Believe it or not MSD debuted in test cricket only in 2005.
Here is another shocker, started his captaincy against NZ only from 2009. He has captained side only for 14 tests. To be honest, he is still very new test captain in my opinion. New test captain, but fair to say veteran captain overall.
Why veteran captain overall? Well, he has won first T20 WC, 2 times IPL winner, champions trophy T20 winner for CSK, and an ODI WC.
That’s 4-5 different types of team, but lead them to victory. Logically, he had filled his cup board with all important trophies for shorter format. If he retires now and after 20 years, people will still remember him as one of the successful captain.
However, he holds very vital role as a test captain at the moment. He hasn’t lost a test series as a captain yet. This is his only 6th series and possibly one of the hardest tour of his career as a captain.
Now, the thing about him as a batsman is … he can easily get ignored at that position. Number 7 is very weird place to bat at in test cricket. People will remember you for your failures more than your success at that position. Another two wicket-keepers come to mind, who have batted under batting line up like India, are Mark Boucher and Adam Gilchrist.
Both batted under lengthy experienced batting line up in their career. There are many reasons that you can’t expect MSD to do what those two have done. Main one is Gilly has played 96 tests. Boucher has played 139 tests. And MSD? only 59 and as a captain 14.
There is huge difference in responsibilities as well. When you compare players and look at who is better, you don’t go by one test to another. You look at whole career span. Consistency. Match situations. Opponents etc.
Look at who MSD is batting under, normally, under Sehwag, Gambhir, RSD, SRT, VVS, a newbie trying to prove as a batsman, and then him. I mean even if you want to bat under them, you rather feel like watching them bat instead. How will you get a credit batting under them? How will you put yourself above them or at least getting close to that class? I mean logically, even if 3 out of 6 promise to bat good and lengthy, game is set. But, test cricket doesn’t work that way, does it? There will be collapse. There will be opportunity, there will be exposure out of no where at any given moment! But my main question is how will you find enjoyment in batting at that position?
And that position is like a barrier between established batsman and tail. Imagine how dynamic that is. Sometimes you will be protected .. and sometimes you have to protect the tail. Sometimes you have to rush for the runs to give target quickly, and sometimes you have to bat out overs with tail to save the test match. It is harder place to bat at than we think, especially, when you are in good test team. Pressure is always there. Something will be always happening in that position. Someone is always at you. Situation will always demand something from you.
So, despite all the pressure and responsibilities, and saying all that, I think MSD somehow needs to start believing like a test batsman. He needs to start enjoying batting in test. I am not saying he is not right now. He needs to start showing strong intent. Start teasing bowlers, up his wicket’s price, improve his technique, if he has to, plan which bowler to attack in initial inning, which to see off, shoulder arms 50 deliveries, if he has to. Grind your inning. Protect tail. Must start to enjoy those things.
I know it’s not easy, as match situation might not allow him to do certain things or lack of exposure against decent bowling attack force him to play his natural attacking game.
I strongly think he needs to start believing that he is very good test batsman. I know he is not. Not experienced enough. But, start believing, start acting that he is. He must start believing that he is as good as RSD, SRT, and VVS.
It may sound weird, but what happens when you start believing that you are as good as mammoths, that will make you to price your wicket. Your mind will force you to stop chasing those juicy good length deliveries in your early innings. If there is a bouncer, you will want to duck when you just step in the middle.
Well of course, you can’t avoid beauties, and will get out with very good deliveries. But, at least you won’t play shocker of a shot, and then walk back to pavilion telling yourself, ‘Meh, they still have to take another 10 wickets’. No. That has to stop. There is nothing wrong with shoulder arming even filth that is bowled at you. Why? because naturally, you are very strong backhand player. It takes you a fraction late to touch a ball. So, must let your eye adjust with pace and bounce. That will compensate for fraction late bottom hand movement.
I mean he, himself, has played some powerful knocks in ODIs, recent being WC final 2011. He has allowed himself to get in the rhythm of aerodynamics then start solving problems. Somehow, I think he hasn’t forced himself consistently like this at test level. Yes, he is new, he is even newer as a captain + batsman + wicketkeeper, but being at 7 he has to step up his enjoyment level.
He must look to bat for longer time. Must use his whatever time he gets. Change your batting style if you have to. It’s not that he doesn’t have skill, he has to respect those skill, needs to evolve technique. I know it’s bit harsh to expect you to become good test batsman and asking you to improve batting at 7. But you must. Team requires you to. And more importantly, when team will go under transition, people will expect from you to take responsibility as a batsman. They aren’t blaming RSD, VVS or SRT, whenever they fail, they will look at your stats. After they are gone, they won’t blame new comers either, they will again blame you to take charge, since you would have played 80 odd tests, by then.
It will be very late at that time. So, time has come to lift your game. Time has come to start enjoying test batting. Especially, if you want to retire as a successful test captain.
I know you can, that’s why I am asking.