Sunday, January 1, 2012

Does India have the bench strength to fight back?

India landed at Australia with a starting XI having more international runs, wickets, catches and experience than their counterparts. Even in exposure to tough situations, sledging and other forms of ‘mental disintegration’, the visitors have bigger legacy than the host team members. It’s not without reason that Adam Gilchrist and few other pundits felt this was India’s best chance to win down under.

Yet they are down 0-1 in the series despite getting into situations where the result at Melbourne could have been the reverse. The first question which now comes to the mind is whether to change the team for the Sydney test. Who to replace whom and do we have enough bench strength to cover for injuries?

After the horrors of England, injury is one area India can’t ignore. Praveen and Aaron dropped out before the tour started and there were serious concerns over fitness of Zaheer and Ishant before the Melbourne test started. Once the test concluded, the concern shifted to the batting abilities of our entire under performing lineup, minus Dravid and Tendulkar.

Champion teams fight out of long arduous battles courtesy of strong bench strength. England knocked India off their perch on back of high quality backups. For every injured Tremlett, they had a Bresnan; for every injured Trott, they had a Bopara; for every rested Anderson, they had a Finn.

Compare this to India’s bench at Australia. It’s looking so depressing that only Rohit Sharma has a realistic shot of being included in starting eleven for Sydney. Add Saha, Ojha, Mithun, Vinay, Rahane and the collective test experience of this bench is a nett of 19 tests; none of which were played outside the subcontinent, 14 of which belong to Ojha!

The average age of this group at 24.6yrs, is relatively young. However it’s open to debate how
many of them are expected to serve Indian cricket in the long run. While am not questioning the merit behind the selections, a different bench would have given the captain some serious options.

Consider this
1> Rohit Sharma (original selection)

2> Irfan Pathan – the only Indian who comes closest to a pace bowling all rounder, played both the tests we won at Australia over the past decade, gives depth in batting, fielding and seemingly was coming into form.

3> Ashish Nehra – forgotten and has no contract after making the cardinal sin of helping India win the WC 2011 semi-final vs Pakistan and diving to attempt a catch and split the webbing of his fingers. Has played at Australia before, clocks 135kmph consistently, has won test matches for us overseas, was India’s best pacer in ODIs between 2008-2010 and an able replacement to Zaheer Khan – who has history of never being able to last an entire Australian tour, twice.

4> Ravindra Jadeja – On helpful tracks Pragyan Ojha is a far better spinner. At Australian tracks am not sure if the delta difference between the two is big. In form, gives serious depth to batting and fielding. If Pathan and Jadeja come into the eleven we have an option of playing five bowlers without compromising much on the batting.

5> Abhinav Mukund – Did open at WI & England 2011 and didn’t do so bad worth being rejected, considering the entire English tour was a horror show for most of our batsmen. If he was around India would have seriously looked at replacing Gambhir.

6> Dinesh Karthik – Has a test average of 27, opening in number of games in challenging conditions (SA, Eng and WI). His presence would have given multiple options. Including outside chances like dropping MSD, Gauti and taking in Rohit and Dinesh to beef up the batting.
Would this proposed bench have given more comfort and options to the team management or the current one? I feel the proposed bench was better.

The lack of a strong bench also impacts the performance of players in the eleven. Their positions have too much comfort. Even if our bowlers don’t give their best, barring injury, it’s unlikely Vinay or Mithun will replace them for the following test. Ditto for the batsmen; Only Kohli has a serious scare about his place, others just need to stay fit and would walk into the eleven. Gauti included. VVS included.

For us to fight back in the series, the starting eleven need to get us a win at Sydney. If we go down 0-2 and on top have any fresh injury concerns, you might as well switch to the Australian Open tennis championships!

Hope 2012 starts well for team India.

1 comment:

  1. India has always struggled with their bench strength but we've seen through it all.

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