IND vs AUS: Sanjay Manjrekar - Don't depend on Cheteshwar Pujara
Batsman-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar insists India's tenacious batting must come good overseas if Virat Kohli & Co need to taste success in the upcoming tour of Australia
Team India's first assignment post the COVID-19-forced break is a tour Down Under, where they will battle it out with the Aussies in four Tests, three ODIs and T20Is. The challenge before them to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy would again boil down to batting, according to India batsman-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar.
During the 2018-19 historic series win, Cheteshwar Pujara (521 runs) was the only batsman to contribute. This time though the team can't depend on just one batsman, warned Manjrekar.
In a chat with mid-day recently, Manjrekar dwelled deep on the pace bowling combination, the wicketkeeper conundrum and what it will take Virat Kohli's men to win the Test series again.
With no crowds this time, do you expect a drop in Virat Kohli's intensity?
Virat is one person who feels of the energy from the crowd. It is both negative as well as positive. He loves the positive energy from the supporters and if there is some kind of haggling or somebody is sledging him on the boundary rope—local fans—then that also spurs him on. So, yes he is one who feeds a lot from the crowd's energy. Having said that, watching this IPL, where there has been hardly anyone at the stadiums, there is more at stake than worrying about the crowd. They know there are millions of people watching especially if it is a marquee series like this. That becomes a true test of the players' work…Virat Kohli's work. I don't think it will make even an iota of difference in his performance, intent and overall intensity.
What should be India's pace bowling combination?
Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini. These are the three seam bowlers if Ishant Sharma [rib injury] is not fit. If Ishant is fit then Saini becomes your reserve bowler. I believe Saini can be almost a like-to-like replacement for Ishant. He is tall and bowls outside the off stump. If he becomes that kind of a bowler…he has a bit of pace in the air which Ishant didn't have.
I believe Saini is perfectly cut out for Test cricket.
Shouldn't Umesh Yadav make the cut if Ishant is injured?
My view of Umesh Yadav is that he is actually a nice partnership breaker in the sub-continental conditions, where the ball can keep a bit low and is quick in the air. But in overseas conditions, I don't think he should be a choice over Saini. Even his track record overseas has not been great to deserve a place.
There is no all-rounder in the Test team...
There is no hard and fast rule that we must have an all-rounder. We must not forget that India won the Test series in Australia without Hardik Pandya. I thought the Indian team looked a lot more balanced because they had pure, specialist batsmen and specialist bowlers. So, there was nobody in the team who could do little bit of this and little bit of that. We had three seamers and one spinner. We also had good six batsmen. It could be a little unfair also on the players who are already there to be left out just because India wants and all-rounder.
Who should be the first-choice wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha or Rishabh Pant?
Wicketkeeping is a very specialised job. If you drop a catch, the batsman is likely to score a triple hundred. Like Graham Gooch was dropped by Kiran More [on 36 at Lord's in 1990] and he went on to score a triple hundred. So the wicketkeeper has to be very good. And I have always maintained that in Test cricket, especially in places like Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand, India's best wicketkeeper should be keeping wickets. And because there will be a lot of fast bowling, he should be good at [keeping wickets] to fast bowlers. And I have no doubt that it should be Wriddhiman Saha. He was injured and that is why Rishabh Pant got a chance. So, Saha should be picked only on the basis of his wicketkeeping and considering India have three very good seamers. The slip catching has improved in the last one year where we have identified who our slip catchers are. Rohit Sharma is adding some value there. And that is why India should also have a good wicketkeeper complementing the slip catchers and the three seamers. My word goes to Saha.
What are the challenges for Team India in defending the trophy?
India's bowling attack is unchanged and it will still have a lot of quality like last time. Cheteshwar Pujara was the one getting runs on the board for India. So, the team cannot depend on just one or two players to get their runs. If India gets two or three reliable batsmen getting runs overseas, India will become the No. 1 team no matter where they play because now they have three world-class seamers at any given time, which India always missed earlier. But the batting is tenacious overseas. In England, the batting let us down. In Australia, Pujara saved the day for us. So, if India bat well, then the series would be very competitive only because Steven Smith and David Warner are back in the Australian team.
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ill become the No. 1 team no matter where they play because now they have three world-class seamers at any given time, which India always missed earlier. But the batting is tenacious overseas. In England, the batting let us down. In Australia, Pujara saved the day for us. So, if India bat well, then the series would be very competitive only because Steven Smith and David Warner are back in the Australian team.
Sony Pictures Sports Network will be the broadcaster of India's tour to Australia
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