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Now, for a three-day ACT

India hope to get things right against ACT Invitational XI in a 3-day practice game ahead of the Perth Test, reports K Murali.

cricket Updated: Jan 10, 2008 10:04 IST
Kadambari Murali

Finally, we’re going back to writing about the cricket, something we’d usually do during a cricket tour. The Indians will probably be minus their elders (bar Rahul Dravid) and RP Singh when they take on the ACT Invitational XI here in a three-day practice game ahead of the third Test at Perth next week.

This is the only practice game the Indians are going to play before the Test tour ends in Adelaide; hence it’s the only chance for players sitting in the reserves to get their act going.

The performances of a few from the first two Tests would be under scrutiny as well.

Wasim Jaffer has been out of sorts ever since he’s landed in Australia. After carrying an out-of-form Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik, this was the last thing the team management would’ve wanted, specially since Jaffer had scored heavily against Pakistan.

This sudden lack of runs would’ve been easier to understand if he was going through a bad patch but since he isn’t, questions are asked about his technique in these conditions. One must remember that he struggled the same way in South Africa till he got runs in the last Test. Perhaps a big knock is around the corner.

The other player whose performance will be under scrutiny is Yuvraj Singh. Like Jaffer, he also came into this series in scintillating form and has been completely out of his depth. His superb form prior to this series had raised a few questions about how you could not play him, even forcing Dravid to open to accommodate him.

Now his sudden loss of form will ask a few uneasy questions once again. Whom will you play in the third Test if Yuvraj doesn’t score in Canberra and in what batting order? May be Sehwag will come in his place and replace Dravid at the top with Dravid moving to his preferred batting position (though that might upset Laxman).

But for that Sehwag must fire in the only opportunity he’s going to get to push his claims.

That brings us to Karthik, the second opener in the squad. Jaffer and he were the two openers selected for this tour with Sehwag as the back-up opener. Considering that he had opened 9 times out of the last 10, he obviously should be the second choice after Jaffer. But surprisingly no one is even considering him as an opening option. The argument would be the same as it was in Sehwag’s case i.e. he isn’t in great form either.

That begs a question to be asked — why would you pick the guys in a team when you’re scared to play them because of their lack of form? Defies logic but this match would give him another chance to redeem himself (may be for yet another Test tour as second/third keeper/opener) because even if he gets runs here, its highly unlikely that he would figure in the starting XI in Perth or even Adelaide.

This match would also showcase India’s young and inexperienced bowling attack, which is doing reasonably well, along with Irfan Pathan. Ishant Sharma hasn’t done his chances any harm in Sydney and had the decisions gone his way, he would’ve walked away with a lot more confidence. Considering that it was his first game in Australia, he managed to bowl at the right length and with more exposure will only improve. Pankaj Singh, an unknown commodity, would be seen in action for the first time. He’s tall and bowls with a high arm action and if he does really well in this game, he might just be discussed for the next Test, highly unlikely though.

But he could be another Ranadeb Bose as well who toured with India to England, did well in the side games he played and is completely forgotten. Another bowler to be watched carefully would be Zaheer Khan’s replacement, VRV Singh. Apparently, he can bowl quickly and gets steep bounce of the pitch, if he bowls in the right areas. He’s had a very indifferent season back home while missing the first few games due to injury.

Whether he’ll be able to hit the ground running remains to be seen. But if he does, it’ll be good for India and will provide an extra option for Perth where the most likely combination would be three quick bowlers and one spinner.

Then it comes to the wonder kid of Indian cricket, Pathan, who sealed his berth in the side with his century in Bangalore against Pakistan. One mustn’t forget that he was the find of the tour Down Under four years ago. A lot has changed since then, but if Pathan finds the form of old, gets wickets and finds a place in the final XI, he provides the right impetus with his batting in the lower order.