“Australia Will Be A Different Ball Game”
Lessons learnt from the West Indies Matches
All the results of the just concluded West Indian tour of India went, more or less, along predictable lines. India took the two-Test series 2-0 winning both matches in three days one by an innings and plenty and the other by ten wickets.
India won the five-match ODI series 3-1 and this was perhaps the only result that was a bit unexpected. Given the disparity in the rankings allied to the home advantage India were expected to coast home but West Indies who admittedly are better players in the shorter format of the game took the series to the decider by winning one and coming to within a run of winning a second.
Against this background the visitors were expected to extend India in the three match T-20 series – again a format in which they excel - but the hosts made a clean sweep with the visitors only putting up a real fight in the final game at Chennai which India won off the last ball.
West Indies are such a weak side these days that their visits do not generate much excitement. And performances against them must be weighted accordingly. But from the Indian viewpoint it must be said that there were a few gains from their visit.
The discovery of a talented teenager in Prithvi Shaw was the biggest plus point. Against any opposition it is never easy to get a century on Test debut and the manner in which he played, displaying an immaculate technique and ideal temperament to go along with his obvious talent he certainly could emerge as a big game player. In racing parlance he is a stayer not a sprinter though his detractors have already predicted an unproductive outing for him in Australia.
Right now however it must be said that India have discovered an opening batsman who could go on to achieve bigger things. A product of the Mumbai school of batting should never be dismissed given the assembly line of great batsmen it has produced over the years.
The big success in the ODI series was the fact that Ambati Rayudu clinched the No 4 slot for good and he should be able to hold it at least till the World Cup next year. The middle order muddle might not have been fully solved but at least one important place in the order has been filled most adequately.
Virat Kohli’s confidence in Rayudu in hailing him as the batsman for the pivotal slot paid off and the 33-year-old from Andhra Pradesh was just behind Kohli and Rohit Sharma in run production which is saying something for the senior duo were in amazing form. And from the point of view of the T-20 series the most important fact was that India won comfortably in the absence of MS Dhoni.
While on Dhoni it is well known that his limited overs skills with the bat have declined – he hasn’t got a half century in his last 14 innings and his strike rate has gone down alarmingly - even if he continues to be top class behind the stumps.
In three ODI innings against none too strong opposition he scored just 50 runs at an average of 16.66 and a strike rate of 98 easily the worst figures among the top six batsmen. And while it is taken for granted that he will still be around when it comes to selecting the team for the World Cup in England next year one wonders on what basis this assumption is made. Rishabh Pant has shown that he can be a ready replacement and if Dhoni is going to still make it on the basis of his overall stature and past record it might be unfair to a deserving candidate who thus will have to be kept out.
There was little to worry about the bowling in all formats and they all did their job in exemplary fashion. The bowling is manned by established players who are doing well and there is no need to try out fresh blood though it was heartening to see Khaleel Ahmed take firm steps towards becoming a frontline pace bowler.
In short the tour by the West Indies helped the Indians to hone their skills for the tougher assignment ''Down Under’’ starting later this month. As Rohit Sharma, under no delusions, put it succinctly at the end of it all ''Australia will be a different ball game.’’