Windies tour brimming with long-term benefits

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 17, 2011 06:07 hrs

Most people expecting a 5-0 whitewash of the West Indies in the current ODI series will be sorely disappointed with the final 3-2 result. Indeed, the ICC rankings seem to agree and even a 4-1 outcome would have seen us dropping points.

But that is missing the point. The long-term benefits of this tour far outweigh the short-term losses.

A look at some of the positives…

Next rung of leadership

One of the most questions to be answered in Indian cricket is: After MS Dhoni who? Dhoni has had a dream run for many years and a replacement will have to be groomed now itself.

Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid exited the captaincy race ages back. With the way things are going, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh do not look like future long-term captains.

Indian team has lost a wonderful opportunity

That's where generation next comes in and the importance of such "weak" teams led by an inexperienced captain is to be highlighted.

Of course right now the prime candidate is Gautam Gambhir. He has been amongst our more reliable players in recent times and has a hunger for both runs and victories.

Gambhir whitewashed New Zealand 5-0 and revived the flagging fortunes of Kolkata Knight Riders, which gave its best performance in all four seasons of IPL. Like Dhoni too, his performance has only got better despite the burden of captaincy.

Followed by that is Suresh Raina. While he had a not so lucky Zimbabwe-Sri Lanka-India tri-series in 2010, this around he did much better, taking a 3-0 lead to render the series a lame duck one. Even the mighty Aussies at its peak would falter the moment a series was won and Raina has impressed in his very second outing.

The third candidate is Virat Kohli, who is just 22 but has already been vice-captain of India and captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the absence of the regular captain. Kohli has shown a maturity beyond his years and could be a good bet for the future.

Duncan Fletcher's soft entry

The Indian team probably has the highest number of stars in world cricket and ego clashes with the coach are inevitable. The worst example of this was Greg Chappell who had quite a controversial tenure.

That way coach Duncan Fletcher is lucky to get a soft entry into Indian cricket. The current tour has helped him get acquainted with cricket India's generation next. A series win is a series win and it would have helped Fletcher get his feet on the ground.

Also he will be acquainted with the Indian team in stages with Dhoni, Dravid and VVS Laxman joining in with the Test series against West Indies. Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gambhir and Zaheer Khan would then probably get familiarized in the England tour.

Within months, Fletcher would have interacted with India's top 20-25 players ate the highest level!

How to handle weak teams

India has been pretty consistent with top teams like Australia, South Africa and England for about ten years now.

Interestingly it has faltered against weak teams. In the Sourav Ganguly era, we lost a Test series to a West Indies team which hadn't won in ages. We failed to beat Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe in Tests. We had a disastrous tour of New Zealand.

Even the Dravid-Chappell partnership which saw a record 17 consecutive run chases in ODIs saw us being thrashed 1-4 by a totally out of form West Indies ODI team.

Then there was the infamous loss and subsequent exit from the 2007 ODI World Cup at the hands of Bangladesh.

That way the 5-0 thrashing of the Kiwis by a second-string Indian team was a revelation.

India should probably send weak Indian teams to counter weak teams like West Indies, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. While this may seem like a contradiction, it will regularly rest the seniors and bring out the fighting spirit of the bench.

For example, the top honours in the current ODI series were not taken by veterans like Raina, Kohli or Harbhajan Singh. Rohit Sharma was the top scorer from both teams, bagging the man of the series. Amit Mishra took 11 wickets and Parthiv Patel took 11 catches!

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Even the upcoming Test series will field one of our most depleted sides in recent ages. However, if there's any foreign tour where you can afford to do so among the top eight teams, then it is the West Indies. Imagine if an Australian tour was scheduled right after the World Cup.

So here's hoping that the newcomers are among the top performers in the Test series too and the seniors come back totally recharged for the England tour.

Indian cricket then would become even more formidable!

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at