It may not have matched the 5-0 thrashing that we gave England the last time we played a home ODI series against them, but India have finally won some sort of series. India will take the recent 3-2 victory against England, with the way things have been going off late.
Before this victory, India had failed to win six straight series (including tournaments) in a row: with New Zealand in T20s, the T20 World Cup, with England in Tests, with England in T20s, with Pakistan in T20s and finally the Pakistan ODI series which we lost 1-2.
The last time such a thing had happened was way back in 2004.
But win we did and the biggest positive from the series was the arrival of two new pacers in the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed. They were the difference in this series and didn’t let the England top order run away with flying starts regularly.
With the high injury rate of India’s fast bowling attack, these two now join India’s pace talent pool. Bhuvneshwar did well in both the T20 and ODI formats and definitely deserves a Test debut quickly, but he may have to sit out if the Indian management decides to go with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma in Tests.
The other plus has been Ravindra Jadeja, who has had a much better ODI career than that in international T20s. He has 70 wickets in 65 matches with a batting average of 30 and adding the new powerplay rules, we now have a genuine ODI all-rounder in our ranks.
The only mystery is the persistence of Rohit Sharma, who seems to be the greatest unfulfilled potential in the world. He has played 88 ODI matches and has an indifferent batting average of 30. That’s the same as Jadeja, the major difference being that Jadeja can also bowl his quota of 10 overs in every match.
Rohit was tried out as an opener in the series. He has now played a total of 5 ODI matches as opener and only averages 23 in that position; so even that doesn’t look very promising. Rohit may well be retired from ODIs and given a chance in Tests, where he seems more suited.
But India will now head to the Test series against Australia with some confidence. That’s especially because they have captured the ODI ICC No. 1 ranking again, the biggest achievement in a long long time.
However, that will be a different ball game altogether and the Indian team management is yet to sort out our major problems in the longest format of the game.
The Duncan Fletcher-MS Dhoni partnership still seems to be dead on arrival. With Fletcher’s contract coming to an end, Fletcher will be more of a lame duck coach than ever.
The biggest cause of worry remains to be the opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, both whom have been failing for too long now. Sehwag may have scored a century in the England tour, but that came after two years. He was also unconvincing in the other innings.
After the 2011 World Cup, India tried out Murli Vijay, Abhinav Mukund and Rahul Dravid as openers in the first two immediate series without any long-term hope. Maybe someone like Ajinkya Rahane should be asked to open in Tests instead of ODIs.
We definitely need two back-up Test openers. If the Sehwag-Gambhir duo fails again in the Australia series, then we are looking at a whitewash when we visit South Africa after that. The team management clearly has no Plan B.
In the other batsmen, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are here to stay. That leaves space for one more spot, in fact two since the great Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement is just a matter of time and he is already on his last legs. Time is running out fast for India.
The spin department doesn’t look that great either with Harbhajan Singh facing retirement and R Ashwin failing against both Australia and England in the past. Pragyan Ojha was the only standout bowler of the England tour.
In the pace attack, Zaheer may also retire soon and Ishant looked good towards the end of the ODI series with England. But one hopes that Bhuvneshwar gets a deserving Test debut soon.
All in all, the upcoming Test series against Australia will be a make or break series for India.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/