Wicket to Wicket

Be flexible in Tests

Earlier posts: intro , 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 4.5 , 5

Earlier posts: intro, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4.5, 5.
This post is in response purely to the questions raised in this one -- editor.
Start at the boring bottom: work out what has happened to our fielding in the Tests, particularly our close-in cordon, who are the spinners' biggest allies when playing at home.
Our slip cordon has vanished, there is no specialist bat-pad/short legs and the result of that was there for all to see versus England-B in Mumbai.
Specialist opener/bowler may be unfashionable these days but maybe the Test proved specialist close-in fielders are still needed and have to be identified and trained.
When Rahul Dravid, our best first slipper in many years, drops three catches in a day, that's only a bad day. When he drops catches in four out of six innings, that is bad news. The close-in fielding needs work.
Twenty wickets get you wins and on dead, flat tracks, every half-chance you get to take one of those 20 wickets has to be snapped up or you fall too far behind and end up making Shaun Udal and Monty Panesar look like Ramadhin and Valentine or Bedi and Prasanna.
Play five batsmen (hell, play four if the fancy takes you) but always play the best.
To enable this to happen how about “flexibility” used in the long version of the game too?
Your country's top five Test batsmen are not Sehwag, Jaffer, Tendulkar, Dravid and Yuvraj (i.e. Mumbai Test line up and you swap Gambhir in there and that is still not your best); your best five Test bats are Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj.
When you want to play your five best batsmen, then in order to do so, accept that you may have to (to use another trendy catch phrase) "challenge players", maybe Dhoni or Yuvraj or anyone else, by making them open.
At the moment it is "flexibility" in ODIs and "we will play the best men in the best positions" in Tests. Sound principles both but one of them is not working.
By trashing the Indian team's overseas Test wins in England, West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Zim (stronger than they are now) between 2001-2004 to prove unrelated points, we do nothing but take away our own joy.
If the word 'decline' is too upsettting or inaccurate or politically incorrect then let us at least admit the following:
1. In two Tests in 2006 where the series was on the line, we have failed to bat out a day.
2. If Australia came touring tomorrow, we would be toast.
3. Two years ago at this time, you would have not said the same about the Indian Test team.
Call the phenomenon by whatever name you want.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo