03 January 2007

Jaffer, Kaartick and uncomfortable questions

Jaffer and Kaartick not only cobbled together the best partnership of the series, but they upstaged every Indian opening partnership in South Africa. Ever. The clamour for Gambhir does not seem so loud any more, and Kaartick has a foot in the door now. The tricky stuff is yet to come. Dravid and Chappel need to put an end to the opening conundrum, for once. And to resolve that, they will need to go back to the age-old puzzle: specialist openers, or the best batsmen at your disposal? Answering that is important because the opener question is crucially linked to who makes way for Yuvraj when he announces his fitness.

Jaffer has cornered one opener's slot for himself; that is for sure. However, Jaffer needs to work on his concentration. When he wrestled his way back into the side after years in domestic cricket, he had the reputation of someone who would be able to play the long haul - the big innings. Of course, he does have the double century in Antigua. But as the South African tour has shown, he has a tendency to waft at the ball moving away just short of a length. Even after completing his century, he succumbed in similar fashion. However, since his return he has averaged nine runs more than Sehwag has over the same period. And if that isn't a reason to cement his spot, I don't know what is.

For the other spot, there is a throng. Kaartick has put his hand up, Gambhir is frustrated in the wings, Sehwag is bound to make a massive one somewhere and Uthappa is practically breaking down the door with huge scores for Karnataka. The certain return of Yuvraj Singh and M S Dhoni also needs to be factored in. Once that happens, the middle order will not be able to accomodate Sehwag. And Ganguly will also need to make a big statement somewhere if he has to hold on to that spot for a while.

If I were Dilip Vengsarkar, and if India is to bat a second time in this match, I would watch Kaartick very closely. If I were Dravid, I would be mentally preparing myself to open the innings some time in the near future. But from what we know of Dravid, I am sure he is already prepared. Things will get really really interesting if both Ganguly and Sehwag make a claim for the lower middle order. Hmm.. Kho kho was certainly not Yuvi's sport.