Discovery of Shikhar Dhawan good for India

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 26, 2013 10:53 hrs

''This is revenge and there is nothing sweet about it'' ran the blurb for ''Death Rides a Horse'' a spaghetti western made in the late 60s starring
Lee Van Cleef and John Philip Law. 

However much MS Dhoni tries to play down the revenge angle there is little doubt that every India-Australia contest since the magical series in 2001 is a grudge series. The stakes are high, the tension is palpable and the player behavior frequently crosses the acceptable limits. 

But for a side which had been thrashed 4-0 just a little over a year ago, to inflict a similar margin of defeat on the same opponents is an astonishing turnaround. One can point out that one verdict was away and the other at home, but the reason for the absolute reversal of fortunes cannot be that simple.

India's record at home is no doubt impressive and yet to win a series by a margin they have never achieved before is a phenomenal feat. And the opponents were not Zimbabwe or Bangladesh but Australia who till not too long ago were the No.1 team in the world.

The Aussies have experienced a slide in the past few years but not that much to warrant such a rout, a reverse they last experienced only once before at the hands of South Africa 43 years ago. Similarly, India's record abroad has shown considerable improvement in the new millennium and hence, the clean sweep loss in Australia was quite unexpected.

Yes, such a total reversal of fortunes in such a short time does not happen every time so there have been to be many reasons if it comes about.
So let us start with the composition of the squads. The Aussie team 'Down Under' had the services of Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey and Ben
Hilfenhaus and all of them were missing from the line-up that has just completed its disastrous tour of India. 

Ponting and Hussey had retired while Hilfenhaus was ruled out because of injury. These three cricketers played a leading role in shaping the one sided result.

Finding adequate replacements for legends and giants and leading strike bowlers cannot be done overnight and Michael Clarke's side was clearly short on experience. Aware of this the squad came over quite early, played a couple of warm-up games to get used to the vastly
different conditions. And yet when the Test series started, the inexperience was clearly seen and the young batsmen were absolutely clueless in playing spin. 

To make matters worse the few experienced hands could not get going and the entire batting line-up proved to be sitting ducks while negotiating the Indian spin trio in conditions in which they excelled. 

On top of all this there were shocking lapses in matters of strategy and tactics and team selection. The last straw was the disciplinary action taken against four of the touring squad who did not make presentations as asked by the captain and the coach. So for various reasons the best teams were not on the field in all the four Tests but in retrospect so outplayed were the visitors in all departments of the game that it would not have made any difference to the final result either which way.

Speaking of missing players, the Indian team too was without several of the players who were on duty during the rout in Australia. Rahul Dravid 
and VVS Laxman had retired, an out of form Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan were not considered for any of the Tests, Umesh Yadav was on the injured list while Virender Sehwag, woefully out of touch, was dropped after the first two Tests. 

But whereas the Aussie replacements were found to be technically and temperamentally wanting, the Indian substitutes rose to the occasion gloriously. Murali  Vijay, till about a month ago, was  at best a reserve opener with the Gambhir-Sehwag pairing seemingly well entrenched.

Seizing his chances with both hands he emerged as the leading run-getter in the four Tests and is now suddenly the No.1 choice as opening batsman. Cheteswar Pujara filled the No.3 slot vacated by Dravid admirably even during the series against England but the just concluded contest saw him firmly entrenched in that vital position with the added bonus that he could even excel as an emergency opener. And the discovery of the swashbuckling Shikhar Dhawan was the best thing to happen to Indian cricket in a long while.

Even without Harbhajan Singh who may no longer be required the Indian spin attack now resembles an embarrassment of riches thanks to the remarkable progress made by Ravichandran Ashwin, the presence of Pragyan Ojha and the emergence of Ravindra Jadeja. 

Indeed with Ashwin, Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar occupying the slots from No.7 to No.9 there is suddenly depth in the late order batting which can help cover up a collapse of the top order or middle order. 

Speaking of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, he was certainly the find of the series. From the moment he bowled in his maiden Test at Chennai it was clear that India had unearthed a long term prospect and if he could bowl as impressively in conditions that were tailor made for spin bowling he could really be quite a handful in more helpful conditions. Once Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav recover from their injuries this young trio could  well form the Indian pace attack in the immediate future. 

In the ultimate analysis I think too much should not be made of the home factor or the weakness of the touring squad. A series that is won so emphatically - by margins of innings and inside three and four days - has to have several positive aspects and Dhoni and his boys should  be given their due for a sterling performance.

More from Sify: