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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Fresh Indian Attack for First Test Match on Home Soil in 2011

The last time the West Indies toured India for a test series was nine years ago. Yes, it was that long back, hence my stated position - Not Enough Cricket! Played at the Eden Gardens in Oct 2002, the last game of the three test series was drawn, a series India had won 2-0 before arriving in Kolkata.  

The dependable Chanderpaul is the only link to the West Indian side of that era, although for India, still carrying on the hard work are Dravid, Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman.  The match winners for India with the ball in this last series were the spin duo of Harbhajan and Kumble.  And here is where we have big change. The Indian bowling line up will sport a new look. A look, a real hard look, certainly forced by the debacle of the English summer.
The first test match of the present 2011 series kicks-off tomorrow at the Kotla in Delhi. This is also the very first test match on India soil this calendar. You can bet the stadiums will be rather empty. The starts maybe late and finishes early, with the track low and slow, with maybe some promise of bounce in the early stages.

Most significantly, you will see a new look bowling attack turning out for India. No Zaheer, no Sreesanth, no Praveen and no Harbhajan.  Suddenly the Indian selectors have new purpose and conviction!

Three from this lot of specialist bowlers,  Ashwin, Ojha, Yadav, Aaron or Rahul Sharma, will be teaming with the new leader of the Indian bowling attack, Ishant, who turned 23 a couple months ago, and is a veteran of 38 test matches. Dhoni will most likely pick Ashwin, Ojha and Yadav, having promised at least two test debutants at the game. Besides going in with two specialist spinners will be the sane choice in the conditions and considering the opposition.

That’s not the half of it. More gratifying is the fact that the selectors are clearly making use of this series to work out the best bowling combination for the Australian tour ahead.  Yadav will be working hard to make use of his opportunity, with a younger and quicker Aaron breathing down his neck. Harbhajan, Mishra and Jadeja will also be on the selectors’ radar, so the spin department remains contested.  This is the bowling unit for the test side, not to mention the other options from the limited overs format, like Vinay, Aarvind and Mithun.  With the Ranji season having kicked off, central contracts signed with 34 players by the BCCI, it is gratifying to note the Indian selectors are taking nothing for granted anymore and nor are the players.
Thank you England!    

The Indian selectors have assured 100% fitness, the fielding coach has been working the lads real hard, so it should be a good test for India, albeit in home conditions. Can the Indian bowlers take 20 West Indies wickets to win test matches when there is no run rate pressure?

Yes, I hear you. Is the current West Indies opposition a real challenge? Will this really prepare India for the upcoming away series against Australia?  But then as Dhoni pointed out earlier today, England is in the past, Australia is in the future, India needs to address their present challenge against the West Indies.  

It would be naive to underestimate the West Indies. This team is building in experience and in confidence rapidly. They have put player absences and debates behind them. Undoubtedly they have some high class talent, in Darren Bravo, Devendra Bishoo, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul. In the recent series against Bangladesh on similar tracks, Kirk Edwards showed his value with the bat.  Marlon Samuels is losing time, and has to return to the good times. Of course, let’s not forget the West Indies “Wall”, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. His open chested two eyed stance and Guyana style of marking guard is iconic, as are so many of his dogged innings over the years.  The West Indies have a good bowling unit, who undoubtedly will be working out plans on how to dislodge the Indian batting stalwarts on their favourite flat tracks. Not easy, but certainly this West Indies bowling unit is no push over.

Enjoy the match. Darren Bravo could still win you over, if he hasn't already!

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