India skipper MS Dhoni did take some bold decisions in Melbourne on Sunday.
Despite those decisions, India could not hold on as Australia beat the visitors to seal the series. Leaving his best spinner Ravichandran Ashwin out of the squad to make way for two young all-rounders – Rishi Dhawan and Gurkeerat Mann -- must have taken some conviction.
But in the context of the game -- while those two debutants might not have provided the necessary late thrust in batting -- their bowling together did make some impact. To be precise, Dhawan’s six overs for 33 meant that India found a bowler who could take the rigours of bowling in the middle overs while offering plenty of variation. That is something which can ensure a bowler contains batsmen on flat pitches like the ones in Australia.
Variation, after all, is one skill-set which has been missing in the arsenal of most Indian bowlers so far. While Gurkeerat too bowled five overs and conceded 27, sacrificing your best spinner for an extra spin-bowling all-rounder may not suffice in long term. Dhawan, for that matter, could be groomed to fill in that all-rounder’s spot, especially after he showed that he can control the run-flow with his dibbly-dobbly seam-ups.
Even if Dhoni wants to go in with five-bowlers, Dhawan could very well be the answer to the question that has not been answered for quite long now. India has been looking out for a cricketer who could fill the shoes of Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar and Mohinder Amarnath. Since their retirement, India’s search for this particular species has been inconclusive.
While it could be way too early to judge Dhawan’s talent on the basis of just one game, nevertheless, his bowling showed keen application and adherence to the art of bowling on flat decks. The way he bowled cutters, rolled his wrist over the ball and sent in a quicker delivery made him look akin to James Faulkner. The 25-year-old Aussie has been successful in almost every country with his style of bowling and manages to nab important wickets.
After the first powerplay was over, Dhawan was called in the 11th over and surprisingly he contained the run-flow. In the first over that he bowled, Dhawan had conceded just 17 runs and never looked to test the Australians with short-pitch stuff. Instead, he made sure he cut down a lot of pace from his deliveries, making the Aussies work harder for runs. Until the end of 10 overs, Aussies were going good at 6.50 per over but after Dhawan took the ball, the run-rate began to drop down to under six.
The question is whether India is ready to groom such guys. After all, Stuart Binny too made the cut recently as a fast bowling all-rounder but the team soon lost confidence in him. Though, his bowling certainly came under criticism but his batting wasn’t that below par. Dhawan too possesses a 40-plus batting average on the domestic circuit and a bowling average of 25.79 but will Dhoni give him enough chances? Faulkner won Clarke’s confidence even though he too had similar stats in his domestic career.
“A leg-spinner is a bowler who is made by a captain. A captain’s confidence in his leg-spinner will allow a player to help grow as a bowler and express himself better. The same way, an all-rounder’s success too depends upon his captain. I feel Binny and Dhawan are talented guys who need grooming and assurance by the captain. They should be told that you will be given enough chances so they go out and perform freely. Definitely an all-rounder will cement his place,” says former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar.
Dhoni himself had once said that to judge a youngster, one must at least provide him with good 20-30 matches. But India were doing well when he said that and times have changed for Dhoni. It could be understood that Dhoni’s form as a captain doesn’t allow him to give a youngster such a long rope but with Dhawan, or for that matter, Hardik Pandya, who will be making his entry in the T20 squad, Dhoni has to think far. After all even Pandya has time and again shown that he can hit big shots.
With the WT20 in India, the side will definitely be beefed up by a seam-up bowler full of variations. Possibly this entire exercise of picking pace all-rounders for Australia is a step in the right direction and India is looking to unearth an asset for the long run.
“This definitely is a step in the right direction. You need to keep testing these young kids. Dhawan has recently been performing really well and Pandya too has surprised all of us with his batting exploits. But enough chances need to be given to these boys so that they grow in confidence,” said former India selector Bhupinder Singh senior.