With the nonsensical and rather grand sounding Champions League T20 out of the way, we can now focus on the home series against England that I expect to be close, with India no doubt enjoying the home advantage.
However, I am a bit disappointed with the Indian squad for the first two Tests that includes a couple of players who were lucky to be picked. There is a huge question mark over Zaheer’s fitness and if he breaks down, then his recovery would be that much slower given his age. Perhaps, the selectors could have asked him to play one more Ranji game to prove his match fitness.
The cause would have been better served had the selectors opted for Irfan Pathan, but then the all-rounder injured his knee while opener Murali Vijay benefited, though I doubt if he will ever get to play a game considering that the more consistent Rahane is clearly the first choice as a replacement for either Sehwag and Gambhir.
Talking about openers, Sehwag and Gambhir got themselves picked purely on reputation rather than form. Never mind that Sehwag celebrated his inclusion with a century against UP in the Ranji game at Ghaziabad, but the recent form of both the Delhi openers leaves a lot to be desired.
Likewise, the selection of Harbhajan should be credited to the off-spinner’s reputation. He is unable to get wickets even in domestic matches and he is fortunate he is not an Australian for he was a prime candidate to be dropped. It is quite a climb down for Harbhajan who not long ago was an automatic choice and now his very presence is being questioned.
As for the rest, there can be little debate even as we can take heart from Sachin’s century, albeit against club standard bowling in the Ranji game at Wankhede. If anything, the ton proved that the “old man” of Indian cricket is in fine fettle though the real test of his form would come against the English bowlers who are only too familiar with Sachin.
From England’s perspective, the return of Pietersen augurs well for the side, though it remains to be seen how well he will mesh with players he had not so long ago criticized in public. Don’t be fooled by all the public mumbo-jumbo emanating from the England camp suggesting all is hunky-dory, for wounds take a long time to heal.
In any case, I expect a good, tight series and the nature of wickets that are likely to assist spin influencing the course of the matches. Dhoni has made it known he would prefer slow turners so that the spinners can have the England batsmen in crosshair all the time, but if curators oblige the captain, then it could turn out to be a low scoring series that not necessarily dish out riveting fare.
Talking about Test series, I am surprised and rather disappointed that the Indian government has cleared a tour by Pakistan. It is all fine to talk about keeping politics out of sport, but in reality, such a scenario is only Utopian and only a fool will believe that it is possible to keep the two apart.
There are far bigger issues with regard to Pakistan, not the least the wretched 26/11 with one of the perpetrators very much in our jail. The wounds of that attack are still raw and the feelings run deep. Given the blow hot, blow cold political relationship between the two neighbours and so many issues still to be amicably resolved, it is downright naive and foolish to believe that sport will bring the two nations together.
I don’t subscribe to such nonsense, for even if peoples of the two nations have a lot in common and are friendly to one another, unless there is a political resolution, the undercurrents will remain. Under the circumstances, a high-profile series will only serve to fill the coffers of the two administrations and will serve no other purpose. And oh yes, the bookies will be rubbing their hands in glee!
Further, can the enormous costs that India will incur to provide security cover to the Pakistan team be justified? Far from attempting to fan passions and emotions, I am only stating facts that cannot be brushed under the carpet.
Also, an essentially recreational past time that is sport is what it is – a mere pinhead in the big picture of life. The priority should be to first settle the long-pending issues and only then consider bilateral cricket tours.
Whatever, it is not in the hands of us mortals to dictate the action of our exalted BCCI officials who have been campaigning long and hard for a series with Pakistan for reasons best known to them though I suspect it has more to do with commerce than just cricket. So be it.