CHENNAI: It’s that time of the tour when specialists come into the picture. Characters who were in the background or playing less prominent roles will become more visible under lights in colours as the tri-series beginning on Saturday hastens the World Cup countdown.
Considering there are just four new arrivals in the scheme of things and three of them in the squad for the big one, the matter of acclimatisation applies to Ravindra Jadeja, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny and Mohit Sharma. The rest of the 17 had been in Australia with the Test squad. Now, it’s about how the likes of Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma respond in new roles. Axar Patel too will become active after watching the twists and turns of the Tests.
Asked how someone who joins the team in the middle of a tour as one-day specialist settles down, Rohan Gavaskar felt the preparation has to be specific. “Because the pace and bounce on those wickets can take a bit getting accustomed to, you’ve to train according to your role. An opener should practise how to play himself in with one and twos, while a middle-order batsman has to find out how he can look for shots. Given the way the pitches behaved during the Tests, it looks as if bowlers will find it more challenging,” said Gavaskar, who played six matches in the 2003-04 tri-series in Australia after joining the squad after the Tests.
According to the former left-handed batsman who bowled part-time spin, experienced players usually make sure those joining them later don’t feel out of place.
“Such a long tour helps players get used to conditions. The drawback is, it can also make you homesick. The seniors tell you what to do and what to expect. This Indian team has lots of guys who’ve been there for a while. Some of them have had a good series. Their advice and experience should make sure everyone is well prepared. If you get used to the bounce, Australia is a good place for a one-day team like India because bigger grounds make things better for spinners,” added Gavaskar junior.
Most of the one-day specialists are proven performers almost everywhere apart from in Australia, against Australian attacks. MS Dhoni has been the lone one consistent in two one-day tournaments there and for India, it will depend on the combinations they choose and how the cogs fit in. Rohit faces a huge test irrespective of where he bats, while for Raina and Rayudu, it’s about proving they can produce what they do in more familiar places.
What Jadeja does after injury and how Axar handles the opportunity if he gets it are also among sub-plots that will be watched over the next few weeks. Considering he hasn’t played outside the sub-continent, the wind, especially in New Zealand, can be a challenge for Axar.
“Fast bowling remains a concern, but this one-day team has done well almost everywhere. Sometimes, we make too much of conditions. In between two bad Test series in England, they won the Champions Trophy. The role of bowlers in these matches hasn’t been insignificant, even though the batsmen are obviously more talked about. At this stage, it’s about sticking to your strength and despite defeat in the Tests, this team has emerged with a few positives,” felt Gavaskar.
Counting positives after defeat is a typically Indian trait in international cricket. But in this case, such talk seems justified. How they build on them might go a long way in determining what will be talked about after the tri-series.