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Monday, October 27, 2008

India vs Australia : Delhi Test - Will Bhajji make way for Kumble?

The BCCI is already ready with an ornate scroll to be presented to commemorate VVS Laxman's 100th test match appearance when India take on Australia in the 4th and final test match of the series at Nagpur. That match can't be Laxman's 100th should he not play in Kotla. Anil Kumble has already announced in his newspaper column that he is fit and ready to take on the field in the 3rd Test. Will the spin-maestro be able to reclaim his deserved place in the team? If he indeed does, as he should, the winning combination will have to be disturbed. But the question remains - who will be the chosen scapegoat?

Gambhir can't be dropped on form, Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag on form and more and Ganguly definetely cannot be - it's the penultimate test of an illustrious career and with a series average of 66.73 at the end of the 2nd Test, he is a potential contender for the Man-of-the-series. No one can dare think of sitting out Dhoni, even if he had not been averaging over 80 yet. That leaves us with the bowlers - Zaheer, Ishant, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra. So which one of these four will be sacrificed to accomodate Kumble?

We can safely rule out the first two - dropping even one will imbalance the team and both are currently posing enough questions to the Australian batters with reverse swing. Ideally, it is Mishra who should sit out because he came in to replace an injured Kumble. Now that the captain is fit, Mishra must bide his team before he earns a regular spot in the India test XI. But it was Mishra's 1st innings demolition of the Aussie batting that sealed India's victory. Against a lesser opposition, the selectors might have still overlooked that match wining figures of 7/106. Remember Arun Lal? Even after scoring fifities in either innings of the test, didn't he have to make way for Gavaskar who had opted out of the Kolkata Test against Pakistan in the 1987 series. Mishra may not be comparable to Gavaskar in stature yet the selectors wouldn't want to make a wrong move that can jeopardise India's chances of grabbing back the Border-Gavaskar trophy from the cricket World Champions. India are 1-0 ahead and Mishra was instrumental in that solitary win. If he even comes close to his Bangalore performance in either of the remaining 2 tests, it will be sufficient to finish with a memorable win. That leaves us with just one name.

Indian Spinners - Kumble, Mishra and HarbhajanOver two days still remain before the Delhi match goes live, and the preparation for dropping the Turbanator seems to have already begun. During net practise at the Feroze Shah Kotla yesterday, Harbhajan Singh left the field after bowling just a couple of overs. Later in the day, while answering questions from the media, Dravid said it was because Bhajji had 'slight pain in the toe but nothing serious'. I fear that is just the first episode of a 3-act play which will ultimately result in Bhajji's omission from the Indian cricket team for the Delhi Test.

If Mishra has tormented Australia once, Bhajji has done it many a times before - once through a whole series, and not just with the ball. It is not easy to explain dropping Harbhajan Singh - the spinner is in fine form and the Aussies would be happy not seeing him in the final India XI. That necessitates this 3-act play. First let the media watch Bhajji bowling just 2 overs in the net and then dismiss the first round of questioning, as if to portray that he is fine and will play. In the second act, let the 'injury problem' escalate though still sounding hopeful of a 'recovery in time'. In the final act, make a last moment announcement of his having to sit out so that the on-field action will ensure that the off-field acts don't grab as much media and public attention.

But then, do they have an alternative? Truth causes too many problems, too many questions. A lie will keep everyone happy - Kumble is back as captain, Shashank Manohar gets to present the ornate scroll to Laxman for playing 100 tests, Laxman gets to play his 100th test and the team balance is retained. If India wins as it is likely to, we will all forget this little episode but should things go awry and Kumble fails with the ball, then there might be a 4th act to this play. Again unless Kumble has already been talked to about his retirment plans!


Gagan said...


I think it's new spinner Amit Mishra who will be replaced by Anil Kumble.

Amit Bajaj said...

That is what should ideally happen...as Shane Warne just said Dhoni can captain for the next 10 years and Mishra can bowl for the next 10 but this might be Kumble's last series.

But as I wrote in the article, the Indian cricket think tank may have come up with another alternative..where both can play.