The opening tour game at Victoria saw Rahul Dravid return to form. He was sent as an opener and scored an unbeaten 33 before the match was washed out due to rain. Well, Dravid’s return to form has triggered many questions on who will open for India on the boxing day.
Virendra Sehwag stands as a good opening prospect. Though out of form, he may be under quite a lot of pressure, but all he needs is one innings to signal his return to international cricket. He has proved his mettle in the last series in 2003-2004 by scoring a clean 195. He is a good player of cut shots and displays class while playing on backfoot – the latter being a key ingredient to negotiate bounce in Australia. This means – ‘Better luck next time, Yuvi.’
Dinesh Karthik plays well on foreign wickets, like he did in England and South Africa. He has a good on-field chemistry with Jaffer and hence an excellent running between the wickets. But, a major flaw in Karthink’s batting is that he looks quite nervous while facing pace bowlers and is not able to play outswingers well. He should be more precise on shot selection and should be able to leave the balls going wide outside the off-stump. If Sehwag fails in first two tests straight, Karthik should be given a chance to open at WACA, Perth, where the wicket favours spin bowlers.
Rahul Dravid is ‘Mr. Dependable’ at No. 3. Kumble should not interfere with Dravid’s position as it may also lead to psychological pressure on him. He is a batsman who likes to feast on the bowlers when the pitch becomes relatively dry and the ball looses it’s shine. If he moves above the chart, then VVS Laxman will fill-in Dravid’s shoes. Laxman is a technically correct player and uses his wrists well. He makes the stroke play look easy. So, my thumbs-up to him if team management decides to promote Laxman to No. 3 slot, just in case. This leaves vacancy for Yuvraj and Karthik sits out(he can’t replace Dhoni, anyway).
Kumble has to be cautious while selecting his bowlers for the boxing day. If he wins the toss, Kumble would definitely like to bat first. More the runs on the scoreboard, lesser the pressure on his ‘young’ bowlers. It goes without saying that Harbhajan Singh will be rested for the first two tests as the wicket will favour fast bowlers. So Kumble will go to MCG with four pace bowlers.
Zaheer Khan did wonders with the ball during the 2003-2004 tour. He is a great left arm seamer whose outgoing deliveries prove to be a nightmare for the right-handed batsmen. He is the undisputed king of the Indian pace attack.
After soaking it out at the MRF PF, Irfan Khan is back with a promising pace. During the third test at Bangalore, I found the swing missing from his bowling, but the youngster is quite confident about his action.
Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh are rookies by international standards, but the quality with which the former bowled at Bangalore, may even surpass that of a master. Ishant’s inswingers are marvellous but only if he gets rid of those nagging no-balls. Pankaj Singh cannot be commented upon because he is yet to make his debut. But his 6’5″ frame suggests that he is cut out for extracting bounce from the wickets.
With Anil Kumble and Chetan Chauhan at the helm of affairs, I am quite sure that eleven best and fittest men will be sent in the middle on the boxing day.