost to India’s currently inefficient batting line-up, but all he could manage in the third Test was a “King pair”.

 

Suresh Raina, too, looks completely out of place at the moment.

 

The English batsmen were largely untroubled by the listless Indian bowlers. It’s time for the think-tank to take some challenging decisions and look beyond Zaheer Khan. If India is to be a force to reckon with again, the bowling department needs to strengthened immediately and this is possible by considering the long term benefits. India ought to be a strong bowling unit despite the absence of a few front-line bowlers in upcoming tours.

 

Zaheer and Harbhajan have served and been a thorn in the flesh of the opposition for a long time now and it is time someone else shouldered this responsibility. This is possible by giving youngsters like Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Iqbal Abdulla, to name a few, more opportunities and help familiarize them with difficult conditions early in their careers. Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar have done reasonably well in the fast bowling department although the sailing wasn’t completely smooth in this tour. A third and efficient seamer is what India currently lacks.

 

India are still heavily dependent on the trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the batting department and will have to encounter another Australia-like situation when they leave shortly, if replacements aren’t groomed soon. Australia’s decline started when the likes of Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath etc, all left at almost the same time. Proper planning on the part of the Indian selectors may ensure that this doesn’t happen. Also, there is no dearth of talented batsmen in India. Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund are all capable youngsters and can perform efficiently if groomed accordingly.

 

These youngsters must be exposed to a variety of pitches and not just the sub-continent’s slow, flat tracks. They should be given more opportunities in longer formats and not just be called upon during meaningless Twenty20 domestic tournaments. Also, the criteria for selection into the national squad must not include performances in the Indian Premier League.

 

India has abundance of talent waiting to perform on the big stage and this is only possible by making right use of the resources available. Excessive shorter-format cricket on dead tracks will not help these youngsters realize their potential. As India go into the fourth Test and other series in the future, they will have to consider long term plans to regain its lost supremacy.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)