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Indian Batting Will be Tested

23 July 2011.

Indian cricket has come a long way. Certainly the surge of the last few summers has caused a few headaches but cricket is lucky to have India as its driving force. Amongst major playing nations, only Sri Lanka has improved half as much.

However, India has reason to worry about its prospects. Over the next few months the quality of Indian batsmanship will be examined and the new generation needs to prove it can counter lifting deliveries as capably as their elders.

India’s rise in the last 15 years has in no small part been due to the ability of senior batsmen to master backfoot play. Now that advance is in peril. Whereas the old guard necessarily learnt to play back, their successors can make millions by bashing away off the front peg.

Virender Sehwag

Virender Sehwag plays a hook shot as Michael Clarke on Day 2 of the Second Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2010 – 11. Virender Sehwag got out on this shot.
Photo ©: pulkitsinha, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

India visits Australia this winter and within a few months supporters will know whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a breeding ground of excellence or a promoter of charlatans. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott have risen on the back of old fashioned techniques and attitudes. Can the new Indians match them?

Lacking guts

Indian batting needs to retain its resourcefulness. Not so long ago, and with few exceptions, Indian batsmen were inept against extreme pace and seam movement and were easily crushed by assorted English miners and antipodean roughnecks. England once claimed four Indians off the first 14 balls of a Test match. Forgetting about the Ghurkhas, and applying a caricature, observers concluded that Indian batsmen lacked fortitude.

In fact many of those players lacked exposure and sometimes leadership. As George Headley was obliged to play under incompetent West Indian pale skins so Indian teams were for an unconscionable period led by Maharajahs unburdened with cricketing knowledge or skill.

Not that the batting order was strong or experienced enough to flourish in hostile conditions. Indian batsmen were raised on docile pitches. Expert against spin, they were found wanting against cutters and rib ticklers.

Now they stand up on fiery tracks in Perth and on damp decks in Leeds.

Of course, an extraordinary generation of batsmen has emerged, one of the finest any country has produced. No nation can predict such riches, let alone depend on it.

All a community can do is to organise itself so that talent is attracted, identified and educated. After that it’s up to the player. Additionally the present seniors were lucky with their timing. Cricket has entered its second age of high scoring.

Helmets have reduced the threat posed by fast bowlers, pitches have lost their spirit and, in India, faster tracks and more frequent tours have forced the issue.

Scaling new heights

Accordingly Indian batting has scaled new heights. It is an imposing line-up. Sachin Tendulkar‘s 100th hundred for his country is eagerly awaited.

How easily that phrase “100th hundred” trips off the tongue, concealing a mind-boggling feat requiring extraordinary skill and stamina!

Rahul Dravid is an exceptionally durable and accomplished first drop. Alas! Virender Sehwag is injured, a grievous loss to any team for he can dominate from the outset.

He is a mastercast as a maverick. Still V.V.S. Laxman is around, endlessly fretting until the crisis comes.

Sourav Ganguly has withdrawn but Gautam Gambhir has risen, and formed a potent opening partnership.

What about their replacements? Is Indian batting in safe hands? Can the new brigade play off both feet?

Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and company have the ability, but is their education complete?

Can they build an innings? If not they will wither in the sun of isolation, fall at the fence of high expectation. Nothing lasts forever, not even Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid.

This article was written for The Hindu.
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