New Zealand tour of India starts tomorrow. India are tough cookies to crack at home, it's the land of tigers for sure. It is the green pastures abroad that irks Indian cricket fans. NZ were beaten by Gayle and West Indies in West Indies now have sailed to India shores from Caribbean. Virender Sehwag part of welcoming entourage. Indian are in top five of the test table, six to eight points separate the teams on the top. NZ in the bottom of the table. Indian team on paper boast of some big names on prevailing conditions. NZ struggling to cover all bases. Vettori; NZ best selector, coach, physio, captain, bowler, batsman, strategist is missing out on injury having sat out a game in West Indies, perhaps struggling with an injury since days of IPL. Vettori's injury has just loaded the odds that bit more against NZ. However, this series has more than what meets the eye. This series is not for cricket fans who are anticipating India taking the series winning every match by an inning just after tea on the third day. I reckon it might just get close. The ICC ranking and team strength on paper is academic. The action on the pitch is what is of primary essence.
NZ – discipline of sticking to the basics.
We must expect Kiwis to come up with a disciplined performance with bat, ball and field every time. They have been a very good fielding sides. A good fielding sides can convert half chances into wickets, a run out invariably changes course of a match, more so in a test match. The opening batsman is not much of a thought on Indian pitches, any decent batsman, who has patience to stick around will do good. I don't like the idea of McCullum in the top order as a good one. He earned his reputation on finishing tight matches. He is a waste on top of the order. I wish to see Guptill and Williamson occupying two of the three top order, followed by Taylor and McCullum, Southee and Chris Martin with opening spell with the ball, Franklin as a first change. If they play a spinner, Dhoni may send them a Diwali-Christmas invite. It is an early start of the season, here in India. There will be a bit more bounce off the pitch, so deliveries that stay below the knee may rise sharply towards the knee cap. It's not something Indian batsman may lose their yawn. But then thats the slight and only advantage Kiwi bowlers should expect. I don't know if it is fair to say that subcontinent pitches are graveyard for fast bowlers. They should look to employ different skill set. Bowl stump to stump take advantage of indifferent bounce. They have option of bending the deliveries back with reverse swing. Zaheer would be there for their reference. They have the option of using a split field, a slip, two in the gully and two catching cover, one catching a short mid wicket,a third man and rest patrolling the boundary.
Complacency galore on Indian ranks.
Indian will be competing with complacency and NZ. Its fresh start to long and competitive season. The Poms and Aussies will already be making notes. India find themselves devoid of two vital cogs, Dravid and Laxman. Dravid hung his boots. Laxman who was born under the Damocles sword, live under it, blossomed under it, perished by it. It is bizarre that all of us, thought Laxman was the one replaceable when team didn't get the right set of results. I feel, looking back every innings of his was an attempt to bargain lease for one more innings. More on him in the following part of the blog. I just hope the youngsters “Do it for Laxman”.
The struggle with complacency will be a tough fight. If NZ prove to be more than sum of the parts, we could have a good series. It is time for Sachin to change his batting order. I don't know if it is prudent to break the opening partnership. Sehwag and Gambhir to open. Raina, Pujara, Rahane, Kohli, Badrinath are in the fray for two slots. I don't know why Kaif and Ambati Raydu are not in the fray. I have high hopes from Ambati Raydu. I guess he likes to get on with things and not sit and pose of talent and ability. Hyderabadi for Hyderabadai, I was hoping Raydu would replace Laxman. I will forward to the series to see if some of my questions will be answered.
These few questions are -
Will India play seven batsmen four bowlers?
If Irfan include can we have three seamers,two spinners?
Does Tendulkar have to play two down?
Should Rahane open the innings?
When does that tipping point arrives when questions of Tendulkar's retirement turn from why to why not?
There are two spinners Ashwin and Ojha, is there another new spinner on a distant horizon?
How is this series paves the way for rest of the season, when Poms and Aussies tour later in season?
Guys, do it for Laxman.
Indian batting line up boasted of Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman. They all have had their critics and fans. Ganguly started with a bang and ended without a celebration. As his ODI performances grew his test prowess waned. Tendulkar was the acclaimed prodigy and did most things right to prove to be one. His success in scoring runs and being humble both at once is an enviable achievement. Sehwag is a maverick, his run scoring audacious ability is independent of pitch, bowling attack, match situation. Dravid a perfect test batsman, loads of temperament and skill and hunger for runs.
Laxman was in many ways had few these qualities of each of his team mates and still had something more, a signature uniqueness of his own. He had the audacity of Sehwag's strokes, the panache and grit of Dravid, exhilaration of Tendulkar, Ganguly's timing to script a performance. But in many ways he was unique. If you can flick a spinner, like Shane Warne you are good, if you can flick and score runs off Shane Warne when he is round the wicket, you are very good. If you can flick Shane Warne and score a boundary when he bowling at his peak and pitch is turning you are brilliant. If you can flick Shane Warne, bowling round the wicket on the fourth day out of the rough for consecutive boundaries on will you have to be Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. He did it on will. He has his best scores against the Aussies. I think his five of his best seven scores have been against Aussies. It wasn't an Aussie attack with erratic seam bowlers and a left arm orthodox darting at leg stump. It was the time when it consisted of three excellent and one a very good one.
He did excel and thrilled audiences with some brilliant counter attacks against odds. Off course his 281 at Eden comes to the mind. He and Dravid batted out the whole of the fourth day and turned the flagging series on its head. There was another one with Dravid at Adelaide. Aussies had scored 550 odd at 5 an over, Ponting going berserk Dravid and Laxman came together and stitch a strokeful 300 plus runs partnership, it bought the Aussie house was bought down. There was a 165 he made once in Sydney, India lost. The best score of the team after his 165 was 25. he flicked and cut all day with a strokeful century. He could carve out a stroke through the eye of needle at backward point and straightish mid wicket. Then there were so many rescue acts, Mohali, Durban, Monera, St Johns. He did it all, with an endearing smile. A chapter of cricket when batsman with touch scored runs has ended.
It was with such grace and style,just like flavours of Dum Biryani of Old Hyderabad City. He was as classic as styles of Nizams. The Nizams commanded a 21 gun salute one of only five princely state in the days gone by. Laxman of all deserves one.
A salute to The Very Very Special Laxman.