India news December 8, 2009

Balance and variety took India to No.1 - Kris Srikkanth

Cricinfo staff

Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of the BCCI's selection panel, has attributed India's climb to the top of the Test rankings to their balance and depth with both bat and ball, and their ability to finish off games after gaining the advantage.

Srikkanth said India's batting line-up was the best around, and had displayed a tendency to withstand early setbacks with players down the order stepping up. "This is the best top-seven in the world," Srikkanth told the Hindu. "This line-up has aggressive players such as Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The side also has Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and VVS Laxman who are very solid."

Srikkanth spoke of India's resilience in the Napier Test earlier in the year, when, after following on and losing Virender Sehwag early, they batted close to two full days, losing just four wickets, to save the game and preserve India's lead in the series. "When India began its second innings 314 runs behind New Zealand in the Napier Test last season, the batsmen led by Gambhir and Laxman batted with great resolve to save the Test," he said.

And yet, when the opportunity was there to force a win, like in Chennai against England, where Sehwag set the tone with a blistering 83 and Tendulkar guided India home with a rare fourth-innings century, they took full advantage. "If you had seen the conditions for batting in the fourth innings, it was an incredible chase. The side believes in itself," Srikkanth said.

Srikkanth also lauded M Vijay, the Tamil Nadu opener, who replaced Gautam Gambhir in two Tests, against Australia in Nagpur and Sri Lanka in Mumbai, and impressed with 161 runs, giving Sehwag solid support. "On two occasions in Nagpur against the Australians and here, Vijay has batted really well," he said.

The variety in the bowling attack and the ability to take 20 wickets, even on tracks where assistance was minimal, was another crucial factor in India's success, Srikkanth said. "Everyone said the pitch was flat against Australia at Mohali last year. But Zaheer and Ishant made inroads into the line-up.

"We have variety, right and left-arm bowlers, pace men and spinners in contrasting styles. The pace men have struck telling blows with the new and the old ball. Harbhajan Singh is an experienced campaigner now. Both Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra are promising spinners. You got to give them time."

The contribution of former captains Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, Srikkanth added, was also critical. "The side has been consistent and delivered away from home. We have to acknowledge the contribution of Ganguly, who made the side believe in itself. Someone like Kumble brought great value and commitment to the side."