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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Cricket

India a major work in progress
N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times
Auckland, February 11, 2014
First Published: 01:01 IST(11/2/2014)
Last Updated: 02:06 IST(11/2/2014)

They may all carry the image of being modern-day players, but there is something very human about these men tasked with being the agents of change for Indian cricket. That comes out not when they pull off the many shots in their armour but when they slip up.

Indian fans are only too familiar with the previous set of great batsmen when they got out.

Sachin Tendulkar walked away head down, face almost covered under the helmet peak. If it was an umpiring howler, he would throw back his head in disappointment before leaving. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman at best glanced at the umpire. Virender Sehwag walked away playing the imaginary shot, copybook style, though thankfully his attempts at perfection stopped with shadow practice.

United they stand

The aggression in their game may be varied, but the current group of Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are unified when they are dismissed.

They throw up their head, flash that look of embarrassment and incredulity, even apologetic as they linger at the crease for a moment before trudging back to the pavilion — a response more likely at a schoolyard game than at the highest level of sport.

It’s the pursed lips response for Rohit Sharma, the other important member of the new-look India batting line-up.

He anyway appears laziness personified till he switches to elegant mode when bat meets ball. He does walk away without much fuss. The fact that most New Zealand stadiums are small, reduces the players to moving objects.

KEEN TO IMPRESS

But these are less expressions of despair, more hunger for progress in Tests. India came up short on Sunday chasing a formidable fourth innings target against New Zealand at Eden Park, but the fact that they got close sets a marker for the future. In the drawn Johannesburg Test, the first played without any of the stalwarts, Virat and Pujara showed their class with centuries that helped push for what would have been a remarkable victory till the end.

New Zealand, despite the victory in the end, are wary of the two batsmen. While Vijay and Rohit also showed tremendous application, his century would have helped Shikhar Dhawan regain his self-belief as a Test opener of substance overseas. Until his dismissal, Virat was also controlling the chase very well.

Skipper MS Dhoni wants his batsmen to keep the match situation in mind while pacing their innings. But he also pointed to the left-handed opener’s remarkable century – rare for India in the fourth innings overseas to say how taking care of themselves will automatically help the team. 

“It is very important, if you are getting runs and you are confident, to just keep it that way, not to think too much about where we are going, this is what I need to do in this series. At times, the goal management can be too high to achieve. It is important we break it down into small sessions or 15-20 minutes if you are a batsman, and play that way.”

New Zealand are not regarded as big a tour as England or Australia, due to the tradition and amount of focus they get. But there is lot of determination in this Kiwi squad, a belief they can compete even if pitches don’t entirely favour their seamers.

For the India batsmen, only three overseas Tests old as a group, it is a good time to find a new collective expression.


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