September 04, 2015

The perils of looking at Rahane as the new Dravid

Sometime in the mid 2000s, there was a running joke between me and my college roommate that we could next expect Rahul Dravid to open fast bowling for India. Dravid, was at this stage, at the top of his game. He was the captain of team, he played a sort of floating role in the middle order in the one dayers coming in when required, he had kept wickets for an extended period in the past, he opened in Tests in Pakistan to accommodate his former captain Sourav Ganguly and almost broke the record for the highest first wicket stand. There was nothing, it seemed Dravid couldn’t do. More importantly, there seemed to be nothing Dravid was unwilling to do. The recent retirement of Kumar Sangakkara was accompanied by numerous tributes, most of them talking of his constant evolvement and improvement as a batsman. Dravid was another batsman of that generation not hesitant in tinkering with his technique, making small changes over the years and opening up his game in a way international cricketers are often warned against. It is perhaps no coincidence that both Dravid and Sangakkara are deemed as the most cerebral of cricketers of their time, not afraid to introspect, and managing to strike the correct balance in not overcomplicating the game for themselves.

The recent promotion of Ajinkya Rahane to No. 3 made me wonder whether in Rahane, we see the next Dravid. Since he joined the Rajasthan Royals, Rahane has been Dravid’s protégé. His statements in the press seem to cast Dravid in the role of a strong influence and trusted mentor. Much like a young Dravid, Rahane is the picture of earnestness, sincerity and studiousness. In team full of strutting young men, Rahane seems almost diminutive in comparison, given his light physique and a general lack of airs. It almost reminds you of Dravid’s as a quiet accumulator in a team of superstars. His recent stint as captain in Zinbabwe suggests he could be an able deputy to a brasher, more aggressive Kohli, like Dravid was to Ganguly. If his performance in the slips in the test series against Sri Lanka is anything to go by, he is also Dravid’s replacement at first slip. Those are some striking similarities and will have a number of fans salivating at the thought of Rahane taking over the most important role Dravid performed for years, that of a No. 3 Test batsman. But, this is where the similarities must end.

When Rahane emerged on the international scene, the first person he reminded me of was not Dravid, but characteristically opposite and longtime partner, Sourav Ganguly.  Rahane’s strokeplay, particularly his off-driving in the ‘V’ between point and mid-off is strongly reminiscent of Ganguly. He is like a right handed Ganguly, guiding, almost caressing the ball square of cover. Unlike Dravid and now Virat Kohli who get front and across at the slightest opportunity and commit to either the front foot or the back foot fully, Rahane, does not bother with taking giant strides on the front foot, nor does he shift his weight as appreciably when playing off the back foot. Rahane can often afford to do so because, like Ganguly he has great hands.  While this allows him to score at a brisk rate (though he has had some trouble piercing the in-field in the shorter format), it also means that often he is following the ball only with his hands and not his whole body. This makes Rahane particularly susceptible to late swing when the ball is new.

Which also brings us to the questions what an ideal No. 3 batsman should be. The three most successful No. 3 batsmen of recent times were Ponting, Sangakkara and Dravid. The Ian Chappell school of thought (which is the Australian way) posits that a No. 3 batsman must look to dominate. You come in either at the fall of an early wicket, in which case you attack to wrest back the initiative, or you come in after the openers have provided a solid platform for the others to dominate from. Ponting was as perfect a product of this philosophy as we have seen. He had a sound technique, a wide array of strokes and most importantly, he wanted to dictate terms to the bowlers from the word go. Dravid and Sangakkara, on the other hand often fought it out more in the middle, willing to look ugly and get through the tough passages of play injured but alive. Both could dominate in some measure once settled, Sangakkara more so than Dravid. Steven Smith, recently promoted to No. 3, is more in the Ponting mould, however, he has been found technically wanting when the ball is moving early in the innings. Ideally, you want your No.3 to provide the ideal mix of aggression and stability. The best No.3 currently, Hashim Amla provides you with that balance. Be that as it may, if the rest of the batting order is full of attacking batsmen, as was the case with Dravid, logic dictates that you look more for solidity in your No. 3 batsman.

Like the Australian teams that Ponting played, most current teams are opting for an aggressive approach to their cricket, be it India, New Zealand, or England. How India resolves the debate of the one down batsman will say much about the way Virat Kohli and his men want to play their cricket. Notwithstanding his hundred at P Sara Oval, Rahane at present does not seem to have the ideal technique to bat at No. 3 in England or New Zealand. Pujara, who till a year ago, had made the one down spot his own, has been out of form. Some people believe that unless the best batsman in the team is an opener, the best spot for him is No. 3. Like Dravid and Ponting, Kohli believes in leading from the front and had he succeeded in England, we may have seen him giving it a go. While Rahane is definitely a better person than Rohit sharma at No. 3, a Pujara in form, or a Kohli once he is more comfortable with taking up the challenge of the swinging ball, or even K L Rahul, are definitely better suited for the role in the long term. Rahane, given his ability to keep the scoreboard ticking in test matches, and increasingly growing into a leadership role in the team, may be better off with shepherding the lower middle order and the tail at No.5, like VVS Laxman did. 

August 17, 2015

Being fair to Michael

This post was also published on ESPNCricinfo.

As tributes will undoubtedly flow in celebrating Michael Clarke’s achievements as a batsman and a captain, you get the sense that he has hung his boots in anticipation of being pushed out. The cricket establishment is Australia is generally less accommodating than the other big powers, India and England. Tours are not planned to let a start retire at home, nor are MBEs awarded galore after one Ashes victory. We have seen the Australian board effectively transition captaincy from Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting in the past where other cricket boards might have been hesitant is taking strong decisions. In principle, this sounds like a good policy. No player is bigger than the game and one wishes more cricket administrations thought the same. However, in the case of Michael Clarke, the willingness to be rid of him has left a bad taste.

Alastair Cook has been lampooned, MS Dhoni and Shaun Pollock had their detractors, but no international captain barring Sourav Ganguly, has divided opinions like Michael Clarke. Clarke was marked for greatness from an early age. An attacking game, timing to rival Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn, twinkle toes, and solid technique – Clarke’s game had future star written all over on it. Unlike his namesake Hussey, who served an extended apprenticeship in domestic cricket studiously tightening his game every season, Clarke graduated to international cricket early despite modest returns in Sheffield Shield. His first class average was under 40 when he debuted against India in Bangalore. But, if there were any doubts about his ability to score at the top level, his debut century dismissed them conclusively.

More than the runs he scored it was the manner in which he got them that demonstrated his obvious class. In a series which stood out for the strategy of attritional cricket by Australians to deny the Indian batsmen the freedom to score, the tone was ironically set by a very Indian innings played by Clarke. Australian batsmen have traditionally struggled against spinners in the sub-continent. Even those who have come out with flying colours have relied on playing late like Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn, or counted heavily on the sweep with a giant stride outside the crease. The lightning footwork and assured stroke play against Anil Kumble and Harbhajan by this debutant took everyone by complete surprise. While Clarke is widely praised for this innings, most of us fail to note that it was Clarke, and not Hayden, Ponting or Steve Waugh, who played the definitive innings in the only series victory Australia have managed in India in recent decades. Later that season he scored a century on his home debut against New Zealand at Brisbane and it was clear for all to see why Clarke had been spoken of as the future of Australian batting.

As rosy as the start to his career was, Clarke went through his fair share of troubles both on and off the field in the years to come. His propensity to get out right before the end of a session, and failure to perform in critical matches stood against him. More and more, it also became clearer that Clarke’s ‘un-Australian-ness’ was not limited to his on-field comfort in playing spinners but also extended to off-field issues.

In a video interview with Gaurav Kalra, Glenn McGrath provides an entertaining account of the ‘Julios’ and ‘Nerds’ classification in the Australian dressing room. Julios are the pretty boys always concerned with how they look while Nerds don’t really care, as real Australian men don’t. The motif of manliness is a curious one in Australian cricket.  Geoff Lemon, writing for the the Cricket Monthly considers this very Austrian idea of what sporting aggression ought to be. Big moustaches, guzzling pints of beer, incessant abuse at the opponent are synonymous with this manliness. I do not mean to denigrate the brand of cricket Australians play for a number of them have brought great joy to me over the years, but I take issues with the specific things that make many uncomfortable in celebrating their cricketing achievements. I do not see anything wrong with sledging per se, and gamesmanship only makes sports more colorful, but to confuse it with constant hurling of abuse does not do any practitioners of this art any favors. Also, the particular ethos of sledging espoused by the Australians which translates into self righteous anger when other team oversteps the boundaries created by them, is what grates teams and fans from other countries. Alcohol is also a strangely recurrent theme in this mix, be it in the form of the the idea of boys sorting out on-field skirmishes over a bottle of beer, or Shane Warne’s embarrassing chattering about how thirsty the Australian team was after winning the world cup earlier this year. It is no wonder that Clarke’s unwillingness to hang about and have a drink with his mates is supposedly a sore point.

Andrew Symonds called Clarke a great batsman but not a natural leader. In an ironic way, I agree with his assessment. Michael Clarke always felt like an unlikely leader to preside over this culture. He was seen as self-involved, emotionally vulnerable and too glamorous – qualities that did not endear him to the masses.  Virat Kohli has received more than his share of ridicule that come with with being involved with another celebrity. But, even India is more accepting of his relationship with a popular Bollywood actress than Australia was of Clarke’s relationship with a supermodel. Lemon says that for an Australian batsman, being a pretty boy is a crime that only truckloads of runs can absolve. Clarke did that and led his team on the field more ably than his predecessors. If Clarke was another cricketer, his narrative might have been of the guy who scored a string of double hundreds, who battled a broken bone and Morne Morkel to score a hundred, who came back after being retired hurt and scored a hundred mourning the death of his best friend. Along with Mahela Jayawardene, Clarke may have been the captain with most tactical nous in the last two decades. Much as we wish from the game’s leaders, Clarke brought a sense of adventure to test cricket through his imaginative and positive captaincy. Yet to the popular Australian imagination, he did not fit in with their definitions of a hero, to be truly loved. It is in this respect that I feel Clarke has had a bit of a raw deal from his country. To rein in a player for his indiscretions is one thing. But, to be less than fully accepting of him for his differences off the field suggests the hegemony of a culture that leaves little scope for different characters.

To pile on the misery of a neutral Clarke admirer, he decided to embrace the Australian way in the most chest thumping performance by any team in a long time and asked an opponent to get ready for a broken arm. The quest for greatness rests heavy particularly on those marked for greatness. Clarke was often guilty of not being genuine, something you could not fault Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh for, real men who supposedly did not care for what the world thought. To an outsider relying on reports in the media, Clarke was clearly not the most popular among his own men. His man management of Shane Watson, among others leaves a lot to be desired. But, one wonders, how good a captain he might have been had he been accepted more for who he was.

December 26, 2014

Coming around to Kohli

In the last year and a half, I have, whenever I’ve found the opportunity, lamented the departure of the previous generation of Indian cricketers, and my inability to relate to the current crop of players. The definition of what is ‘cool’ in the sport had changed, and Virat Kohli embodied the new, brash and angry face of cricket; a face that I was not able to get on board with. A couple of seasons down the line, I have to admit a grudging admiration for Virat Kohli.

For those of us who grew up on Tendulkar, Dravid and Kumble, Kohli is not our kind of cricketer. He has neither Tendulkar’s grace, nor Dravid’s humility. He is intense and driven, but unlike Dravid and Kumble who were intense in a studious, self-assessing fashion, he is intense in the way you expect people with anger management issues to be. In that sense, there is more of a young Ponting in Kohli than his Indian predecessors. He has a cover drive as imperious as Dravid’s was ornate, or Tendulkar’s was textbook. His game off the pads, while not as pretty as Laxman’s, is equally, if not more effective. When Kohli bats, there is little to fault him, but even of his generation he is not the best talent. Sharma is better to watch, Rahane looks tighter in defense and strokeplay, and Pujara is temperamentally sounder. Yet in past couple of years, Kohli has managed to eclipse all of them by a long stretch.

He is the best one day batsman going around, even better, I daresay, than A B de Villiers. In the last twenty five years or so, we have had two kinds of one day batsmen who have been called great. The first kind were those in the Gilchrist/Sehwag mould. They usually opened, and gave their teams explosive starts. Jayasuriya started this trend, and openers across teams picked up on it. Then there were those in the Yuvraj Singh mould, the great finishers. Michael Bevan was possibly the first great of this kind, and M S Dhoni may be the finest exponent of this skill that we have seen so far. There have, of course, been those who could do both. Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sangakkara, Ponting could all do it; Inzamam was among the best. Kohli has, in last few couple of years, done it more consistently and better than anyone else. He has mastered the art of putting together the perfectly paced innings—he has no obvious weakness in the one-day game; scores at a brisk rate; rotates strike well; his strokeplay has power but is relatively risk-free; and he makes the most of it once he gets going, like great batsmen do. What makes Kohli not just a very good player but a truly dangerous one, is his ability of get into a space where both he and the opposition feel he can do no wrong. And, he has managed to do this with an alarming regularity. This is a skill which goes beyond mere cricketing ability. It has to do with the kind of self-belief most of us can only marvel at.

While Kohli has been an exceptional one day player for some time, he has found the going in test cricket tougher. Perhaps as a result of that, as a spectator, I have found more joy in Kohli’s stint in test cricket than I have in one-day internationals. With so much cricket being played, what gives the game and its players memorability are the narratives woven around them. The story of Virat Kohli—ODI champion—overcoming his initial struggles and growing into test cricket is a more compelling one. After a disappointing debut in West Indies in 2011, he was dropped for a few tests. But since his maiden hundred in Adelaide last time India toured Australia, he has looked better with every tour, barring the terrible time he had against James Anderson in England this year. His century in South Africa in 2013 was a comfort for those of us very aware of the tour being India’s first without Tendulkar in over two decades. For once, Kohli’s celebration on reaching the milestone had more joy than anger. Even his struggles against the moving ball in England this summer, while not pretty to watch, may prove to be a blessing in disguise. Test cricket is meant to be hard and long. The truest test of character is in overcoming adversity and bouncing back from failures. The twin centuries in Adelaide last week were largely chanceless knocks where Kohli played at a plane altogether different from those around him. The responsibility of captaincy seemed to inspire him to produce something special, and he relished every challenge thrown at him by the Australians.

The churlishness that marked him when he was younger seems to be on a tighter leash now. His send off to Chris Rogers in the last test was ugly and, in the context of the game, childish; but such incidents are far and few in between these days. What one liked at the end of this match was his readiness to give credit to the other team where it was due. His press statements are now almost charmingly candid, even self deprecating at times, as evidenced by a most amused Dravid interviewing him after the Adelaide test. As future captain, it is likely he will cross the line once in a while, and will never have the statesmanlike bearing of a Kumble or Steve Waugh. What he has, though, is the air of a man who means business. The chilling stare which his partner receives when Kohli is at the receiving end of a mix up while running between the wickets is now well documented. The aura of Kohli has now successfully grown from that of a brat to one who exudes danger. Most of all, Kohli brings the promise of combative cricket, which raises anticipation in the hearts of those who have followed one dismal overseas tour after another in the last three years.

March 02, 2014

Building a library

Growing up away from home and in residential schools and colleges, one of the things I missed the most was having my own room and bookshelf. Even in law school, while I had a healthy collection of books, there was never enough space to keep them together.

Therefore, I was very keen on having a proper bookshelf once I got my own place.  But the process of getting the ideal bookshelf is not quite a simple as one may think. The kind of bookshelf I want wouldn't fit in the elevator or through the front door. I haven’t come across a design for a bookshelf that can be dismantled that I like yet. My house, a rented two bedroom, came fitted with a large living room cabinet. Seeing as we did not intend to get a television and clearly, the pride of place in any house we lived in should rightfully belong to our books, we converted this cabinet into a bookshelf. This poses a bit of a problem as there is a large space for a television which goes completely wasted. Currently, we have a Christmas tree made of post-its adorning it. Then, there is long rack made of glass, the kind people reserve for their trophies. All the trophies, the very few that we do have, sit in our respective parents’ homes. But the glass shelf means we can only keep judiciously selected books that do not threaten to bring it down. 

Nevertheless, there it is, my first proper bookshelf, a make do one, shared and much fussed over. Sharing a bookshelf can be tricky. What books should sit together is a game of extensive deliberations and even after we come to a decision, constant second guessing. Add to that, the fact that it is a constantly growing collection under the shared belief that at least one tenth of the money one makes must be spent on books. Therefore, every couple of months, we do something we call the Great Reorganisation. We decide what books should continue to be displayed on the cabinet and what should be relegated to the cupboards in our rooms. 

The Vikram Seths and Amitav Ghoshs, our favorite Indian writers whose books we own numerous copies of, have claimed a right to the prime real estate locations, occupying prominent shelves, at least for now. Pooja’s complete collection of the Linguistic Survey of India, the only one ever done, stay together as an imposing presence, red hard bound books in seventeen volumes. Then there also some element of mixing and matching. Some subjects flow thematically into the other while others are bound more by contrast than familiarity. As language enthusiasts, we have literary history, etymology books and Pooja’s collection of books of typography displayed together. It took us some time to figure out the sequence in which we wants the books to sit, and we eventually settled on order of evolutionary progression with typography books (letters) at the top, followed by etymology (words) and finally, literary history (literature). This sense of logic is not consistently adhered to as Gender Studies books share a shelf with Men’s Fashion, the Asimovs sit next to British Humor, and Science and Cookbooks reside together. 

What amazes me more and more is how differently you think of your books, depending on the way they are arranged in your bookshelves. In the earlier arrangements, Ram Guha’s books used to sit together as part of the India collection, but now lies distributed across Sports, History and Politics. An MC Escher sits comfortably in Design, Science or simply, large hard bound books. Fritjof Capra’s Tao of Physics  and The Introduction of Numbers have moved from Philosophy to Math and Science in the last reorganisation. This moving around of books based on a semblance of logic often dictated by whims and fancies ( “Do we have enough books to have a Science shelf? A Science shelf would be cool.”) often changes how you think of your books, in what order you read them and what books you buy next in the desire to fill up or build a shelf. 

For some time now, Pooja has been trying to pitch the idea of arranging the bookshelf by the color of books as an interesting experiment. While the idea sounded abominable to me in the beginning, it has gradually begun to grow on me. A more common and less bizarre way to arrange the books would be chronologically. Anne Fadiman argues if you do have books from across centuries, it will “allow [you] to watch the broad sweep of literature unfold before [your] very eyes.” Another arrangement I read about somewhere spoke of the idea of arranging the bookshelf based on what writers you felt would get along with each other, the kind of delightfully wasteful intellectual exercise that it sounds both tempting and daunting. 

April 28, 2013

Moving on

I had decided to write this piece when Tendulkar retired, however, what with him being out of form in the last one year, this has seemed less and less likely, I think I will get down to it. (I say less and less likely as Tendulkar, much like Gavaskar before him is too conscious of his legacy to not retire on a high) To loosely borrow from Nick Hornby, I fell in love with the game of cricket as a boy much as I was to fall in love with women later. It was a miserable and desperate sort of love, obsessive in its need to love and driven not so much by even a desire to be loved back but by its revelry in a narrative built around torment and heartache, which elevates an otherwise mundane existence to a thrilling albeit self absorbed suspense and high drama.

Growing up as a 90s cricket fan in India was an education in character building and perseverance. The story begins with (and will end with) Sachin. Indian batsmen have traditionally scored heavily in their own backyards. But, it is the overseas knock, often scored in the face of adversity, shoring up one end while the others around you wilt, that separate the men from the boys. Sachin, though was always special, the boy wonder, the slayer of the wily veteran Abdul Qadir at 16, scoring an overseas hundred at 17 and most famously, standing tall in all of his five foot five frame at the chin music haven at 18. The legend of Tendulkar had been established that day in Perth and his subsequent conquests - neutralising Shane Warne at Chennai, the twin centuries at Sharjah, the six over third man off Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup, counter-attacking Dale Steyn in Capetown, the endorsement from the Don himself, and the sheer monstrosity of numbers were just further chapters that crystallized and built on the myth that had been born during his teens. He was consistently at the core of the narrative, Arjuna amongst the Pandavas, the proverbial hero.

The support cast included the much lampooned Anil Kumble. An engineer Bangalore, Kumble was the rare legspinner, never easy on the eye. Not for him was the soaring flight that would draw the batsman out only to be beaten, he couldn't spin the ball square, he bowled mostly straight yet the batsmen continued to miss it such was the precision, subtlety and perseverance of his art. Kumble also understood the value of constant evolution, adding to his repertoire every few years. Dravid and Ganguly joined them a little later. Co-debutantes who could not have been more dissimilar in their approach of the game or the way they played, yet they formed a fine marriage for years. You add Laxman and Sehwag to the mix, men with mercurial talents and oodles of self belief, one a wristy artist, prettier to watch any other cricketer when on song and the other, primitive and uncomplicated in his approach of "see ball, hit ball", and you had the core actors in stories. There were others filling in for supporting roles, Srinath and Prasad, overworked fast bowlers of limited talent, Harbhajan and Yuvraj, young men who never grew up, the highly skilful yet underachieving Zaheer Khan, to name but a few. 

This was not a team with a lot of options. There were no menacing fast bowlers, no bench strength to allow for any degree of rotation to share the workload, no imposing openers till Sehwag turned up. But they won often in India, and managed to compete abroad. They weren't champions, never dominating sides out of the contest, but scrappy men who didn't stand down from the fight like their predecessors. This was also a largely middle class and cultured team. The leadership comprised men from cities, mostly from middle class backgrounds, cerebral men who took pride in their talents but largely underplaying their larger than life status. Importantly, they had lost the gentility which accompanied most Indian teams before, often in awe of the opposition, and expecting to lose. But they did not believe in posturing for the opposition. 

It is both fortunate and unfortunate when the nucleus and the narrative of the team is built entirely around men who are the same age, for they pick up and leave pretty much at the same time. The follower of the game is left slightly unprepared especially when it is accompanied by sudden cultural shifts. The definition of what is cool in sport should change gradually or it makes relatively young people like us feel very old. I can applaud all the talents of Viral Kohli and he is indeed, the future, but the slew of invectives he leaves behind in his trail every time he exits, belongs, for people in my generation, in the playground when you are ten, not on the poster boy of Indian cricket. Similarly, MSD is as cool as they come, in anybody's books, but he is not a real test cricketer. It gets to a point when you don't really know what to root for.

When Sachin retires, my interest in cricket will, I think, become largely academic. I will continue to follow the game but I will lose the sense of obsessive drama that the game has always carried for me. I did not expect to feel quite so old at twenty five.

March 11, 2013

Radheya's feet

Having recently re-watched all of B R Chopra's Mahabharat, I was fairly disappointed with this Doordarshan classic. The performances were wildly over the top, the chief culprits being Mukesh Khanna as the venerable Bhishma unabashedly channeling a very overdone Dilip Kumar, Puneet Issar with his tendency to break into wicked grins and thunderous laughter at every opportunity and Girija Shankar's Dhritarashtra cutting an even sorrier figure than you'd expect. But what bugged me more was that so much of the epic that has a lot of impact was left out of show.

I can understand some of the sideplots like Kachchha-Devayani being edited out, which though terribly interesting do not bear a direct relation to the central plot. But there were several details which added a lot of impact to the main storyline which find no place in the televised series. Yudhisthira's chariot touching the ground after he utters the half-lie, for instance was a defining moment in the build-up of the character of Dharmaraja.

There is another small bit during the game of dice which I have always loved. Draupadi is being humiliated in open court and even Yudhisthira, that most equanimous of men is seething with rage. At that moment his eyes fall on Karna's feet and he struck by the uncanny resemblance they bear to his own mother, Kunti's feet. This immediately calms him down, to his own surprise. It's a beautiful little detail in an otherwise sordid scene.  

March 05, 2013

Where I wax existential about the nature of Test cricket

I haven't written anything cricket in a while. India managed to beat Australia in 3 days and one session. Are we that good or is Australia that bad? And if things continue in the same vein in this series and we win four-zip, what does it prove? Is Australia as rubbish in playing in the sub-continent as India is playing on bouncy pitches with lateral movements? Or is it that the creaking terminators in the Indian team, all but one (he who I have taken a policy decision not to discuss) have been replaced by youth, energy and exuberance? 

Has Ravichandran Ashwin evolved since the drubbing down under or as he claimed back then that he didn't really have a dismal tour, he is doing pretty much the same thing, aside from having inherited something in the vicinity of Laxman's ghost when he plays a back-foot off drive ever since Laxman traded the whites for the blazer and the sublime strokeplay for awkward analysis? Does Australia have truly no replacements for Ponting, Hayden, Langer, McGrath, Lee, not to mention Warne or this generation merely needs to go through what teams (even the Australian ones) routinely did while touring India in the 90s? Can Murali Vijay bat on a seaming Mohali pitch, let alone at WACA or Wanderers?

In a cricket as in life, there are a few near certainties. Cheteshwar Pujara is clearly the cat's whiskers in the current crop young men wearing whites. He is not quite the new Rahul Dravid yet, for one he looks a bit like a snake and is nowhere as pretty nor is his strokeplay as ornate. His hook shot requires some work before he jets off to bouncier foreign shores. But two double hundreds and an average of close to 70 clearly indicate that he is going to be around in that No. 3 spot for some time to come. Ravindra Jadeja is still not much more than a hairdo on any pitch where a flat trajectory won't turn and jump like it does on Indian dustbowls. Plus triple hundreds in the Ranji notwithstanding, we are not convinced he can really bat at the Test level.