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Test cricket must take precedence

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Test_ODI_T20I_Cricket_India‘I used to write wonderfully…pen on paper. Fountain pen which I liked filling up with blue-black ink every 4 days. Then, I had to resort to using a ballpoint pen, when I went abroad as finding ink to fill my fountain pen’s tank became a wee bit difficult. Now, I type, on my laptop. Just think, frame sentences and type, right away. When I try to hold a fountain pen in my fingers now and put it to paper, my fingers shake, and I struggle to write a good hand.’

These are not my words, but a friend’s. I have somehow retained the habit of writing with a fountain pen first before transferring the same onto a Word Processor. Writing with pen in hand takes me to my roots, attends to them, before tending to the newcomer-branches above the ground. ‘Back to the basics’, as every good cricket coach would advise his wards.

After the great performance in the T20s and the satisfactory one in the ODIs (which revealed the imminent fading away of the taken-for-granted Dhoni-magic), what transpired in Edgbaston and Lord’s can possibly be attributed either to the fact that Root’s Englishmen have stepped up several notches to take on the highly-rated (not overrated) Indians; or that the Indians have succumbed to the pressure of expectations from fans back home in India or simply not had not prepared as hard as they ought to have, or a bit of both.

Those were early days to judge and analyse. When Kohli admitted to having been badly outplayed at Lord’s, I could sense a burning rage in his heart and a determination to strike back and do so in great style – to efface somewhat the ignominy of the 0-2 status. I thought that keeping Pujara out in the first Test was a mistake, but his inclusion in the second Test did not seem to make any difference (though one may wish to sympathise with him for having been run out in the first innings)…and it was a delight to see him in fine fettle again come the 3rd Test.

It is definitely great to see Kohli always leading from the front, and his hunger for runs will keep him doing that…but it must not turn out to be akin to the goose that laid golden eggs. Kohli’s 200 runs in the third Test were decisive and it pains me to think of the fact that he missed out on a ton so narrowly in the first innings. Rahane, the vice-captain, had not been playing like one for a long time now… like Pujara, it was good to see him batting well in Kohli’s company at Trent Bridge.

Murali Vijay has disappointed, and he needs to sit out and stake a claim again. I had wished Dinesh Karthik good luck in another article, but going by how he has messed up the wonderful opportunities he has got in the four innings he had a chance to bat in, Rishabh Pant was a welcome inclusion – and remember, he opened his account in Test cricket with a six and bagged a ‘glove-ful’ behind the stumps.

After the defeats in the first two Tests, a friend of mine said that the patience and the determination of The Wall, to stick on and salvage respect for the team, is being sorely missed in England. Certainly, in the days between the 2nd and 3rd Test matches, Shastri and Co. would have talked about the stalwarts who graced the game in the past and won us laurels in England.

Kohli sustained a sore back after the second Test and exuded silent hope and courage at the Press interview when asked about his back and how it would hinder his batting. And to think that he scored 200 runs in the Third Test!

Others commented that Hardik Pandya is not Kapil Dev when he failed to work a miracle at Lord’s, when India was set a target of 190-odd to get. How Pandya has hit back! He is being groomed and will mature over time…and perhaps turn out to be the Kapil Dev of the 21st century for India.

As far as our bowling goes, Shami and Ishant have been impressive all along, even in the first two Tests. No minus points. It was good to see Ishant coming back with a bang in the first Test….he almost won the Test for India.

Yes, at times the rains make it difficult for batsmen and/or bowlers and/or fielders to perform at their best. This may be the case, going ahead in the series. But seasoned cricketers are aware of that and tailor-making one’s approach to suit the conditions should not be difficult with the services of a good coaching staff. Yes, it is also about listening to and trusting your coaches humbly, modestly. Recall Sachin Tendulkar yearning for a ‘Well-played’ from Mr. Achrekar even when he had established himself as an all-time great.

It is all about an endless pursuit towards a moving target.

Most importantly, Test cricket, the alpha, must not be compromised for the beta (ODIs) and the gamma (T20Is). India needs to defend its numero uno status in Tests and that is much more valuable than their rankings in other forms of the game.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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