Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Refreshing Change

After the unfortunate death of Phil Hughes a couple of weeks ago, cricket and moreover the Australians needed a game to overcome the bereavement of their close teammate. And boy what a match it was! As Bill Lawry would say - “What a ripper!”.

Even though India lost the game, they can look back and take heart from the fight they put up on the last day. It was the sort of effort fans have been hoping for the last few years. The previous tours to South Africa, New Zealand and England had few occasions when India were on top, but they just didn't have the skills required to finish the game.

Kohli's positive attitude is a refreshing change. On a last day deteriorating wicket he instilled belief in the team to chase down a record score at the Adelaide Oval. One can easily envisage the approach the team would have taken under Dhoni's captaincy. Maybe India could have escaped with a draw, but having seen the team's batting overseas over the last 4 years, a draw too would have been a remote possibility.

Was there a difference in terms of results under Kohli's watch? Probably no. For all the aggressive play Kohli has talked about, India were able to take only 12 wickets in the game. A few of them were taken when Australia were just looking to score quick runs. Unless there is a remarkable improvement in the bowling, a change of captaincy may not bring a drastic improvement. Michael Clarke too, despite having a potent attack and a positive mindset has an extremely poor record in Asia.

But what gives hope for India, is Kohli's never say die spirit to try and win matches. At this point, India probably can compete overseas only with such an attitude. Choosing a leg spinner showed intent on trying to take wickets which is a welcoming change from playing Jadeja who at best can be a containing bowler. Given Lyon's success, should India have played Ashwin in hindsight? I believe India's best chance of taking 20 wickets is by playing 2 spinners. The question arises if Ashwin is a good enough bowler overseas. I feel it's too early to judge. After the horrendous first tour in 2011 he has been given just 3 test matches overseas, with the last two with hardly any score to defend. Kumble took almost a decade to be an effective bowler overseas. Harbhajan Singh has had sporadic success in between, but was largely unsuccessful. Unless Ashwin or any other spinner for that matter is given the time to develop, there is no way he will be effective. Whether Karn Sharma and Ashwin are among the best 2 spinners in the country is up for debate. Ashwin is more than a handy batsman and given Rohit's and Dhawan's lacklustre performance overseas, he could easily slot into the number 7 position.

With Dhoni being the appointed captain, there is not even a remote possibility of Kohli captaining in the remaining matches. Will changing the captain make a difference? That remains to be seen, but atleast when a captain speaks out confidently and leads from the front, there definitely can be a change in the mindset.

Dhoni has for long been harping about concentrating on the process rather the results. The team's outlook on the last day should be the process he must aim for. Even if India goes on to lose 4-0, fans would atleast like to see a fighting performance rather than meekly losing the game in 3 days.
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