Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New season beckons..

It is finally time to dust off the whites, for a new season in Indian cricket is about to get underway. It is almost two months since the IPL final, and a two-month break must be like a god-send to both players and fans alike. Sure, the men in blue had a short trip, like they seem to have almost every year, to Sri Lanka, but that series can go down as one of the most low-key events of recent times. It was certainly for me personally, since the Ind-SL series will be remembered by me as probably the first series wherein I did not watch even a single ball live !!

Anyways, it is time to switch from blues to whites and from ODIs to Test matches. The New Zealand team is here and we are ready for what is the earliest start to a test match season in India. I reckon it is the first time that a test match is being played in India in August ! That itself will be interesting in the context of how the pitch and weather conditions are. But this two-test series (ohh, how I hate 2-test series !) is a precursor to the main bonanza awaiting Indian fans at home - a full eight tests against two formidable opponents (England and Australia) and a chance to compensate the 0-8 drubbing they received last year, albiet at home. Simply cannot wait for November onwards !! And what's even better, finally the rights to cover cricket in India are with ESPN Star. Hopefully, we will have much more professional standards, not to mention better commentators, of cricket coverage going forward.

Coming specificallly to this series, most people would be looking forward to how India copes with the new guard in the middle-order. Following the retirement of Rahul Dravid in March was the rather more surprising retirement move of VVS Laxman. The surprising thing was more in the 'immediate' part of the retirement, since he was widely expected to play at his home ground against New Zealand before signing off. For me, the whole episode carries an undercurrent of tension between VVS and the selectors. It is now widely speculated that his hand was forced by the selectors or the BCCI. But following the retirement, what was even more surprising, was the inclusion of Badrinath in the team. It is high time that BCCI realizes that for home tests, 15 players are not needed. The inclusion of Badrinath sends all the wrong reasons. If he makes his way to the playing XI, then it means that a person who was not in the first two in the list of replacements for the middle-order suddenly jumpstarts everyone and finds a place in the XI. Surely, one of Rahane and Pujara will not be happy, and rightly so. And if Badrinath warms the benches, surely the whole selection was completely useless and avoidable. With quite a few home tests scheduled this year, one hopes that the selectors pick a fixed 12 people for every game while the rest gain valuable match practice playing in the Ranji Trophy.

But for Rahane and Pujara, it is time fo start afresh. One hopes that these two, amongst the front runners to replace Dravid and Laxman as the next gen of Indian batting, get an extended run not just against the Kiwis but also against England. Atleast 4-5 tests are required for them to show their worth. The performance of these two itself will be reason enough to watch the games against New Zealand.

Let the season begin !!


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