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Young blood for cricket team

A year that will test a quartet of promising batsmen, new fast-bowling talent, writes Aakash Chopra.

india Updated: Jan 01, 2012 00:54 IST

What widely divergent cricket one saw in 2011! While India reached the apex of honors by claiming the World Cup, it also hit its lowest ebb by losing its number one status in Test cricket after a frightening defeat in England, the first of its kind. Many thought the latter to be an aberration and the shortcomings deserved to be put to rest, that it was time to look ahead. One ought to, but only once we fill those gaps. After all, we don’t want the fissures showing up in Australia. This is not just about ascendancy but also about honour.

A year of transition
More important, this tour Down Under will be the last of its kind: The big three in the Indian middle order will not be around the next time India goes on these arduous overseas expeditions, and neither will Zaheer Khan, who has made rivals refrain from dishing out green tops.
This is why 2012 will hold the key while marking itself as the year of some crucial transitions. This new order, to be set up by the young guns of Indian cricket, looking all set to take over the reins, will more or less give us a fair idea of where India will stand the next time it travels to England, Australia and South Africa.

In this new pack, with regards to batting, a few names feature prominently — Virat Kohli, who’s matured with every outing; Rohit Sharma, who seemed to have finally found a way to convert starts into match-winning innings; Cheteshwar Pujara, whose hunger for runs seems insatiable; Ajinkya Rahane, who’s piled on the runs by tons in domestic cricket and is looking like he belongs to the highest level. Finally, we have Yuvraj Singh, whose talent is beyond doubt yet his not-so-successful Test record still remains an enigma.

A new order
Virat and Rohit, who seem to be fighting for the number six slot in the Test side, may be playing alongside each other in the new order. While Virat’s technique needs fine-tuning, Rohit’s temperament will be tested in the longer version. Succeeding in Test cricket is as much about the skill as it is about adopting a completely different lifestyle.

One needs to get into the habit of going to bed at 10 pm and waking up early, irrespective of the
day’s schedule. Test cricket demands a lot of discipline, and it remains to be seen if these two talented youngsters can live the life of a monk.
Pujara and Rahane don’t have such issues to handle, for both come from cricket’s old school. The challenges they face, which
will be more technical than temperamental, will settle whether they step up to the next level or not. The initial signs are certainly encouraging, but their destination is still a several miles away.

Yuvraj Singh’s success in Test cricket would be huge positive, but for making it a reality, he must turn the corner, very soon.

Some concerns
Fast bowling is a bigger worry than batting, for India’s evolution in Test cricket will depend on its ability to take 20 wickets. The more popular shorter versions of the game, played on home turf, are also beginning to require fast bowlers, with the supply of quality spinners thinning. Zaheer Khan’s limited participation is imminent, so it’s better to prepare for that. Fortunately, we have unearthed a couple of genuinely quick bowlers in UmeshYadav and Varun Aaron. While Umesh seems to be growing in stature with every game, Varun needs to work on doing more with the ball, both in the air and off the surface.

Crucially, the Board of Control for Cricket in India must find ways to keep players fit for national duty, for there’s a serious danger of losing them to the T20 leagues. It needs to manage their services so that we have them when we need them most.

All in all, 2012 promises to be a critical year for Indian cricket.

New Delhi-based batsman Aakash Chopra played for India in 2003 and 2004.

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