A victory for ‘Youngistan'

The inconsistent cricket from West Indies apart, the second string Indian side has adapted to the conditions quickly. The future stars, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, have made their presence felt with match-winning efforts and the race for a spot in the Test team is really hotting up.

The ‘Youngistan' of India have proved that they are good enough to beat the current West Indies and while their triumph does make one happy, it is a concern that the quality of cricket is only dipping southwards in the Caribbean islands. They still have some quality cricketers, but the stand-off between the star players and the WICB has resulted in a constant chopping of lead players, adding to the existing woes.

In as much as the current Indian players will enjoy the tour, the buzz and the fun that can emanate from the crowds is missing. The empty stands in Trinidad and Antigua are an indication of the waning interest among the cricket loving public in the Caribbean. However, the Indians will settle for the results they have obtained thus far and with the experienced Indians coming back into the side for Test cricket, the result is looking like heading only in one direction — Dhoni's.

The inconsistent cricket from West Indies apart, the second string Indian side has acquitted itself admirably in adapting to the conditions quickly. The future stars, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, have made their presence felt with match- winning efforts and the race for a spot in the Test team is really hotting up.

The one cricketer who will feel that he has not pulled his weight enough is Yusuf Pathan and the time has come for him to pay the selectors back. The clichéd statement of him being “a match-winner on his day” cannot hold water unless he does it at least once in four games. At times he has not got enough opportunities to take his time and settle down, but there have been many occasions where he has thrown his wicket away despite enough overs being available. Hopefully, he will realise sooner than later that the match-winner tag is also one of the reasons why he has not developed street smartness a la Kohli or Raina.

Talking of Raina, he has led the side reasonably well given his limited experience and his handling of Mishra has been good. The leg-spinner seems relaxed and gives the impression that he belongs in the Indian dressing room, a notion very critical for a cricketer to perform to the best of his ability. The pitches have been friendly enough for spinners, but the experience of Mishra has come in handy in that he has stuck to the basics without getting carried away. It is an art to bowl well especially on turning tracks and on that count, Mishra has emerged with flying colours.

After his performances in the one-dayers, the tug of war between Mishra and Chawla for a spot will cease, if only temporarily. Mishra might be tempted to feel that he has established his place in the Indian side and though he is well within his limits to do so, he has to bear in mind that Chawla enjoys the support of people that matter and as such cannot afford to take his place for granted.

The Caribbean tour was important for Mishra as it was in the case of Harbhajan Singh. With the attention centering on the young Turks, the “Turbanator” has been overlooked at a time when he is gradually getting back to his wicket-taking ways. There has been some talk of Harbhajan having to be dropped to make way for Ashwin, but the seasoned campaigner has enough and more to offer yet to the Indian side. There is no harm in keeping Harbhajan on his toes but extreme suggestions are not going to help anybody's cause. Prior to the West Indies tour, Harbhajan had not been getting as many wickets as he did in the past and this tour would have made him feel good as not only is he getting wickets, but also has the added responsibility in guiding the youngsters, being the vice-captain. Harbhajan Singh will be looking forward to bowling in the Tests where he can really experiment and tantalise the batsmen. Given the current form and also the manner in which the Windies batsmen have been faring recently, the “Turbanator” will be expecting a windfall in the Tests.

There will be that extra pressure on Harbhajan in the Tests to deliver as injuries to key bowlers like Zaheer and Sreesanth make the Indian attack thin. Bhajji and Mishra have forged a good partnership in the one-dayers and it will be interesting to see how they bowl in tandem in Test cricket. Both of them like to entice the batsmen in the air, but the critical factor is that they have to take turns to attack the batsmen. How things have changed as spinners are expected to play the key role in the Caribbean of all places! Of course, India have depended on spinners at a time even when the pitches were pacy in the Caribbean, but to see matches played on turners in the Caribbean makes me wonder if the “perfume ball” will become a thing of the past, if it already hasn't.