Begging to differ
self belief coupled with the ability to play attritional cricket coupled with the hard nosed element of being in the game at all times and we stand at the cusp of being a really really good Test unit.So, why don't I just express some pessimism here? The way I see it, our chances of becoming a "really really good Test unit" have always been poor in a certain way. The reasons for this are manifold, so why don't I, in the fashion of good old Indian taxonomizing, just make a list? Here it is:
- India cannot seem to solve the opening batsman problem. In fact, we haven't solved it since the Gavaskar-Chauhan-Srikkanth days. Chopra/Sehwag came close to solving it, but they got broken up, and there is little chance the Indian selectors will bring them back again. For whatever reason, lack of form, the five-bowlers-so-the-wicketkeeper-or-allrounder must open theory, the make-room-for-someone-else-in-the-order theory, we cannot find a stable opening pair. As a result, our great middle-order suffers.
- Fielding and running between the wickets simply doesn't seem to get better. Some historical perspective would be useful here. Commentators on the game in India have been talking about this need for more than *twenty* years now. Very little has changed. Yes, we have a new young brigade coming up, but they can't seem to force themselves into the side on a regular basis, and there is little evidence that these skills are making a big appearance at lower levels of cricket in India. Its worth noting that when we won the World Cup in 1983, Srikkanth was an outstanding fielder, and people talked about how much of a difference this would make to fielding standards in India. Back in 1983!
- Our fast bowlers cannot stay fit. Our fast bowling in attack in England was Khan, Singh and Sreesanth. Come Adelaide, none of them were visible. Sometime this year, Ishant Sharma will break down. And the cycle will begin all over again.
- Spinning greats are nowhere to be seen. Harbhajan has been disappointing in tests for a long time, Chawla does not seem an adequate replacement in tests for Kumble. Even if Powar/Chawla are to take over, it'll take some time.
- The aggressive Indian captain (and I don't mean Ganguly-aggressive, I mean as in tactical-aggressive) is yet to be found. Fear of defeat continues to inhibit any Indian captain. And why shouldn't it, given the essentially irrational, over-the-top reactions that await him from an ignorant media and excitable fan base?
- Indian selectors continue to confuse one-day form with test form. Sehwag gets dropped from tests because of one-days, Dhoni continues to strut his chicken-scratch innings in tests because of his one-day reputation. More disasters await us in this area.
- The IPL is here. Plenty of bright young Indian talent will simply disappear into its gaping maws, leaving little talent for the longer game, whose popularity in India might be diminishing (might?).
- The BCCI continues to prioritize one-days over tests; it refuses to look into making pitches in India a little more bowler-friendly.
My overwhelming feeling is that we had a chance to make a serious move on the test arena had we found the bowling resources to go with the Fab Four, to keep our pace bowlers fit, to make our pitches a little more lively, to have improved our fielding and running between the wickets. Instead, while we did improve our away record and finally start winning tests overseas against all and sundry, we still suffer from most of the weaknesses mentioned above. And I do not see anything structural in Indian cricket that will change these factors.
As always, happy to be proven wrong.