Aim for top in Tests too

first_imgIndia are a whitewash away, so to speak, from becoming the top-ranked team in ODIs. This implies, of course, that they have to reverse the trend of recent whitewashes involving India and start winning!A 5-0 result against Sri Lanka in the series that starts today would make Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team top of the pops in ODIs – the first time since 2009. That is not an inconsiderable achievement and in that sense, Dhoni is being unduly modest when he says that this is an opportunity to assess how good his team is.But in a broader perspective, I would dearly hope that this is not the extent of the ambition of the captain, his team, the BCCI and even Indian fans – that is if all these stakeholders still believe Test cricket to be the most challenging and important format in the sport.The limited overs formats are exciting, make no mistake, and India winning the 50-over World Cup last year was a big deal. But it is too well established that the shorter the game, the lesser nuanced it gets; indeed, it becomes more and more of a lottery.T20, therefore, is sometimes exhilarating, but mainly maddeningly topsy-turvy. The 50-over format is far more settled, but it is in the Tests that skills, temperament, tactics and character are put to the sternest examination.Almost every cricketer worth his salt accepts this, but recent trends – where players have forgone Tests for the T20 circuit – also suggest the peril that lies ahead. This is where emphasising and promoting Test cricket becomes so crucial.advertisementI would be happier, therefore, if there was greater talk in Indian cricket circles – and this includes in interviews given by captains, players and BCCI officials – of the need to regain the No.1 Test spot. Alas, too little has been heard on this.If it needs reminding, India was at the top spot in Test cricket last year, but in a little over a year, the team has slumped to the number 5 position. The decline has been rapid and massive enough to invite deep scrutiny – if not drastic action. Sadly, this does not appear to be high on the agenda of Indian cricket.Over the past year, as the team got whitewashed in both England and Australia, there have been more excuses than remedial action. True, Indian cricket is in a transitory phase as BCCI officials are quick to remind us, but that does not mean effort should be lacking to hold on to the top ranking.With Rahul Dravid now retired and some stalwarts either at the end of their careers or coming back after an extended lean trot, the pressure will be on India’s cricketers to show greater determination and ability. What we saw in England and Australia when the going got tough was that the players became soft.I do hope that my perception is wrong. The season ahead is long and daunting. India are to play some of the best teams in the world in Tests – Australia, England, South Africa – not to mention the home series against New Zealand.There can’t be a better opportunity to regain the top spot. But this entails both intent and deep desire among cricketers and the administration. If you ask me, Dhoni’s real task begins after the current series against Sri Lanka – even if India return as the no.1 ODI side.Yuvraj’s comebackYuvraj Singh’s inclusion in the list of 30 probables for the World T20 Championships to be played in Sri Lanka in September has whetted the appetite of cricket fans; I dare say all over the world. Is the dashing allrounder set for an early return to international cricket?Exciting as his return would be and heroic as his battle has been against cancer, I would err on the side of caution where Yuvraj’s comeback is concerned. Medical clearance apart, there is also the issue of match fitness and form on which a player bases his confidence.Yuvraj is still a young man with several years of cricket ahead of him so he need not be rushed back into a situation where he is found wanting, either physically or psychologically. It is important that he gets enough practice, both in the nets and in competitions, to regain the form that made him arguably the best limited overs cricketer in the world.That said, the BCCI has done well to include him the list of probable; that shows faith and is also an incentive.advertisementBut thereshould be no deadline. If his return takes a while longer, it does not matter. What does is that a fighting fit Yuvraj wears the India colours again. What a story that would be!(The writer is a seasoned journalist)last_img

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