Monday, March 17, 2008

To the victor go the spoils

Well, India have had a tough, and triumphant series down under, and now its time to look at the spoils.

First of all, there are a lot of positives from the series, as well some riches unearthed. The most conspicuous and greatest gain of the tournament has been the emergence of Ishant Sharma as a lethal bowler. India has always been handicapped by the absence of a strike bowler who could deliver consistently. We've had some good bowlers who peaked now and then, however, even those bowlers in their day weren't so much as deadly- bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, RP Singh, L Balaji, Ajit Agarkar to name a few. But with Ishant at the helm, and Zaheer, Irfan and Sreesanth (Not to forget the newest member of the squad- the modest Praveen Kumar) India have a pace battery that is varied as well potent.

Uthappa has managed to keep his role as a floater- he can get runs quickly at the end of the innings or at the opening as well. His kind of shots find most use in the powerplays, so Indians must learn to use him well- he was used well in the series, and if the Indian think-tank did it consciously then they are going in the right direction.

Gambhir has emerged as the best No.3 in ODIs India had for a long time. His technique is solid, and he's extremely comfortable against the spinners- and plays it as well as Sachin and Dravid. And the fact that he played so well in the T20 shows that he can change the pace of the innings according to the situation.

With Rohit Sharma's cool head and the big hitting capabilities of Yuvraj and Dhoni, India looks a menacing batting unit- just like ever on paper, but this time for real as well. Yuvraj showed great signs of what he can do in the match againt Sri Lanka- where everybody was struggling to pierce the in-field, Yuvraj revelled in getting his runs in boundaries. We saw a repeat of that in the 2nd Final against Australia, which was cut short by Yuvraj's momentary lapse of concentration and getting carried away. He needs to control his feelings of exuberance, and concentrate on getting the runs more than anything else. Like Gavaskar said "Play good cricket India! Not glamourous cricket!" Tendulkar's presence at the top will be a morale booster for the side while terrifying the opposition, which means others can play their natural game, with the feeling that while Sachin's out there, there's nothing to worry.

Dhoni's captaincy has improved manifold that he actually out thought Ponting in various occasions. His masterstrokes in the final are now part of folklore- introducing Chawla for the first time in the series, in both the finals (even when the pitch in the 2nd Finals was said to favour the fast bowlers), as well giving the new ball to Praveen Kumar on both occasions. He has also changed his batting style to the extent that he scores atleast 30-40 runs at a run-a-ball pace almost every match. Earlier he would score big innings, but sporadically. This style is more befitting the role of a captain, but he must not forget his origins- of the batsmen who demolished bowler's reputations. Already some people have started feeling he has lost the shots he became famous for. The fact that he throws away such talk by saying "Stealing singles is more fun that bludgeoning boundaries" is all nice in the press, but he must know that India might need him in that role as well. But for now, he is the "cement" in the middle order for India (commentatorspeak). If India gets going well from the top more often, he may get the license to hit as he comes at 4 or 5 down.

So all in all, India has become a side to look for- already South Africa are keen to defeat India, looking at it as their salvation of sorts, and so they must constantly be thinking and moving ahead. They must guard themselves against burnout- which is very frequent nowadays, and with the bench strength that India has right now, they can afford to rotate players. The Aussie tour has showered injuries upon the side- as the latest medical report revealed, and its time India took burnout as a serious issue.

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