Friday, December 23, 2016

The real reasons WHY India can rule Test Cricket

Brutality is an understated sign of greatness in sport.

Taking the best from an opponent, dismissing it as if you are a boxer who laughs in the face of receiving a few blows square on the chin, then returning in kind by beating into submission compelling all to hope for the invoking of a mercy rule.

Leaving a legacy that lingers long in memories.

In cricket, this used to be the calling card of the great West Indian teams of the 1970's and 80's followed by the feared Aussie unit of the 1990's and 00's.

We got a glimpse of it with how surgical India was in its complete dissection, followed by utter obliteration of England in the recent series ending 4 nil in their favour. Highlighted by the last two tests where they took the best from the English concluding the games by smashing the tourists by an innings.

Though it was at home where India are nigh on unbeatable, it made believe that India can rule the Test arena.

In buying into this, most focus on India's superstars in batting master Virat Kohli and spinning all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin with secondary focus on the likes of Rahane, Jadeja and Pujara.

The real appeal of India as we look to world dominance is the sum of all their parts rather than their standouts.

Key in this is the many underrated players in their lineup that rarely get the fanfare that their abilities and contribution to the team's successes deserve.

Three names stand out in Murali Vijay, Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammad Shami.
Shami & Saha- Dangerous Duo!!!

At the top of the order for pure batting talent, Vijay is in the most complete in the game. In a sense,
he is a VVS Laxman clone, potentially dominant in all confines against any attack but with an average that pays little homage to just how good he is. It would be remiss to attribute this to him lacking the application in mind, more, he seems one of those players that rises to the occasion while being fair to middling when lacking motivation.

The type that oppositions always fear

Saha is virtually the teams invisible man despite occupying a pivotal place in the team as keeper/batsman. Think of all the great teams in history and the one thing they have in common is a commanding figure behind the stumps that is also very able with willow in hand. It stood out how crucial he is to the team in his absence with Parthiv Patel's oopsies behind the stumps as opposed to Saha's characteristic surety.

Every time I watch Saha, the instant comparison is Ian Healy. A figure in the great Aussie teams that rarely got fanfare but was seen as one of its quintessential pillars.

In Shami, India has one of the best and most dangerous bowling spearheads in the game. He is comparable in skill to any fast man in the game and the aspect of this series that so delighted is that he has a real vein of nasty in him. Watching him scone Chris Woakes with a Malcolm Marshall type skiddy bouncer was compelling. His reaction or lack of it was the highlight where he just returned to his mark and thought 'face up, or get the fuck off....'

2 balls later, both Woakes and Rashid succumbed to the intimidation.

Putting Shami's appeal in context, I have watched the game over 50 years and I struggle to remember an Indian quick who had such an intimidation element to go with his skill.

All previous were so gentlemanly.

Away from Asia, Shami is a huge key with what he offers. His ability alone gives promise, as well as the very able bowling partnership he forms with the very able Umesh Yadav. In completing the duo, Ishant Sharma will be pivotal in the assistance he provides.

With it bringing a focus onto the central theme of Kohli's tactics as Captain in regards to control.

In Asia, he instantly has this through the miserly nature of Ravendra Jadeja's suffocating defensive style of spin bowling allowing the likes of Ashwin to assume the strike bowling role. In more pace friendly confines it will be unlikely that India will play multiple spinners bringing an emphasis on their fast men and whether they can be as cohesive as a unit.

Sharma is the classic example of a cricketing what if after all were in awe of him making Ricky Ponting look like a rank amateur when he was at his masterful best in the infancy of the Indians career. He has always struggled with the pressure of being the spearhead of the attack as his mediocre career average of 36.47 depicts. If he can excel as a defensive change bowler in support of the likes of Shami and Yadav, India suddenly becomes a deadly dangerous entity.

If Sharma fails to fulfil this role then the team needs to invest fully in the all round talents of Hardik Pandya. A precociously talented youngster that has every chance to follow in India's proud heritage of great all rounders.

This will also support Ashwin in his quest to be a real factor away from Asia. The guileful off spinner is indeed a wrecking ball in conditions that suit but has a question marks against his name in less friendly confines. He is very much treading the path of his Coach Anil Kumble who in the early throws of his career was diminished as a home track bully only to finish his career as one of the most respected bowlers the game has seen.

It would be fanciful to think Ashwin can replicate his home dominance away but it would be equally foolhardy to not think it is only a matter of time before he is lauded for his completeness.

Non Asian line up

Two names loom large in my mind when looking at an Indian line up away from Asia in regards to Karun Nair and Kuldeep Yadav.

Firstly on Nair, I think India should look to have him as their permanent number three. He is not only a proficient player on both the back and front foot but very able against any type of short bowling. A factor going against the incumbent number 3 in Cheteshwar Pujara who is a fabulous player but all at sea against the short stuff.

I would love to see this top 7:

KL Rahul

Murali Vijay

Karun Nair

Virat Kohli

Cheteshwar Pujara

Ajiinkya Rahane

Wriddhiman Prasanta Saha

Away from the batting, the unorthodox nature of Kuldeep Yadav's left arm Chinamen style of bowling is of such appeal. Batting against spin has diminished greatly in recent times meaning an avante garde style of  over the wrist spinner in Yadav with his very hard to read deliveries could represent a wrecking ball in away settings.
Great potenial- Kuldeep Yadav
He would not be in all line ups, but in any conditions that gave justification for playing two spinners, he would be the first chosen in support of Ashwin.

In summary, the game in this Age is symbolised by its incompleteness with many, in fact most excelling at home only to look all at sea away.

This Indian team is best equipped to redress this and assume a position as a vindicated dominant for in Test cricket

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