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Ten Conclusions from the India-England ODI series 2008 - Chetan Narula Column
by Chetan Narula
Dec 02, 2008
The series is over, for good, be it five matches or seven. These are pensive times for cricket, actually for human life in that regard, but we have a series that has been decided. Cricket has been played and it has thrown up some interesting points, so here we go.

Yuvraj Singh is as mercurial as they get. On his day, when the mood takes him over, he can be the most murderous of batsmen, so much so that the ones watching him have to make comparisons with the back-lift of Brian Lara or Sir Viv Richards. Add to that bludgeoning blade, his ability to bowl a few useful overs and pick up the odd wickets, and you can Sir Garfield Sobers to that list. He is the bat around which the future of this Indian team will revolve.

But there's a catch. If on the one hand, he can blow away the opposition bowling, there are times when he can just lose it. He was in the best of forms last year around the same time and after a short flight to Australia, the same just vanished. For almost ten months, he just scratched around and suddenly out of the blue, it all came back just as it had gone away. And this is not the first time he has been through something like this, which brings his consistency into question as also his temperament. And for that very reason, another name comes to mind, Vinod Kambli.

This also brings the next test team selection into view. On the back of his scintillating form, Yuvi has no doubt stolen a march on his fellow team-mates and is sure to step into the slot made vacant by Sourav Ganguly. But that doesn’t mean that he can feel right at home over there. For he is been there before and has been shown exit door too! Therefore, this maybe the last time that he is given a shot at cementing his place which would mean a good run of three-four series unless something dramatic happens. If he fails, then India have a problem of finding the right man for the job. The resources are there but there isn't much time!

The other problem of plenty, all of a sudden, is regarding the openers in ODIs. It is blasphemous to even think that Sachin Tendulkar should not open. But since Indian fans can be so foolish, there are two plausible points in support. One, he is still the best batsman in the side, and two, the best batsman should get the maximum overs to play in a innings. Yes, he is not the same batsman he used to be but he batting throughout the innings is a much better prospect any day and it only brightens the team's chances.

But Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have certainly made a good case for themselves. They are both in the form of their lives and can certainly lay the foundations of umpteen Indian wins for sure but Sachin and Sehwag is better any day. With Sachin persevering, Sehwag can go after the bowlers all he wants and should he fall, Gambhir can come in and rebuild easily. Plus, he's done well at number three and India haven’t really found a solid replacement for Dravid ever since he was ticked off the ODI team. Seems the most logical solution, but then there are always surprises.

Especially if these surprises concern the Indian selectors! When all is hunky-dory and the team is standing on the verge of achieving something great, they just had to mix things up, didn't they? It was very easy to find out who was behind the leak but that is if the BCCI wanted to. After all it came in Ananda Bazaar Patrika first, so we don't really need a Sherlock to figure that out. But that would set a bad precedent and give Dhoni the higher ground. So, the Board chose to play safe, yet again and just rapped them selectors. What they could have done more is let the five wise men explain their strange decisions. At the same time, the idea to televise the selection meetings is the worst idea in the long sad history of bad ideas!

And coming to the last piece of this jigsaw, MS Dhoni has really got something going here. It started with people calling the T20 world cup win a fluke, the CB Series win a lucky one, the win in Sri Lanka a continuation of his good times. But no more can it be ignored now that he got the better of the Aussies in two forms of the game in one calendar year and followed it up with a 5-0 ODI blanking. Surely it is more than a lucky streak or a honeymoon period. India are now serious contenders for the number one ranking in all forms of the game and only South Africa stand in their way. Sterner 'tests' will obviously follow, pun unintended.

But the honeymoon surely got over for one Kevin Pieterson and he will only be feeling that it was too short. Well, the Indian tour has that affect on many a captain. England left much to be desired in the ODI series and there was always this vast gulf visible between the sides, even when the visitors gave their all. Duckworth and Lewis did mess their chances on a couple of occasions but those are mere excuses. Pieterson didn’t bring an out and out spinner (read Panesar) on the trip and that was a blunder. The batting order saw too many changes as there are too many bits and pieces players who didn't seem too aware of their roles in the series. Something KP did well in his debut series as captain against South Africa only recently.

And then the attacks happened! One of the most cowardly attacks on humanity meant that a visiting team left these shores for the first time due to security fears. But make no mistake it was a no-brainer that the Poms didn't want to stay on. Almost every one has been known to be a little panicky about the security situation in the sub-continent, so no surprises there.

What will be surprising is if the whole team comes back in time for the Test series. There will be a few extra demands made on the security front and the matches will be shifted to more comfortable venues for the English. But one thing has to be made clear. Such incidents can happened anywhere and will happen again unless something concrete is done by those in power on the world stage. Until then, India is as safe as the United Kingdom. England owes us nothing and it is completely their choice if they don't want to be back so soon. All we owe them is a good security cover which we will provide.

Having said that life must go on! It will take some time for every one in this country to get back onto their feet, go back to the grind again and they will soon enough, for there is no better distraction for the Indian masses than the game of cricket. And so, cricket will again be played in this country. Let's hope it is India versus England in a two Test series.
 
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