What India should do, writes Ian Chappell
Over the next few months the fate of Australia, India and England is entwined. India is currently playing England, that will be followed by Australia facing India and then there’s an Ashes series. All enticing series and as the teams stand at the moment, England is on the rise, while Australia’s treading water and India is regressing. Australia and India are in different stages of a rebuilding process and with varied reserve stocks.
India is the team with the major headaches; they need to begin a revitalisation process with a change of leadership and a fond farewell to a champion batsman. This is going to take a large dose of selection courage and so far that’s been as rare in Indian cricket as sightings of the Lochness Monster.
The big stumbling block to India beginning the renewal process is Sachin Tendulkar. While everyone waits with baited breath to see what he’ll do, the team is stagnating; the issue has become “will he or won’t he” instead of being “will they or won’t they”. What is needed is bold leadership with the focus on India winning Test matches.
India is fortunate
It’s time to say thanks to Tendulkar for providing a glorious era and then concentrate on forging a new group of successful players who produce an exciting brand of cricket. India is fortunate; it’s not without talent in both batting and spin bowling and their major concern is bowlers of genuine pace.
Australia on the other hand has a plethora of young pace bowlers but the problem is how to keep those talented quickies on the park. Australia also needs to repair a system that used to routinely produce exciting young batsmen but now churns out a production line of aging (in cricket terms) debutants. Surprisingly, after years of basking in the glory of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, there are very few wrist-spin imitators and an art in which Australia once dominated is now as desolate as the country’s red centre.
Where Australia was a leader when it came to producing and picking bold young cricketers we now have a system that replicates the outdated one England appears to have discarded. The most pressing need for Australia is to get the team and in particular the batting line-up settled quickly so they’re in good shape by the time the Ashes series commences. This will require the selection-juggling act of choosing sides to win in the present but to also accommodate future requirements.
KP made a difference
England on the other hand has displayed a boldness that was missing from their cricket for much of their lean years. From the time they chose a dashing young Kevin Pietersen for the 2005 Ashes series instead of plumping for an aging stalwart in Graham Thorpe, England has been on the rise. That trend is continuing with the introduction of a determined young Joe Root into a crucial Test match in India.
However, England does have one major problem; they need to unearth a fast bowling all-rounder to occupy the six or seven batting spot so they can retain the deadly spin combination of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. This pair has the capacity to be the modern version of Jim Laker and Tony Lock for England and every stone should be overturned in order to ensure they can work as a pair rather than as single entities. One obvious option is the return of Stuart Broad to full fitness with a stronger focus on his batting.
In the light of their recent selection boldness they may want to take a look at a potential candidate lurking in the England Under-19 team that played in the recent World Cup. One half of talented twins, Craig Overton bowls at a lively pace, hits the pitch hard and is a top-class slip-fielder. Currently his batting lags behind the rest of his game and is well short of Test standard but given the opportunity he could rise quickly. There are potentially exciting times ahead for all three teams and their progress will be followed with interest. The most likely ingredient for immediate success will be boldness and surprisingly, England currently leads the way in that regard.