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Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008: Few conclusions from the 3rd & 4th Tests
by
Jan 01, 0001
The biggest series of the year is over and India are deserved winners. Though the score could not have been any more emphatic, there is a possibility that Australian cricket will take this defeat quite hard and there will be some huge shake-ups before their home series begin. But before that, we have a few conclusions of our own.

Gautam Gambhir has really matured as a player. More than four hundred runs in the series, a double hundred at his home ground, and another ton in Mohali meant that he has been a busy man indeed. He is no more throwing away his wicket after getting a start and his shot selection is far better than what it was last year. The only glitch may be his habit of taking off for quick singles and some day, it will get the top order in a lot of trouble. Till then, he can enjoy his purple patch, but would do well to mind those elbows next time round!

For he wouldn't want cricketers like M. Vijay opening the batting in his stead as happened at Nagpur. Though Vijay looks good and would be a good prospect at number three for one wouldn't want to disturb the left-right pairing at the top, his selection reeks of zonal favouritism all over again. There are a dozen other openers in the domestic circuit today and quite a few of them scored a ton on the first day of the Ranji competition; so why was a Tamil Nadu batsman called up? These knives wouldn't have come out if the chairman of the selection committee hadn't been a patron of Tamil cricket!

This brings the BCCI in the picture. So, the selection committee is professional and getting paid but still gagged and can't explain their decisions to the media, and the public. Furthermore, the ban on Gambhir was upheld by the ICC and inspite of protests, the BCCI had to accept it. For once world cricket wasn't held ransom and that can be seen as a start by the world committee.

For the Indian Board has a bigger problem to take care of. That is getting the people in to watch Test cricket for a change. What they need to realize is that the pitch curators hold the key to this problem and only if we have sporting tracks, or even result oriented tracks, will the crowds come in to watch their heroes. The allegations of the Kotla curator that DDCA officials asked him to remove the grass off the pitch have only opened a new can of worms. But another question goes begging: that particular man has been in charge of the Delhi track for a few decades now, so what was he afraid of?

Returning to the happenings at the Delhi Test, the other stand-out bat was VVS Laxman who re-iterated that he is still, well, 'special'. It might sound a bit clichéd, but what do you do when it is VVS at his very best. More than his innings, what stood out was the fact that he, like all others, stressed on the point that the seniors were far from finished and that is indeed true for atleast a couple of them. And the Hyderabadi is infact amongst those who have unfinished business. He has been the most prolific Indian batsman in the last fifteen months and was the only one to score a fifty in Sri Lanka too. That the Indian media still questions his place in the side is something that will happen only in this country.

One man, though, made sure that the Delhi Test won't be remembered for either of the double centuries scored and that his special relationship with the ground stands unhurt. And no one begrudges him. For there will only be one Anil Kumble that this cricketing nation will produce. The leg spinner leaves behind a legacy that is certainly equal to that of Sachin Tendulkar if not more. Add to it the fact that he knew well when to go in both the ODIs and Tests means that his intelligence can be useful to Indian cricket at a later stage as well in some administrative capacity. For now, he has earned his rest. Thank you Jumbo!

And this seems to be the flavour of the season, the farewells that is. Sourav Ganguly bid adieu after the Nagpur game in a way that only he can. 85 in the first innings and a duck in the second are testimony to the dramatic career that he has had, and please, no more Bradman comparisons. It was just the euphoria of the moment only too glorified by the world media. Not that he didn't deserve his adulation but the only man to put that in the right perspective was perhaps MS Dhoni, with his tremendous gesture of letting Dada take over the reigns at the very end. To many it might have seemed as putting a lid on the hushed conspiracy voices in the backdrop, but these moments have a way to put everything aside and mingle all in a collective somber mood. That is indeed what happened as the Bengal Tiger bid time on a prestigious career. Thank you Dada!

Kumble is gone, so is Ganguly. Laxman and Sachin are in pristine form and that leaves out Dravid as the odd man out. In the backdrop of the two retirements, the pressure is bound to intensify on the number three batsman as the whole Indian media will train their guns on him. The gremlins aren't in his batting, they are in his mind and he needs time in the middle to clear the cobwebs. The next series is one month away and the few Ranji matches that he will play in between might just help. Actually they have to help, for team India can't afford losing Dravid just yet.

The other important aspect at Nagpur was that Harbhajan Singh now has to step up as the senior statesman in the bowling department especially at home. This means that come what may, the loop and air has to be imparted to the ball without fear of being hit. Kumble is gone and the onus to take wickets is squarely on the Turbanator's shoulders. The time to contain is long over.

This he can learn from Jason Krejza. The Aussie off-spinner had a strange debut, which if endured one wouldn't know whether to cry or laugh. He picked up twelve wickets in the match, eight of those coming in the first innings itself. When asked, he said he was expecting to pick up a bag full of wickets, especially since he was not afraid to pitch the ball up and give it air. Just one thought: did he also expect to be hit for so many runs?

Krejza was probably the only highlight of the Aussie bowling in the whole series. Six months ago, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark did the job in Australia. So what changed in this time? India is known to be a back breaker for fast bowlers and this is exactly what happened. Lee has had some personal problems and Clark had fitness issues. Only Johnson did well enough, mixing up the pace of his deliveries but it just wasn’t enough. And it didn't help that their spin bowling left much to be desired.

The batting was probably their main weapon but the Aussie run-making machine only stuttered rather than run smoothly. Hayden seems to be stretching his legs, Ponting has a lot on his plate and Clarke's back is a real problem. Only Katich and Hussey stuck their noses in but that too not for long enough. They batted first once and made it count in Bangalore. Yes, they were chasing India throughout and that is indeed a sad summation of a once feared batting line-up. Suddenly, Symonds' fishing trip makes him look all the more foolish.

But the biggest fowl up was on the part of Ricky Ponting. That he put himself ahead of the team's interests cannot be denied and that will forever be a blot on his track record. Which also puts a big question mark on his captaincy abilities and that too this late in his career! Ponting was wrong that they lost the series in Mohali. He actually lost it in Bangalore when the Australian team decided against putting Bhajji and Zaheer under pressure and not push for the follow-on. Had that match gone against the Indians, the series could have ended on a different note than it did for the world champions.

The series loss doesn't mean the end of the world for Australia. Because to challenge for the title of world champions, India or any other team for that matter will have to bring in the consistency which the Aussies have displayed for the last decade. They can still very much continue to be the top team if they see out the remaining of their summer against New Zealand and South Africa successfully. But judging by the results here, the latter one seems to be a tricky proposition indeed.

MS Dhoni is the man for India who could foresee this consistency creep into Indian cricket. He has the spunk and the guts to do it, being the true heir to Ganguly. He always has a plan C when A & B fail and he backs his instincts. Not to mention, he is a hell of a lucky guy for no one becomes captain of India so fast. A new order is taking shape in the world cricket and Dhoni's India could very well see itself sitting at the top.
 
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