Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Future Number Three

It is an emotional moment for me. My idol in cricket, and sometimes in life, Rahul Dravid, has just retired from test cricket. I did want to write a post on how I feel about his retirement, but much has been written about him already, and I don't trust my writing skills to do justice to the greatness of the man.If I remember correctly, I stopped supporting the Indian ODI team since Dravid was dropped. I am not sure if I will be supporting the Indian Test team anymore, but I am fairly sure that it depends, in part, on who will be replacing him. 

It will be interesting to see what Dravid's retirement means to the Indian Test team. It has been more than 3 years since Saurav Ganguly retired, and it has taken all that time to find a possible  replacement in Virat Kohli. When Laxman and Sachin retire eventually, India would be left with just four experienced batsmen : Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, and possibly Yuvraj. Of this, only Gambhir has been fairly consistent. The number 3 position occupied by Dravid would be even more crucial, considering that the middle order would be inexperienced. A lot of cricket writers have come out with possible replacements for this position. Since I do not agree with some of their choices, I have set out to list the players that I consider as possible No. 3 batsman. Of these players, the selectors and the team management would be trying out just one or two players initially giving them a long run. Considering that the next few Test matches are being played at home, these two players would have the maximum chance to cement their places.

1) Cheteshwar Pujara
I have listed Pujara first because I have always had a liking for him. Already in the selection committee radar for his perfect technique, he is a classical and orthodox cricketer best suited to replace Dravid at No. 3. He once scored a stunning century in the fourth innings securing an unlikely win for Saurashtra against Karnataka (Rahul Dravid watched this innings first hand, since he was playing for Karnataka). His innings against Australia when he was promoted to number 3 ahead of Dravid led Ian Chappell to write that Dravid must be dropped to make way for this youngster. But, there are a few things going against him. He has just come back from a serious injury, and is yet to make any impression in the domestic matches since his return. While Pujara was nursing his injury, Kohli has cemented his spot, and Rohit almost cemented his spot.

2) Gautam Gambhir
Most people leave out Gambhir's name while talking about the number 3 spot. This is surprising considering that he has done well in this position in ODIs. He is a great player of spin, and has played some wonderful knocks. One may argue that Gambhir is more important as an opener. I don't think so. A lot of openers have been tried by the Indian team in the past few years, and many of them have been fairly successful. There are a few other openers in the reckoning too. If any of them, say a Rahane or a Mukund, could take the role of the opener, Gambhir can play at number 3. This would be ideal, as he can guide the inexperienced middle order too.

3) Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has already cemented a spot in the playing XI, and only his batting position is yet to be determined. Personally, I feel that a Pujara or a Gambhir would be better replacement for Dravid. But, we are assuming that the spot left by Rahul Dravid must be taken by a player of the same mold. Having such a player would definitely be a advantage, but it is not easy.  Kohli has shown that he is ready to take challenges head-on, and his decent success at Australia would give him immense confidence. Now, if only he tries to play the game in a more dignified manner, we have a long term prospect.

4) Subramaniam Badrinath
Badrinath is a fantastic batsman, who as been on the selector's radar for a very long time. But, I am afraid that he has remained on the radar for too long, and now owing to his age, he is slowly moving away from the radar. He did get a few opportunities at the national level, but he was unable to convert them. He made a half-century on his debut. It is largely felt that he did not get enough chances to prove himself, but he was unlucky to have played in an era when the Indian Test team's middle order was dominated by heavy weights. It would be wonderful to see him get his due at the national level. His style of batting is perfectly suited for the one-drop position

5) Ajinkya Rahane
A lot of cricket experts talk about Rahane being the next big thing. He has been tested only in the shorter formats at the national level, and has had mixed success. But, his debut T20 innings showed him to be a nerveless batsman with a calm head. He too has a lot of domestic runs to back him up. Though he is being touted as a prospect for middle order, I would personally like to see him open the batting with Virendar Sehwag.

Now, if India has to do well as a Test team in the coming years, one of these players would really have to do well. Meanwhile, it would be interesting to see if the two remaining pillars in the team are affected by not having Dravid to consistently see off the new ball.

8 comments:

  1. Good one.. :)..
    I always believed Dravid should have retired atleast a couple of years ago. But, better late than sorry. He is leaving in a decent form, and that's good for him. :)
    And Speaking of others. None of the replacements are good enough to replace Dravid, he had overshadowed so many talents for so long, we never know who is a good player to replace him in the international scene. So many players achieve a lot in domestic but flop when they play for India. so I guess its a tough choice for the selectors.

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    1. Didn't you say you don't see much cricket? You are spot on saying that players doing well in domestic matches do not necessarily do well internationally. It is because our domestic matches have a very poor format, and are played in poor pitches. And I don't agree that Dravid should have retired before. One reason is that I am a great fan of him. Another reason is the space left by Gangul itself has not been filled yet. Filling Dravid's place would have been more difficult.

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    2. Whoa! Don't quite agree that our domestic matches/system is poor. They get payed and looked after well by BCCI. Even though its might a penny for BCCI but atleast they do spend that on them.

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    3. Hey Amit, it is not about getting paid and getting looked after. There are too many issues, like too many teams playing Ranji trophy,4 days system, with point systems that reduce all matches to a single inning match. Many things could be done to improve it, foremost being modelling the point system on English county matches. Also, they can bring in a few players from other A teams, adding more quality.

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  2. Its just that people just don't think any one from the champions rajasthan ranji team to fill any spot in indian team.. pathetic it is.

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    1. Ha ha :) Like Ian Chappel told about the Sri Lankan team, Rajasthan is a champion team, not a team of champions. Who do you have in mind? Meneria?

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  3. Nice one AD.

    Dravid will certainly be missed. But you know all these contenders are again gonna be "old" in few years. They didnt get any chance before while they were waiting in the shadows. What I sincerely hope there is someone promising in U-19 or somewhere playing gully cricket - who can come into the team in next 2-3 years and the team grooms him well, not how these talents (listed above) who were not exposed to the international arena. ( Make sense of what I saying? ;P )

    And of the list above. I think Pujara is the best fit, but of course I dont know how is his current form and of course the next best fit and the immediate solution for Indian Team would be Gambir.

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    1. That is a good idea, but that might lead us to focus on very long term goals. Winning matches now is also important. If you take a under-19 player and give him too much importance, there is also a chance that he may go astray (like Parthiv Patel almost did). And these players deserve a chance..

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Do let me know what you think..