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Cricket: Five questions after India vs. Australia, 2nd Test

By Ant Sims 6 March 2013

Usually everybody enjoys laughing at Australia, but at the moment, it feels like laughing over kicking a puppy. They seem utterly clueless, both with the bat and with the way they select their team. After they went down 2-0 in the series against India, ANT SIMS picked five questions to ask – about both teams.

Australia slumped to yet another humbling defeat against India on Tuesday when they lost the second Test by an innings and 135 runs, giving India a 2-0 advantage in the series. It’s been a steep learning curve for Michael Clarke’s men, and the skipper was scathing in his post-match interview.

“This is unacceptable. There will be no rest. They won’t get better sitting on couches,” Clarke said after the match.

Not that anybody thought the Australians would sit around on couches, but it’s not an entirely bad idea: perhaps if they did sit around watching some of the video analysis of their last two Test matches, they would fare better in the next one. It’s not that the Aussies were completely useless, it’s just that they were completely useless at learning from others’ mistakes. So without further ado…

Is Che Pujara the next Rahul Dravid?

The quick answer is no, because to call Pujara the next something or the other is foolish, selfish and robs him of his unique character.  When a great player retires, people far too often flounder in desperation in order to find the carbon copy of the man who left a gaping hole in a team. Instead of looking for a substitute, people look for a replacement. That’s unfair on both players. Pujara is uniquely talented and an incredibly apt batsman. He’s another player who is yet to be properly tested out of the subcontinent – he failed dismally when he played in South Africa in 2010-2011, but he has a good technique, and if he can keep calm and bat on when the going gets tough, India will have a real gem on their hands.

Is Ravi Ashwin underrated?

Ashwin has played just 14 Tests for India and has picked up 81 wickets in that stint at an economy rate of 3.00. Granted, most of those sticks came on the subcontinent – in the only three matches he played away from home, he only managed nine wickets. Still, those are still pretty impressive figures. Yet there seems to be little to no noise made about the spinner. He picked up a five-for in the second innings in this Test, and while he was assisted by a whack of incompetence from the Australian batsmen, Ashwin nonetheless has real spark. He’s just 26 years old, an infant in spinner years, and while his real test will come when India travel to South Africa at the end of the year, ensuring that his talent is fostered and nurtured would serve the powers of Indian cricket well.

Why didn’t Australia play two spinners?

When a team travels to the subcontinent, it is expected that it will turn at some point, even if it’s aided by some mind games. Australia opted to drop Nathan Lyon, who did get a tonking in the first match,  but who is a player with at least some sort of experience. Instead, they brought in Glenn Maxwell to make his debut and partner with Xavier Doherty, who has played just three Tests. It reeks of panic selection from Australia. Lyon’s misfortune against MS Dhoni in the first Test was a freak occurrence, and to drop a player for one bad performance when he is the most experienced of your already paper-thin spin line-up is crazy.

Should Clarke bat at four?

The joke is that Michael Clarke has back issues because he has to carry the team. In both Tests, he’s been tasked with saving face while everybody around him collapses – and batting higher up might save him from having to clean up the mess of a total top order collapse. It would be nice to have the skipper higher up the order, but it won’t serve much purpose if the rest are brainless, nervous and careless. It’s up to the skipper to decide just how much more of the weight of the team he can carry.

A last life for Virender Sehwag?

India has been clinging onto Virender Sehwag for quite some time now. The series hammering which is on the cards might buy him a little bit more time at the top of the order, or the performances of the rest of the side might make his frailties so prevalent that he finally gets the boot for good. Gautam Gambhir was sacked as his opening partner for this series, escorted back to the A-team and responded with a ton. Youngster Ajinkya Rahane has also been pushing for a Test spot for a while, and his first class average is above 60. He might not be a traditional opener, but he could very well be a better option on a player who relies on reputation rather than performance. While India does tend to be cautious when it comes to blooding youngsters in the Test format, Sehwag’s struggles cannot be ignored for much longer, and with a Test series against South Africa round the corner, what better time to test the waters than against an utterly inept Australian side? DM

Photo: India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R) and team coach Duncan Fletcher talk during a cricket practice session in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Amit Dave

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