The batting order this series will be a pointer to the future
India enters a hectic home season where its strongest flank on own soil — batting — will be under scrutiny. The departure of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman will surely leave the host with a less formidable line-up.
The quality and experience of Dravid and Laxman proved great barrier for opposing sides.
Now India has to rebuild.
This is easier said than done since India struggled to find a worthy replacement for Sourav Ganguly in the middle-order, with Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina displaying flashes of brilliance but not consistency. Virat Kohli, though, finally pulled his weight in the Perth and Adelaide Tests of what was otherwise a disastrous Test series in Australia last season.
With what could be demanding Test series at home against England and Australia looming this season, India will have to get its act right against the Kiwis. In this context, the first Test that begins here on August 23 assumes significance. How India approaches its batting order will be a pointer to the future.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will walk in at the top of the order. Sehwag has expressed a willingness to shift to the middle-order in Tests — this could see Ajinkya Rahane opening with Gambhir — but this scenario is unlikely to unfold in the near future.
It is as a marauding opener who can dent the morale of the new-ball bowlers and power India to rollicking starts that Sehwag is at his most dangerous.
Teams fear him in this role and Sehwag still has it in him to decimate attacks. A middle-order role will diminish this influential batsman.
While India could be tempted to promote the in-form Kohli to the crucial No.3 slot, it would make better sense to have Cheteshwar Pujara taking guard immediately after the openers.
There are shades of Dravid’s methods in Pujara’s batsmanship, and the Saurashtra right-hander should be given a run at one-drop. He values his technique, is a patient accumulator of runs and, schooled in old values, and has this fierce desire to excel in Tests.
Kohli, presently, should follow maestro Sachin Tendulkar in the line-up. While Kohli is an impressive shot-maker, there is a solidity about his methods that is hard to miss.
To his credit, Kohli has managed to make the switches between the various forms of the game rather well.
This pugnacious batsman has a future in Tests and could prove a roadblock at No.5 in case the bowlers make early inroads.
For the No. 6 slot the think-tank will have to choose between Suresh Raina and Subramanium Badrinath.
The selection of Raina will bring a left-hander into the mix. He is also someone who can alter the complexion of a game, at least in the sub-continent.
The freedom with which Raina bats and his range of strokes could enable him disrupt the rhythm of the attack.
Yet, how well he has worked on his shortcomings against short-pitched bowling in the longer format remains to be seen.
In the past he has been opened up; can he get himself into a better side-on position now? Badrinath will provide stability and focus to the side, if not enterprise — a kind of insurance in the event of a collapse.
He can construct an innings and — since he would be surfacing in the late middle-order — could rally with the lower-order and the tail. This was a role Laxman was so good at.
Of course, India will have skipper M.S. Dhoni and his blistering strokes at No.7. At home, Dhoni’s batting is of the game-changing kind.
Clearly, times that are both exciting and testing, await Indian batting.
Keywords: New Zealand's tour of India