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'India must include Laxman for World Cup'
June 28, 2006
If India is keen to pick the hints from the drawn third Test against the West Indies, they need to keep V V S Laxman in the mix for the World Cup. I know his fielding and mobility does not meet everyone's approval but he is too good a batsman to be ignored.
Rahul Dravid could take a leaf out of his own book. He wasn't initially deemed good enough in the limited format of the game but is now one of the mainstays of the team. Laxman too deserves a run.
Laxman played a magnificent knock and his team owes him a debt for bailing them out on that messy fourth morning. India's best were in the hut; the huge chunk of West Indies' run-mountain still needed to be negotiated. And five full sessions remained.
In the overall context, it was a critical stretch of game. We can only ponder if Laxman had failed and the tail not wagged. Then, perhaps then, the follow-on could have been enforced.
Strangely, unlike most of the rest, I am not too critical of Brian Lara's decision to not ask India to bat again. He doesn't have a dynamic set of bowlers. They would have always struggled to get hold of India in the second knock.
However, a target on the final day could have acted as a bait. India, who knows, might have gone for it and West Indies could have found an opening. I am with Lara on this issue.
I guess one could also pick on the field placements but then Lara has always chosen to do it his way. The issue of batsmen dropping shutters and making just 20 runs from 14 overs on the third morning has also riled some. But it was a case of delicate balancing - pushing for runs while still making sure India were not left with too much of time at their disposal.
As I mentioned in the previous column, this set of West Indian batsmen is not incompetent, they are just inconsistent. Most of the top order showed a rich vein of form at Warner Park. Chris Gayle, Daren Ganga, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Runako Morton all came to the party.
Ganga has shown good resolve to recover from the debacles of the first two matches. He has now got the monkey off his back.
The team selection, I guess, would also open a debate.
West Indies had just three frontline bowlers and this must be viewed in the backdrop of home captain pleading for extra ammunition at his disposal.
Who could the selectors have gone for? Daren Powell obviously doesn't meet their approval since it is Tino Best who is talked about as possible induction. I have a feeling it is Powell's personality and not cricket which they sense they can't control. It's the same thing with Wavell Hinds - he has a no-nonsense style and can't be controlled. It is not necessarily they are wrong but just they hold strong views.
India should be happy with the return of Harbhajan Singh. He is a kind of bowler who thrives on extra workload. Since he was coming from a break, he needed to be given a defensive field to start with and then given the attacking set once he had regained his poise and control. India clearly missed him in the first two Tests.
One common thread running through this series has been the extra cushion of protection in batting which the teams have sought. It would convey a defensive mindset since the two sides are not exactly overflowing with bowling talents, except for the honourable exception of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan. Yet, the approach has been to bolster batting.
It primarily has been the reason why no result has still been possible in this series. On all three final days of the three Tests, the last day has held forth some promise. That it has not actually materialized into something definite, must convey a tale about the bowling strengths of the two sides. And of course, about the pitches!
We would have to wait and see if Sabina Park at Kingston can help alter the balance. Bowlers could look better than they actually are on a helpful pitch. India would need to be careful. They could either rue the missed opportunities or regroup and produce the focus required to carry them over.
India's tour of West Indies: The Complete Coverage
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