V. V. S. Laxman is fast evolving as a fine analyst of the game. Call it his homework or research, Laxman is ready with the facts and figures about the immediate task on hand. His ability to recall and relate stands out.
Much like his stylish batting, this genial Hyderabadi caught the eye with his astute reading of the present Indian team in the company of Kapil Dev as the two discussed, here on Wednesday, the prospects of the country's limited-over teams touring Australia next month.
Hosted by Harsha Bhogle, the discussion saw Laxman come up with some fine observations as he backed his optimism with facts.
Aus will miss Clarke, Johnson, Smith, and Haddin: Laxman
“India has an excellent chance of beating Australia. Since the time we last played Australia (in the World Cup semifinals earlier in the year), Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin have retired. Mitchell Starc is injured and I guess, Steve Smith is having fitness issues. Shane Watson will be under too much pressure to perform. Also, Australia's fast bowling options do not look the same.”
Looking the Indian attack, Laxman said, “In the World Cup, (Mohammad) Shami and Umesh (Yadav) were out new ball bowlers. This time, Ishant will also be around. When you are bowling in Australia, length is the key. In the semifinal (against Australia), our bowlers bowled it a bit short and got punished. They let the Australians cut and pull. This time, they will have to bowl fuller length to get wickets.
He congratulated the National selectors for reposing their faith in Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh. “I somehow get this feeling that the selectors could give these players a chance in the T20 World Cup and not put much pressure on them to perform in Australia. On the other hand, the selectors have picked the one-day side with an eye on the next World Cup.”
Rahane is becoming a 'complete' batsman
India is due to play five one-dayers and three T20 matches in Australia in January, followed by a three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka at home in February, before hosting the T20 World Cup from March 8 to April 3.
As Bhogle pointed out, this season, India was scheduled to play the No. 1 ranked countries in all three formats – South Africa in Tests, Australia in ODIs and World champion Sri Lanka in T20s.
Kapil Dev felt aggression in the Indian team as an ingredient necessary when facing Australia. “Playing Australia is always different because they come so hard at you. They are fighters. Look at England or West Indies, they are not as strong as they once were. But Australia has remained a strong side even when the big names retire. The newcomers who make it to the team, have quality.
Interestingly, both Kapil and Laxman chose Ajinkya Rahane as the most complete batsman in the Indian squad.
“No one will be able to forget his two centuries against South Africa in Delhi Test match. A 'big' player is able to score in all conditions and Rahane is slowly becoming the most complete batsman,” asserted Kapil.
In Laxman's words, “If you see Rahane, he's almost like a (Sachin) Tendulkar or a Rahul Dravid or Jacques Kallis, playing conventional cricket shots but he knows how to pace his innings, he knows what the risk-free options are and that gives him reward.”
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