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India v South Africa: A Series Pregnant With Young Promise

Match 1 of the series in Ireland showed us what we know already:
  • Sachin Tendulkar can still score runs and the best-before date on his career is yet to arrive.
  • Rahul Dravid is as fine a batsman as any in the modern era.
  • Gautam Gambhir has not furnished any evidence to refute his reputation as a flat-track-bully.
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs to be in the mix for Team India to score heavily in the final overs.
  • Yuvraj Singh needs to find some form, quick fast.
  • Zaheer Khan and Ramesh Powar are the only bowlers that really understand their limitations.
This series is an opportunity to learn more about the newer members of Team India. They should we given every opportunity to prove Dilip Vengsarkar has not a clue of what he speaks.

For all the questions about the validity of the decision to send Piyush Chawla and Rohit Sharma on this tour, the fact remains that it is in Indian cricket's best interests to ensure that they succeed. All the better, if this success is achieved in alien and somewhat difficult conditions like those faced by Team India in Ireland.

There is no point to batting Rohit Sharma at number six where he is on a hiding-to-nothing whether the batsmen before him have scored heavily or whether the team is in real trouble when he comes in to bat. Being an aggressive batsman does not imply that he has the ability to slog at will.

As X opined while watching the match, the time is ripe for Sharma to be promoted up the order to three or four, hence, allowing him the opportunity to build an innings of substance, and more importantly, build his confidence. If that means one of Gautam Gambhir or Sourav Ganguly is dropped and a fifth bowler introduced, so be it. The gains made from the revelation of a confident and successful Sharma will far outweigh any knocks to Gambhir or Ganguly's ego.

It was also heartening to see Rahul Dravid's show of confidence in Piyush Chawla. Admittedly, the South Africans are probably nearer the bottom of the table when it comes to playing spin bowling - regardless of its quality.

Having said that, the success of the Indian attack in the years to come is highly dependent on the grooming of a quality and consistent spin bowling combination. As much as Anil Kumble was admired for passing on his know-how to young spinners, Ramesh Powar can play a similar role with Chawla. Powar has been around for a while now and seems to understand himself and his game. Working in tandem with grounded and diligent (as opposed to freakishly talented) players such as Powar will open Chawla's world to lessons and experiences he would not otherwise be exposed to.

It is a shame that Manoj Tiwary sustained his shoulder injury in Bangladesh and Suresh Raina is out of form. For, had they been available, India would have had the chance to blood four players from the next generation who seem to have the raw talent and temperament that could make them successful on the big stage.

It is up to Dravid and his lieutenants to make the most of this aptly titled "Future" series. Instilling a hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs attitude in the junior ranks will pay rich dividends in future. It is a chance for Dravid to craft his own team and his own legacy, just as Ganguly and John Wright did at the dawn of the century.

We must wait with bated breath to see if Dravid takes up the challenge to turn young promise into future match-winners.

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