India Vs. West Indies

There was a time when India Vs. West Indies was a keenly awaited series especially in India. When West Indies team was a champion team and India was just about rising. There was Lara Vs. Tendulkar and West Indian pace attack Vs. Indian spinners.

Sadly this time around there is hardly any hype about the tour. India play 5 ODIs, 3 Tests and 1 T20 in the tour with no other tour matches.

The schedule is tight nd the interest is quite low with many of the Indian tops stars giving this tour a miss. Suresh Raina captains the young Indian ODI and T20 side and most of the youngsters in the team are pushing for their place in the regular side and for them this series is a great opportunity to do that.  New coach Duncan Fletcher will have his task cut-out. Test side would be more regular with stalwarts Dravid and Laxman along with Dhoni and Zaheer returning to the side. Tendulkar will be missed and this will be the 2nd West Indies tour he would be missing after the first one in 2006. Regular opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir will also be missed and Murali Vijay and perhaps Abhinav Mukund can make a strong claim as a backup opener for future tours. Indian pace attack will have a chance to bowl on different pitches than sub-continent to prepare for bigger series ahead. There is plenty to look forward to for the die-hard cricket lovers.

As far as my prediction goes India should win the lone T20 and should win the ODI series at least 4-1, anything less should be considered as a failure. As far as tests goes anything less than 3-0 should not be acceptable to the Indian fans.

Cheteshwar Pujara- The New Big Hope

Finally the call came. Cheteshwar Pujara has been drafted in the team for first test against Australia, beginning 1st week of October, at the expense of Yuvraj Singh. Cheteshwar Pujara, son of former cricketer Arvind Pujara has been waiting in the wings since couple of years now and at 23 he is the new big hope for India in Cricket especially Tests.

In the days of IPL and T20 cricket where hitting every ball out of the park is the fashion and scoring a quick fire 40 is important, the art of patient batting, building an innings, playing strokes and rotating strike is waning day by day. The art of batsman-ship as we all know is not easy to be found, especially amongst the new lot of Indian cricketers.

In Pujara we have a young player who is perfectly suited for the longer format of the game. He has got the technique and the temperament to build innings, play patiently, see out a hostile bowler and concentrate on occupying the crease. He is the new age-Dravid we all are looking forward to. He has played domestic cricket for Saurashtra since last few years and have scored massively, won respect for his team and has won respect amongst the opposition players. When selected to play for India A and emerging players tournament he has been consistently performing with the bat against West Indies, England, Australia and has even shown good leadership skills. In past he has played in Under 19 World Cup as well. His domestic record speaks for itself and his not so successful stint in the IPL with Kolkata Knightriders could be the blessing in disguise, which has allowed him to concentrate on the ‘real’ cricket.

We have seen youngsters such as Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay but none of them have so far cemented their positions in the squad. Raina, who has recently replaced Yuvraj Singh is still a suspect against hostile quick bowling. Rohit Sharma has all the potential but has never converted it to results on field. At this juncture when the senior players like Sachin, Dravid and perhaps Laxman have about couple of more years to give to Indian cricket we need few solid batsman who can take up the roles vacated by the seniors in near future. Pujara is that big hope. Pujara’s talent, ability, temperament shows that he is too good a player to fail at the big stage  but then once can never say that about any player. Pujara is too precious a player for the future of Indian Cricket in long run.

Inclusion of Pujara in the team does not guarantee that he would be in the playing XI, however being in the same dressing room as Sachin, Dravid and Laxman would do a great deal to the youngster and I am positive that given a chance he would prove his mettle.

All the best wishes, Cheteshwar.