The Goldilocks Method

Sorry about the title. Really, I am. But this is an exciting time for the Indian ODI squad: Dravid and Ganguly are out, and it won’t be long before Tendulkar leaves as well and the youngsters can stand up on their own. The bowling order looks complete, but the batting line-up is something else: Sehwag remains forever unpredictable, and the No.3 position — occupied usually by the best in the game (Ponting, Sangakarra, um, Ian Bell?) — is hard to pin down. During the series, the management has tried IK Pathan (silly; he’s a perfect firewall before the tail); Gambhir (better, but still, too early); even Uthappa.

The trouble, as I see it, is Sharma and Yuvraj: the latter comes in a bit too late for my tastes, while Sharma is still a bit of a puzzle. Watching Dhoni move around the pieces reminds me of the Goldilocks story: this batsman is too hot, that one is too cold, and we’re still waiting until everyone feels just right. Not even Tendulkar’s position as opener — a sacred pillar of the ODI squad for so long — is safe anymore.

While I enjoy watching all these players, only one of the new generation leaves me a bit worried. Robin Uthappa impresses with his attitude and temperament, but that initial shuffle he makes across leg stump is just embarrassing. As he moves from right to left, your heart forms a lump in the throat. Unlike Tendulkar, who leaves his backfoot firmly still, Uthappa takes one step back and then his front foot moves forward and to the right. Not only does that leave Uthappa’s head out of line with the ball, but it often leaves his leg stump exposed. [See his LBW dismissal below.]

Again, though, this is what’s so exciting: for the last four or five years, we have watched greatness and its established contours. Rahul Dravid, we knew him and his technique, and while his grappling with bad form over the last half-year provided excellent viewing, it was frustrating because we had already seen his best. That was a question of mental readjustment and the occasional tinkering with technique.

With these boys, however, the molding still goes on. They’re learning and they’re showing, here and there, just what they aspire to be: just right.

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