Ok, the assumption of this post is that SRT won't play ... but if he plays, the one most pleasantly surprised would be me, ok?
Anyway, as I wrote yesterday, eight of the final eleven are really finalized from the Indian side (and I really don't see any reason for any change on the Australian front). Ganguly, Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman, Kumble, Bhajji, Pathan and Patel are in the team whether it is a hard and bouncy pitch (unlikely but still mentioning) or a dry and dusty / dead (most likely) pitch.
For the first match, in my blog I advocated opening with Yuveraj. The main reason for that being that Ganguly is hell bent on having Yuvi in the team and keeps yattering about his being his future opener so why not try it out. Personally, as regulars among u know, I wouldn't even have Yuvi in the 11, even at number 6. This time I am gonna ignore captain preferences and just comment on my thoughts ... last time I kept in mind that Yuvi would be in the final 11 simply coz Gangs would keep him in it. This time in my analysis, till the time Yuvi walks out on the day of the match, I am going to assume that better sense will prevail and he will not play. See, his fielding gives us an edge, no doubts on that one but he is not there for his fielding but his batting and his unease at playing the spinners plus his weakness outside off stump playing the fast bowlers really make him a no-no. Sure, he does well in ODI cricket but that is a different cup of tea ... Yuvi is totally made for ODI cricket and that is ok ... but in my mind, today at least he is not worthy of a test place.
So three spots remaining in the team. In the absence of Sadagoppan Ramesh (and that too this test being in Chennai), my choice would be Akash Chopra for opening (ignoring the fact that if it comes down to a toss up between Chopra and Yuvi for one spot, Gangs would most likely pick Yuvi). Chopra is not my favorite either but the other option is opening with Patel ... sometimes it is enough to make one weep coz at the back of the mind the nagging feeling remains; it might happen, come Thursday.
What gives me hope is remembering Chopra and Sehwag opening in Australia. Believe me, the cricket over there was so different from the cricket over here. Yes, there was no McGrath and that is a huge huge difference but still Chopra was just learning the ropes in international cricket and the way Sehwag and he ran their singles was admirable. They took hits on their helmets, took guard for the next ball, and patted it down and ran their singles. The only sore point there was Chopra's inability to convert those starts into decent scores, the reason why today we are wondering if Chopra will open or Yuvi will or Patel. If only Chopra had shown the sense to convert those knocks, the quality of the opposition there would have ensured his spot as opener.
Kaif and Agarkar complete my line up .... Kaif coz he is in form and Agarkar coz he can take out Langer with the one coming in. The fast bowlers are not gonna do something great here and we need them to basically knock out the Aussie openers .... Zaheer probably is the only one of really running through the opposition and he looks far from being the bowler who used to bring respectability to the concept of "fast bowling" in India. What exactly is the problem with Zaheer is a mystery coz no one really says why he keeps breaking down and why is he persisted with so much despite those break downs? Sure, he is one of Ganguly's blue eyed boys but if all the reports about laziness and attitude are true, one S. Ramesh might be queueing up to ask why there is different treatment for different players ... after all, it was supposedly Ramesh's attitude that cost him his test career (ok so it hasn't completely gone but mostly).
India's game plan must be one of attack ... yes, all the batsmen sucked in the first test but then the only way the Indian batsman know how to bat is to play positively. The moment they start playing quietly and patiently, they self-destruct ... only Dravid among them really has the capability of playing a quiet game ... one might be tempted to add Chopra but Chopra would end up with 30 runs after a big struggle whereas Dravid after a long and patient innings would surely have a hundred to his name.
Sehwag is a guy who is probably three shots away from devastating form ... three cracking cuts and he is back in business. He was looking decent in the first innings of the 1st test before his weakness of hitting the ball in the air on the on side did him in ... I have written before of his weakness having being present for more than 2 years now but for the purpose of this series, forget it. He is not gonna improve in the middle of the series if he hasn't taken the effort before the series itself. Anyway, if Sehwag fires, India is back in business.
Laxman looks in danger of becoming Warne's bunny in this series and he would do well to remember the last series when Warne was made to look like a club side bowler. See, Warne is a top class bowler and he is gonna win a couple ... his dismissal of Laxman in the first innings was superb ... the ball pitching on leg and whistling past the closing face of Laxman's bat to crash into off. The second innings dismissal was more tame ... Laxman failing to read the flipper from Warne and taking it on his pad even as he went on the front foot to defend. What Laxman should tell himself is - Warne is very good ... so am I. Round 1 to Warne ... it should be Round 2 to me.
On a closing note, read the report about McGrath complaining about Bhajji's sledging ... HA HA HA. The most foul mouthed sportsman on the cricket field today is whining about Bhajji ... geez, this chap has cheek. Any cricket body with a little bit of dignity would have kicked him out of the game for his language a long time back ... and I agree cricket would have been the poorer for it ... but he has survived this long because most of the people who matter kiss Aussie butt. We know the man has no class whatsoever ... but even then .... a little shame in not talking about someone else sledging would do his image some good.
Ok, so I have work coming up ... so finishing this post here. I know it is a very scratch one but as I said, my posts will be made up of my opinions formed through reading reports / analysis / watching TV reports etc ... and everyone is just talking about whether SRT will play or not ... doesn't really give scope for too much else.