GenNext steps out of the shadows of giants

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The younger generation stepping out of the shadow of the seniors is the real positive development to emerge in the first Test of the revenge series against England which Team India won comprehensively. The names are by no means new but they are still representatives of GenNext. While Cheteshwar Pujara showed sufficient appetite for the big innings to take the match award, the other player in the running for the prize, Pragyan Ojha, emerged a match winner in his own right.
While Sehwag in association with Gambhir laid the foundation for a sound Indian performance that is only to be expected in home conditions, the rest of the match was dominated by Pujara in his maiden double century and Ojha who showed what a mature performer he has become. Adding a twist to the tale was the resistance put up by Alastair Cook in his class act that was in the league of great performances by left-handers in India like Andy Flower, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in most recent times. Once India got past Cook the result most indicated before the match was sighted. That he was able to induce some doubts about England being able to force a draw went to the credit of the visiting captain. However, the signs seen towards the end as India's young batsmen played on a fifth day pitch, the prospect of a whitewash looms, especially since Dhoni's call for stark turners is bound to have ready takers. Pitches will, however, slow down a bit in Mumbai and Kolkata and the spinners will find the conditions more challenging as the matches wear on.
Where Ojha took a step ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin was in bowling so well as the wicket got slower. By bowling a fuller length close to the batsmen he was able to get them to play shots with the hope of inducing the mishit or beat their defence when they stayed back as Cook did. Ashwin may have been unlucky to see a stumping missed off him but he would need to study the length to bowl to if he is to retain his impact as the major spinner of the side. Given his academic approach to the art of bowling, Ashwin will only be wiser by the experience.
India got the bowling combination perfectly right with Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav supporting the spin duo. Yadav was most impressive as he bent his back to get his wickets with speedy reverse swing while the clever Zaheer worked the angles by using the width of the crease. These are lessons the England pacers must pick up quickly if they are to have any effect on the series. With the quickest of them, Steve Finn, now ruled out of the second Test, England bowlers have an awful lot to do to streamline themselves for the conditions.
India's batting problems may have been left behind in England and Australia. In the given conditions, their armoury of seven specialists plus Ashwin should be sufficient, particularly since the young duo of Pujara and Kohli are likely to be the most consistent performers in the series. Their approach to batting against the spin of Graeme Swann, to be bolstered by the presence of Monty Panesar in the rest of the series, was a throwback to days of yore in which wristy Indian batsmen dominated proceedings with a silken touch to positive strokes and a certainty to the defence.
The domination of home teams is by no means a new phenomenon although figures seem to suggest it is getting more prominent in the new millennium.
South Africa are the only team bucking the trend as they remain unbeaten away from home in the last six years.
England may have conquered Australia in the Ashes but Asia remains their biggest bugbear.

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