Posted by: nestaquin | October 8, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy: Indian XI Review

As Nesta points out below, the Australian team is more settled than its Indian opponents, but The Tooting Trumpet will be setting his alarm clock very early in expectation of this XI taking to the field to represent the world’s second most populous country.

Virender Sehwag – Having played just one Test in 2007, the opener with a strike rate of nearly 80 (Matthew Hayden is no slouch, but would score fifty runs fewer than Sehwag in a hypothetical day’s play) is now deep into his second coming. He is still as likely to go for a handful as a barrelful, but once set and wearing a face of serenity between overs, he can score very big indeed, even if all around him are floundering, thus setting up unlikely wins. Has scored both a double hundred and a triple hundred at better than a run a ball – with the old men down the order, his weight of runs and rate of scoring is vital to the cause.

Gautam Gambhir – Latest no-longer-young player to be given the opener’s slot opposite Viru. His stop-start international career is summed up by his recent series in Sri Lanka where he didn’t fail, but didn’t actually succeed either. Lee, Clark and Johnson will provide a searching examination of his technique against the new ball.

Rahul Dravid – The Wall is now honoured with A Wall, which is the kind of tribute that should really come in retirement, rather then when still an active player. Given that Dravid’s average over the last two years has been just 36, some would argue that he is in semi-retirement anyway. Probably has one big innings left in him, but India will need three at least from their ex-skipper, and at a better rate than he has become accustomed to.

Sachin Tendulkar – Just a few whispers of discontent gathering around the Little Master’s ankles after a poor series in Sri Lanka. Those keeping the faith will point to two 150s earlier this year in Australia as a truer indication of the man’s talent. Needs 77 runs to go past BC Lara’s all-time Test runs record and prompt celebrations across the sub-continent.

Sourav Ganguly – The third ex-skipper in the order will retire at the end of the series (but don’t be too surprised to see him back in 2009) and may be looking forward to a Waughesque farewell tour. Take out his return to form in 2007, and he has just one century since 2003. The Aussies might want to keep him at the crease in the hope that he runs his partners out. Owes India some scores and might just have the motivation to deliver. Will need to bowl a few skidders and will certainly need to field with 100% concentration.

VVS Laxman – As everyone knows, VVS is at his sublime best against Australia. When the mood is on him, he uses his balance and wrists to pierce the field at will and can demoralise even the most resilient of bowling attacks. Early on, Aus will look to bowl full just outside off stump, as his feet can be stuck in the crease in the first hour. Is scheduled to win his 100th cap in the Nagpur Test.

MS Dhoni – India’s darling: the man who held up the World Twenty20 trophy just over a year ago. Not the greatest gloveman, without a Test century since January 2006 and having sat out the last series in Sri Lanka, Dhoni should feel under pressure, but he doesn’t. That’s partly because of his nature, but mainly because no selector can touch Dhoni in the foreseeable future. This is not a good thing for India, nor Dhoni.

Anil Kumble – The Captain has a bit to prove after his poorest year since debut in 1990. He would never admit it, but Test captaincy in this day and age might not suit this quiet, reflective man. Some runs at Number Eight will be very welcome too.

Harbhajan Singh – Australia brings out the best and worst of Harbhajan, who is still only 28 (that’s years old, not IQ). Aus batsmen are likely to go hard at him to unsettle him early, avoiding his developing a rhythm within which he can produce his variations. Might need to bat properly instead of slogging at Number Nine.

Zaheer Khan – His experience will probably see him get the nod over fellow lefty RP Singh. Will need to show the control he used to great effect in England in 2007 from both over and round the wicket if he is to avoid a pounding at the hands of Hayden and Hussey. If it swings, he can clean up tails very quickly.

Ishant Sharma – Height, pace and fitness should see this twenty-year-old protégé get the nod over Munaf Patel. Is learning the game in an unforgiving environment, but has an action and wrist position that reminds The Trumpet of the young Jason Gillespie. If he can keep his line right, he could be a handful with the new ball.

So, there they are. Possibly the most experienced middle order ever to take the field, but certainly the weakest fielding unit in world cricket today. Much depends on the batsman racking up sufficient runs quickly enough to allow the bowlers to find a bit of form. The Trumpet forecasts a triumphant retirement for Sourav / 100th cap for VVS party in Nagpur as India run out 2-1 victors in a tight series.



  1. Reports in Australia, mostly sourced from an interview with the Kiwi curator at Bangalore, is that the pitch is juicy by Indian standards.

    This was expected since it is at Bangalore in October but it does put India in a selection quandry.

    Do they only take two paceman? Risky on a seaming pitch in oppressive humidity. If they decide to play three quicks Harbhajan will be 12th man considering Kumble is skipper. Could Anil possibly drop himself? I doubt it!

    I can confidently say that either way the Australians are happy with India’s conundrum. Especially with the knowledge that they have three bowlers who can bowl in excess of 140km/h and Stu Clark who can land them on a penny.

    The toss will be one both skippers would probably like to lose. And those sorts of tosses often produce riveting, unpredictable Test cricket!

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