I write this on the night of 1st Jan ... a day before the third test between SA and India.
I have watched a lot of this series and while I have not had time to blog (ok I had time but didn't blog ... I admit it), let today make up for somme of it.
First my opinion of the game as played over the first two tests. One - the Indian bowlers r doing a damn good job ... they r not really as excellent as is being made out but they r doing damn good. Second, the Indian batsman are a)stupid and b) do not have a backbone. I don't care if Laxman has two fifties, SRT one and Ganguly one ... I frankly do not care.
Laxman's second test effort was really pathetic and Ganguly's effort in the first test, while being extremely brave and all that considering the circumstances of his return, reeked of stupidity. I hear many people talk about how they were the only ones who actually contributed (the websites on the net actually were conducting polls about whether Ganguly after his showing should be re-instated as captain .... sheesh) and seeing that everyone else just wilted and died, we should give credit where credit is due. Bullshit, I say. Simply coz Laxman / Ganguly is a top order bat who is supposed to be makinng runs irrespective of whether the others score or not ... I mean, laxman scoring and Ganguly / SRT / Dravid scorinng r really mutually exclusive. If one trotted out the excuse of "Ok so Lax didn't score but look at SRT" or "Ok Gangs scored 4 but hey, even Sehwag made 1" for everyone, then we just cannot blame anyone ... and if no one can be blamed, I can only assume everything is hunky dory. Is it really?
Laxman and Gangs batted with the tail and I truly appreciate that. I also appreciate that they absolutely made no effort to take charge once the tail started coming in. In the second test, Lax scored 50 simply coz the tail had the balls to stick it out with him ... he didn't see anything wrong with taking a single off the first ball when he was facing and taking a sinngle off the last ball when the Kumbles, Sreesanths and VRVs were batting. Hey, it was the same in the first match with Gangs around. Then VRV swung his bat to good effect and in the second test, Sreesanth made a few good runs. What is important to recognize is that VRV's effort in the first and Sreesanth's effort in the second were flukes ... they could as well have made 0 ... and being number 10 and 11 batsmen, their contributions can only be looked at as bonuses ... what was needed was for the Laxmans and Gangulys to have taken charge ... taken the bulk of the batting ... batted smart instead of batting hard. VRV won't succeed every match and neither will Sreesanth ... and the respectability these guys scoring gave the total score will not be available every match ... but neither Ganguly nor Laxman really seemed to think that hard.
That was the stupidity part (didn't include Sehwag in the stupids list coz his efforts have not been due to stupidity ... just "koyupu" as we say in Tamil ... "cheek combined with smugness" in english ... )! The "don't have a spine" part doesn't really have to be explained ... one can just look at the scorecard. I remember thinking to myself when SA declared on the 4th day around tea time ... Ok, if Sehwag strikes, we win this one ... else we lose. I knew right then we wouldn't be able to save the match unless there was rain or terrible light or something like that. I also knew that despite my contempt for Sehwag's attitude, he was the only one who could really take India to a win .... Dhoni probably could join Sehwag in this list but for all his dashing batting, he still has a long way to go before he can help win a 300 plus match .... ask him to hit a quick 40-50 in the end, and he can probably match the best among them ... in the second test, a victory for India really required a ton for someone ... and Dhoni is not really a ton guy yet ... Sehwag is ... in fact, Sehwag can hit a ton, douoble ton or triple ton ... depends on whether he really gives a damn ... right now I don't think he does. As for the SRTs and the Gangulys ... their days are past and while SRT might last much longer on past glory and Gangs might last some more time coz he simply won't die without a fight, it is really dumb to look on these guys for something on the scale required in the second test .... they could never do it in their prime ... definitely they won't be doing it on their way down the mountain of fame.
I could keep writing but reading what I have written uptil now, I realize I am rambling a bit. It happens when I try to cover what could be written over 10 posts in one single post ... so let me try to put a couple of paragraphs on different topics and end this one ... if I really continue on this blogging, I know the quality of the posts would improve ... ;-) ... as Gavaskar says (about SRT mainly ... and so I don't know if this is a compliment) - Form is temporary but Class is permanent.
About Gangs return, all I say is - best of luck to him! I personally would never have brought him back in the test team but this was to be expected considering the performances of the Rainas and Kaifs and Mongias. Raina might be learning a lot and it might be a temporary phase in his life where he simply doesn't look capable of scoring but he is not going to get the rope a Sehwag or SRT or Dravid has earned over the years (Sehwag has long spent the rope in the ODIs but that is another story). Actually what we must also remember is - Ganguly returned to the test team coz the young turk brigade of Chappell and Dravid got thier butts whipped in the ODIs and do not show any signs of fighting back. Strange, isn't it? Well, that is the BCCI for you!!! Anyways, irrespective of being stripped in the second test and irrespective of what he does in the third, I fully expect his name in the squad for the world cup. If not for any other reason, simply coz of the "hey if gangs scored 1, sehwag scored 0 ... why talk only of Gangs" factor. In fact, Gangs has much mome possibility of succeeding (not his peak years definitely, but maybe better than the Rainas and Mongias ... which is not a compliment considering what he once was) in the ODIs ... the laws of the game will give him the protection he needs. For those who point to his showing in the first test, let me just say this - he showed determination and courage .... he tried playing as straight as possible ... he showed more commitment than he has shown in the past three years .... but lets not kid ourselves that his technique is any better than it ever was when he was kicked out ... the difference is in the determination, not the technique.
About Laxman's return as is being said in many sites and columns where they talk in the same breath about Laxman and Gangs adding experience to the team .... well, he was never out of the test team, was he? What I really liked was his promotion to the post of vice captain. For the much needed kick up Sehwag's butt that this appointment gives .... and for giving Laxman a big big dose of confidence. For a man who in the last proper ODI series he played (in Australia when india toured under Ganguly ... that was when he really played as a "regular" member ... irrespective of any odd matches he might have played since) scored 3 tons against the world's top team, it must really be a confusing issue as to what exactly is required from him. Personally I think if we cannot fit Laxman in the first three then he cannot play in the eleven ... but considering that in today's scenario, SRT is the only confirmed member in the top three slots (someone look at Sehwag's career stats that tell more about his ODI capabilities than any bunching of matches over the past six months, one year, or since the last world cup ... whatever criteria the channels keep showing on TV to show his "bad form" ... what phucking "bad form"??? While his record in tests is deadly, in ODIs he has never even been good ... wait, don't curse me ... first look at those career stats), Laxman really should have been on that plane to SA as part of the ODI team. Not coz he is a great ODI batsman coz he isn't ... but coz there is an open spot in the top three ... and Lax can fit in there very nicely indeed! As for the "he can't field" argument, all I can say is "look at Munaf Patel field ... at least Lax is 30 plus ... here we have a youngster in his mid twenties ... nopes, the "cannot field" argument is out of the window as long as Munaf can be accomodated. If the team was overflowing with talent, one could be choosy ... not really today.
Finally about Vengsarkar's appointment as chief selector, I think we have an Indian Chappell from all the statements he is giving ... pulling no punches, is our colonel. If Vengsarkar were not in SA, Pathan's return to India in the middle of the tour would have been the starting of more parliamentary debates and we really need our parliamentarians to be focussing on more important issues like planning the next worthless bandh and whether the name of the state should be Uttaranchal or Uttarakhand. Chappell's experiments, while having the Chuckster's wholehearted support for its "kick them out of their slumber" flavour, have really brought in very few results which is really what the public wants. With Vengsarkar around, hopefully we can fit in Chappell's hard headedness with some common sense (his statements uptil now have made sense ... he hasn't hesitated to call a spade a spade).
Finally for the third test, there is speculation that Dhoni could miss out coz of bruised fingers ... and that Sehwag could be dropped for Gambhir ... and VRV for Munaf. While it might seem drastic, I really think Dhoni should play as a batsman ... if he cannot wicket keep but can bat. He has been one batsman who has not backed down from a fight in this series and while he is as reckless as Sehwag is, currently the rub of the green is going for him as far as batting goes ... and while on potential I would retain Sehwag (hey, he could give India a double ton tomorrow), on being conservative I would retain Jaffer (I am sure he will make his customary 20), purely on form I would pick Dhoni above them both. If he can bat, that is ... Dinesh Karthick has to keep if Dhoni's fingers r bruised coz we simply cannot afford to take the chance of anything popping out when he keeps ... but as a batsman even if heh doesn't score a ton, he could still contribute more than what Jaffer / Sehwag look to be doing today. Gambhir has to come in ... no doubt in my mind on that .... he got one chance in a practice game ... he grabbed that chance .... now the regular openers have screwed up twice, u have to give this guy a shot.
Cheers for now. Have a happy new year ... and be safe, all of you.