Youngsters a silver lining in dark cloud
Young turks gave India something to feel good about in a dismal series. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports.india Updated: Sep 17, 2011 01:47 IST
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. For Indian cricket, the performance of their youngsters in the one-day series here provides that.
The Indian team which turned up against England was unrecognisable from the team which won the World Cup five months ago. Only four from the Cup winning squad - MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin and Munaf Patel were available for the series.
Thrust straightaway into the deep end, it was always going to be difficult for the inexperienced youngsters against a rampaging home side.
The series loss has not come as a surprise, but the young Indian team will take a lot of heart from the way most of the youngsters stood up to the serious examination against the England team.
The biggest blow to India's hopes was when all their three established openers Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir pulled out due to injuries. It left India with greenhorn Ajinkya Rahane and the flashy Parthiv Patel to open their innings.
To their credit, the duo didn't allow themselves to be overawed by the thought of the big shoes they had to fill. Instead, they buckled down to the task at hand.
Three fifty-plus partnerships in five games would have made even the senior pros proud. Rahane and Patel not only handled the new ball, they were enterprising and aggressive enough to capitalise on the fielding restrictions.
Patel aggregated 172 runs at an average of 34.40 and Rahane 158 at an average of 31.60. Both had a strike rate of 80 plus.
Coach Duncan Fletcher, a master at grooming young talent, will be particularly excited by debutant Rahane. If a few rough edges can be polished, the Mumbai batsman can mature into a fine opening option in all forms of the game.
Patel no longer commands a regular place in the team but he has been around for long. Apart from his experience, the left-hand batsman's strength is his tenacity, fearlessness and intelligence. A multidimensional player, his success provides India many options. He can take over the 'keeping duties when Dhoni needs rest, he can be a handy opener and is equally adept at playing in the lower order.
The Indian team has been in search of an allrounder for long. The absence of one has affected the balance of the team, preventing them from playing five specialist bowlers.
It hurt them in the rain-affected game at Southampton as England comfortably chased 187 in 23 overs.
Ravindra Jadeja joined the team at The Oval and provided the solution. He provided depth in the lower order and for once in the series, India's allrounders outshone England's Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan as Jadeja and R Ashwin did well with the bat and the ball. The two proved to be worthy spin options in the absence of Harbhajan Singh.
However, the lack of a strike bowler in the absence of Zaheer Khan remained a concern. India got the runs in most of the games but the inability to make early inroads allowed England to race to strong starts.
On the brighter side, India were a much better fielding unit and the running between the wickets was good.