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Durban result - a glitch to overcome

Trevor Chesterfield

Updated: January 13, 2011, 6:08 PM IST
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Mulling India's heavy first defeat in the latest round of limited over internationals begs the question yet again, a need to adjust to foreign pitch conditions.

After all, it was Harbhajan Singh, arguing before the first in the latest round of ODIs began, who said how India had managed to manage to adjust, quite nicely thank you to South Africa's bouncy surfaces. He even suggested it was time for Indian administration to replicate the type of pitches they have faced on this tour.

In support is his captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni adding his worthwhile comment in support. There is a slight difference. Bhajji is talking about Test pitches, where a red ball is involved. In Durban the theory of India getting the curators to get similar surfaces has engendered little excitement and in one case, caustic comment of why emasculate India's bowling strengths by developing conditions so unsuited to Asians.

It is like one of those layered serpentine discussions about selection policy and how the Indian selectors, having moved out of Test mode and are concentrating on the ODI formula and the World Cup, have reshaped the side with youth and flair. It is why all the talk of having bouncy surfaces was just that - talk. Lip surface to the tired Indian formulaic of flat tired pitches.

Yet, pause for a moment, if you would and think of one Dhoni remark which affects the Test as well as the ODI systems.

"Indian are scheduled to play a lot of international cricket this year," Dhoni commented when reflecting on the Harbhajan bouncy pitch prognosis theory. "That is why we should have pool of fast bowlers who can play in rotation and that can save our bowlers from burn out and possible danger of nursing an injury."

Support for this comes from another (unnamed senior player - said to be Zaheer Khan), how it is that Indian pitches should offer more assistance to fast bowlers. It is his view how the modern game is changing and bowling strategies, techniques, and a change is needed

"We played against New Zealand on absolutely flat tracks," he commented. "We should have prepared pitches which are helping to our spinners. We should have won three-nil, adding valuable points to our ranking tally.

"Then we go and tour South Africa, every time they give us fast and bouncy pitches," he said. "The result is not always helpful and why there should be a rethink of the policy."

Kingsmead is usually full of pace and bounce; always giving the seamers and swing bowlers a chance, and as Lonwabo Tsotsobe showed if you have the right bowlers, they will make the most of the conditions. Even one of the world's the best batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, was unsettled by the extra bounce. It happens.

By the time this series is over, the Durban result may be seen as a mere glitch. By then, India, as with most others, will be heavily concentrating on the World Cup and that talk of bouncy pitches will slip out of sight until India are faced with the post CWC11 tours and the arguments of how the batsmen failed to deliver will re-emerge.

It could be said, if Tendulkar was undone by the bounce, how do you expect lesser quality batsmen to deliver in such conditions? Not an easy answer is it.

As India go in search of a squad for the World Cup and the tour of South Africa continues with its end games of ODIs to find the right CWC11 combination, questions will be asked whether this is the best India have for the World Cup. Mindful of course players such as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are being rested for injury reasons.

It is why there is a need to remember the World Cup is not won in the build up to the tournament. Why the results in South Africa - pitch arguments included - is not even going to be a reliable guide, just part of the long-term plan. All anyone needs to do is recall India's 2003 event build up in New Zealand and how those pitches did help in South Africa.

Moving from South Africa back to the subcontinent is going to be different. It also has to be remembered the final team has yet to be named and India, as with most others are looking for the right answers to batting and bowling combinations.

With Sehwag to front up with Tendulkar and Gambhir at three, India's top order is a settled one - as settled as it can be - as they look to rekindle the dreams of lifting the trophy.

At the pre-CWC11 launch in Mumbai, India was the popular early favourite choice of all but Arjuna Ranatunga among the former World Cup captains. Naturally, he suggested Sri Lanka. It was a typical stoical response.

India's mystery middle-order these days is on shaky ground, with doubts about a number seven and the reliance on shaky form suggests nothing is settled. What can be said though, is that it is a long way from Durban to Dhaka when the tournament opens and there is a long way to go to April 2.

First Published: January 13, 2011, 6:08 PM IST

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