Team India needs to address top-order failure

Written by: Sukhesh V
Published: Sunday, December 25, 2005, 13:46 [IST]
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The motley crowd at the Motera stadium was bursting with joy when Kumble send Bhandara into the safe hands of stand-in-skipper Virender Sehwag which brought curtains to the Ahmedabad Test and a 2-0 series win to The Men in Blue. For Indians and especially Sehwag who is widely considered as the future captain of Team India, it was the perfect way to finish off the Lankans.

Even though India totally outplayed Sri Lanka, there are few grey areas, which need to be addressed quickly. Lack of runs from the much-acclaimed Indian top-order is a matter of grave concern. A glance at the score card of Indian top order batting in the Ahmedabad Test tells us the story. India lost their first five wickets cheaply in both the innings. The scene in Chennai and Delhi were no different.

Sehwag, the man who is so adept in giving India a blazing start is of late finding it difficult to get going. We cannot say that Sehwag is out of form as a swashbuckler like him hardly needs an innings to be back on track. However, big scores continue to elude to him.

Sehwag's partner Gambhir is also having a dry run with the bat. Nobody is questioning Gambir’s merit. He is wearing the Indian colours, simply because he deserves it. But, with scores of 0, 2, 3, 19 and 30 Gambhir needs to pull the monkey off his back. Afterall, is this what we are expecting from a specialist opener? Greg Chappell is wise enough to answer this question.

If the selectors were keen to give more chances to Gambhir, why did they pick Wasim Jaffer in a hurry for the third Test, that too by dropping Ganguly, the man who scored two important 40s in both the innings? No need to dwell more because, we have spoken more than enough on the Ganguly issue.

Gambhir is still in the team because of some good individual scores like 139, 97 and 96. Do you know against whom he made all those runs? 139 against Bangladesh and 97 against Zimbabwe! No guesses as to where these teams stand in international cricket. Gambhir's lone impressive score against a quality opposition is the 96 that he made against South Africa in 2004/05 season. One thing is clear; he has to play more domestic matches and should become more consistent if he has to stay in the Indian team.

Though I am not questioning Ganguly's caliber, we have to admit that he was not at his best during the past two years. However, after a lay off he showed some good signs of getting back to the form, especially in the second innings of Delhi Test. How can you drop a man with such a proven track record? If someone needs to be dropped from the side, it was Gambhir not Ganguly.

If Irfan Pathan can open the innings and make a substantial contribution, why a specialist batsman can't? Why are the selectors pondering too much over a specialist opener? A batsman needs the right mindset to open the innings. Why can't you consider a Yuvraj, Laxman or Ganguly to open the innings with Sehwag? Ganguly has a proven record as opener in the ODIs. He has the hunger for runs and has determination to excel. I am joining the chorus of great former cricketers who believe that there is a lot of cricket left in Ganguly and dropping him was not cricket.

One of the major gains for India in the just concluded series was Pathan's evolution as a genuine all-rounder. He handled both pin and pace with consummate ease. Even the rival skipper Atapattu admitted that it was Pathan who faced Muralitharan confidently than any specialist Indian batsman. His balance and footwork seems to be immaculate. His thirst for runs and commitment are exemplary. He deserves the accolades.

Kumble and Harbhajan were outstanding throughout the series. Sri Lanka had no other option, but to succumb to their guiles. But did we give due respect to Kumble? Is he a man, who is supposed to watch a match from TV or by sitting in the pavilion? Let me borrow former cricketing great Ranatunga's words to say about this, India should learn to respect their heroes.

Indian tailenders were very impressive with their batting as well. This gives more freedom for think tank while working out the team composition. All the youngsters are working hard on the nets and they are getting the results.

For the Lankans, their over dependence on Vaas and Muralitharan backfired. They didn't have more choices either. Malinga Bhandara and Ferveez Maharoof were impressive to a lesser extent. But that was not enough for the lankans to take on the rampaging Indians. Their batting line-up was weakened in the absence of the seasoned Jayasurya. Sri Lankans have to address these problems immediately before going to New Zealand.

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