Is there more hype than substance about some of India’s emerging cricketers? India ‘A’s 2-1 defeat against the West Indies ‘A’ in the three-match unofficial Test series in the Caribbean does send disturbing signals.
The performance of the Indian batsmen, in particular, has been disappointing if not shocking. If the Indian selectors were searching for replacements for the greats who have already left the scene or would be departing shortly, they would have reasons to feel unhappy.
It is in Test cricket where the Indian batting could be stretched in the days ahead — particularly away from the sub-continent — if the county does not unearth batsmen with the right aptitude for the mentally, technically and physically demanding five-day format.
Smashing the bowlers around on flat decks in the shorter formats and going for fancy sums in player auctions is a very different world from combating spinners on a worsening track on the final day of a Test or taking on a battery of pacemen as they make batsmen smell perfume balls on a fresh wicket.
The youngsters need to handle bounce – the nemesis of many Indian batsmen on foreign tracks – capably.
In the West Indies, only skipper Cheteshwar Pujara showed any kind of consistency, scoring 252 runs in the three matches at 50.40. Pujara guided India to a thrilling two-wicket victory in the first Test at Bridgetown and appears on course for an India comeback.
Schooled in old values, he is someone who possesses the application and the desire to improve his technique and construct major innings for the country in the days to come.
Batsmen, a let down
But then, Rohit Sharma has been particularly disappointing. His 145 runs in three Tests at 24.16 were ordinary returns bereft of consistency. And this inability to make runs constantly has dogged him throughout his career.
On some occasions he plays away from his body with limited or no footwork and tends to play across on others — that has let him down against consistently probing bowling.
In Australia last season, when he was provided time and space to build sizeable innings in the ODIs, Rohit floundered against bounce and movement from an off-stump line.
Interestingly, it was Manoj Tiwari — whispers about him backing away a tad against red hot quick bowling never cease — who emerged with a measure of credit with 182 runs and an average of 30.33 in the three ‘A’ Tests in the Caribbean.
Top-order batsmen Abhinav Mukund (ave. 7.66), Ajinkya Rahane (ave. 10.33) and Shikhar Dhawan (ave. 7.50) were virtual washouts in the series. The case of the left-handed Mukund is ironic since he fared much better as India opener in the Test series in the West Indies in 2011. He has the aptitude for big innings, but seems to be down on confidence.. Shami Ahmed, a bustling paceman from Bengal, made an impression with 13 wickets in three matches at 18.84. Yet, support for him was not always forthcoming.
And the fact that occasional off-spinner Rohit sent down more overs (76) and claimed more wickets (nine) than any specialist India ‘A’ spinner in the series tells a story.