Ten questions from India's Sri Lanka tour - Chetan Narula Column

2008 Aug 31 by DreamCricket

Cricket throws up a lot of questions. And answers are never that forthcoming. Maybe that is what adds to the charm of the game; maybe that is why millions across this country, or the whole world for that matter, are hooked to it. Maybe they are just too perplexed by the vagaries of the game that involves chasing leather the whole day.

Cricket throws up a lot of questions. And answers are never that forthcoming. Maybe that is what adds to the charm of the game; maybe that is why millions across this country, or the whole world for that matter, are hooked to it. Maybe they are just too perplexed by the vagaries of the game that involves chasing leather the whole day.

So, here are ten questions that the Indian tour of Sri Lanka poses in front of us. Atleast until the next series comes along.

Can any one read Mendis? The best batsmen against spin in the world were tamed so easily by a debutant. Obviously then, there is no hope for the rest of them. If England, Australia and South Africa thought that Murali was a handful, let them come and try playing Mendis. Not to mention, the wily Murali isn't finished with cricket just yet either. So, Mendis from one end and Murali from the other, it is then. Sri Lanka was a fortress before this. Now, it is a fortress with iron walls and steel gates!

Is the review system here to stay? Well, it made a decent enough start. The results were much better, and there were few discrepancies. It appeared as though only one team benefited from them, but it will always appear so, as long as only one side knows how to use the system. The Indian captain looked bereft of ideas on the field, while Mahela used almost all his appeals tactfully. But the question still persists: is it here for good? Maybe yes, it needs to be tested atleast by all test playing teams once, to get the overall viewpoint.

Also, the technology needs to be improved. Getting in Hot Spot would surely increase the costs, but as one sees it, this is the best system yet to know for sure where the ball hit. And the umpires need to be neutral, the ones sitting in the box. A 3rd or 4th neutral umpire would offer his opinion without any prejudice, and of course, it would increase the number of umpires on the elite panel.

Isn't MS Dhoni a priceless gem? Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel collectively answered this question. They are supposed to be the 2nd and 3rd best gloves-men in the country right now, but they chose the worst moment to butter their fingers. One wouldn't want to be too harsh on Patel for he didn't get much time in the middle, but Karthik should really contemplate where he's headed. So high priced were the chances he missed, that India might have actually made a fight of it in the first test, had he held on!

And it was not just the Tests. Starting with the second ODI, Dhoni showed the world why a bunch of youngsters are doing so well against a host of good teams. Although the ODI world rankings don't reflect so, India is surely climbing the ladder in the 50-over format of the game and that is all thanks to this fine young man. A fine thinker of the game and a decent enough wicketkeeper who can read what his spinners are bowling. Not to mention, he has changed his batting to suit the needs of the team and hence an average of nearly 48 per innings is astonishing. Who said he didn't possess any technique?

Is Virender Sehwag a true 'great' of the game? For long now, this question has haunted cricket aficionados. How else can a batsman, who aped some one in his initial years, has the nimblest of footwork, and relies heavily on hand-eye co-ordination, be so good? Two triple centuries and five double hundreds mean that we have to bypass these questions and have to concur that this is a cricketing legend we are talking about. Longevity in his career will now be the key to his future status in the annals of cricket history.

Where is the Sri Lankan middle order? Gone are the times of Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama and Hashan Tilakratne; that was probably the best middle order in their cricket history, capable of making a comeback anytime or providing the finishes after the pyrotechnics of Jayasuriya. But now, the situation is quite grim.

None of the middle order batsmen stood up in the 2nd and 3rd tests, while in the ODIs only Jayawardene seemed to have any semblance of form. The likes of Dilshan, Chamara Silva and Kapugadera have had their chances, while Samaraweera doesn't relish the ODIs much. Big problem developing here for the Lankans!

And, what about Indian spin? Bhajji did what he could in the second test, but that doesn't necessarily mean he bowled well throughout the series. The flight and variation of pace in his six wicket haul was missing in the first test, as it always does when the opposition goes on the offensive. The other spinner in the squad has been conspicuous by his absence. Anil Kumble has had a third quite series and that is serious loss of form by his standards. The last time he bowled with good results was in December against Pakistan, and since then Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka have been too tough for him.

The reality is; with him around, the likes of Pragyan Ojha and Piyush Chawla will not get a shot at playing test cricket, and if the 'Fab Four' are in the danger zone, so should be the Indian test captain.

Is it the end of Vaas? The Sri Lankan spearhead was really off colour these past two months and it seems that age has finally caught up with him. Sometimes he bowled at ridiculous speeds of 110-115 kmph, that's like 5 kmph faster than Kumble's quicker delivery! With just 5 wickets at 44 each, and faster bowlers like Dhammika Prasad and Kulasekara impressing in their outings, Vaas may have to hang up his boots in the near future.

Talking about pacers, aren't the Indian seamers really good? These are tough times to be a fast bowler in India. Metaphorically speaking with regards to the Kosi disaster, it seems like a dam has broken in the MRF Pace Academy and the subsequent deluge. Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Manpreet Gony, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar. Already eight names contending for a maximum three spots in the eleven and there are more waiting in the wings. New Zealand tour is in March next year; they better not make the mistake of laying green tops this time around.

How on earth is Yuvraj Singh going to confirm a test spot by year end? Confidence is one thing, being overtly confident is another! For some one who can't play spin to save his life, to come out and declare that a test spot is not far off, is dreaming too high. Yes, he is first in-line given the credentials but a middle order test batsman is expected to play spin as well as pace. The weaknesses are always there, as Ganguly struggled against pace attacks all over the world. Yet one can easily name numerous occasions when he got on top of the same bowlers. However, one can't recall a single moment when Yuvi out-batted any particular spinner!

And now to the biggest poser of all, what about the 'Big Four'? Are we really going to judge them on a single poor series? Well, Dravid has had a horrible 2007-08 and only he stands out amongst the four in those terms. But then, who do you replace him with? Sachin and Laxman have been in top form since last year. Laxman has been special, really, the only problem being that he has batted with tail-enders most of the time. Sachin is well, Sachin and that he is the only one amongst these four to be still part of the ODI team rests the case.

So, the truth is that it's Ganguly who is in the most danger because his on-field abilities are hampering him. It was obvious that his reflexes have slowed down way too much, as he was thrice out to the same quicker off-break from Murali.

The point is: out of all these questions, the last one needs the quickest solution. If Sri Lanka were tough, next up is Australia.