Champions League is gone and so are some one-dayers… So what? Some exciting test match series is in the offing – that too between the closest possible competitors in the current ICC rankings – i.e. No.1 Australia v/s No.2 South Africa, No.3 India v/s No.5 England and No.7 West Indies v/s No.8 New Zealand. It cannot be any better match, right?
Australia: Since it is a home affair for the Australians, they haven’t announced their squads yet. I doubt if they will think anything different in the batting department, especially the top order. In all probabilities Matthew Hayden will be still around. Since there is no match in Adelaide, I feel that Shane Watson might a chance in place of Nathan Hauritz, at least for the Perth encounter. And I hope to see Andrew Symonds fully recovered in this series.
South Africa: No surprises but as usual the spin department – that neither the South African selectors nor the captain himself ever cared about – is weak. They have two of them but both Paul Harris and Peterson are slow left arm orthodox spinners and hence no variety. And moreover, they may not have the skills that bowlers like Nikki Boje had. No changes in the batting department but where is Andre Nel in their famous pace battery? Did he get injured or something?? Nel and his aggression could have been handy in Australia.
The pre-series press encounters have started already and this time, for a change, between the coaches.
India: Yuvraj Singh coming back to the test side is the big news and RP Singh, who seems to be captain’s favorite, is out. The spin department looks versatile and with a lot of options. Pragyan Ojha gets a chance and Amit Mishra is retained as well. But I thought Piyush Chawla would have been a better choice with his batting abilities as well. Batting line up has not been changed except for the retired Ganguly. Rahul Dravid has been given more time and it is a sensible act. Another good decision is not to drop M. Vijay who showcased exceptional temperament in the series against Australia. If it was for the old selection panel, they would have probably dropped him by now. Badarinath, though not so convincing yet in the international arena, gets blessings from the selection committee chairman! The pace team looks good as well without any change. However, I wonder whatever happened to S.Sreesanth? Is he permanently out of the team due to his on and off field heroics or is it genuine injury and lack of match fitness? India’s test team looks really strong and versatile right now!
England: I doubt if England will do anything good in this test series mainly because of their batting line up. Except for Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Alistair Cook, their batting line up looks very weak. As for bowling, Panesar should add the required punch especially under the Indian conditions. Pace bowling would have been great if Ryan Sidebottom was in and Harmison was doing a good job. So Indian, especially under the Indian conditions, should be going for a kill in this series.
West Indies & New Zealand: Unfortunately both New Zealand and West Indies do not have quality batting line up to excel in test matches. The New Zealand team can be a good one day side but they need to figure out what it takes to build a test team. With some experienced players still around, the West Indian team may look better in the batting. But in the bowling department the New Zealand pacemen and Vettori together may do a better job than WI. This series still can be a close encounter – that between two under-prepared teams.
Looking forward to an exciting test season!