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Sunil Gavaskar says Rohan Bopanna is proving some things get better with age

This column has to start with a salute to Rohan Bopanna for winning the Men’s Doubles Trophy at the Australian Open and attaining the No. 1 ranking. To do this at the age of 43 is remarkable and once again emphasises that age is just in the mind, and if an individual makes the effort to stay fit and on top of his game as far as preparation, effort, and subsequent recovery protocols are taken care of, then success can be attained at any age. A couple of years earlier, we had seen the super legend Sharath Kamal win the Commonwealth gold medal in table tennis at the age of 40, which once again tells you that anything is possible with hard work and self-belief.

In badminton, look at H.S. Prannoy. Though he is falling just short of the gold medal and winner’s trophy, he is putting younger players to shame. For the winner of 24 tennis Majors, Novak Djokovic, to ask Bopanna if he could play doubles with him is possibly the ultimate tribute to a player who has been largely unsung but has been delivering regularly at the Majors. Well done, Rohan, and more power to your elbow.

Wake-up call

India’s defeat in the first Test [against England in Hyderabad] was a rude eye-opener, and if there’s an honest analysis, they will find that the batters are to blame. On a second-day pitch, instead of cashing in after getting their eye in, they went for the big shots and threw their wickets away. If they had gotten 550, they would have shut the door on England. Some of the shots were just baffling, as they found the lone fielder placed on the boundary precisely for that mishit. Then, when Ollie Pope played one of the finest century innings seen in India, there was a listlessness about the fielding, and it appeared as if the players were going through the motions waiting for something to happen. R. Ashwin continuing to bowl around the wicket when there were follow-through footmarks outside the off-stump created by Mark Wood bowling around the wicket to the two left-handers, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, was also hard to understand. It seems like a negative mindset with the intention of not giving away runs rather than taking wickets. Look at Nathan Lyon, who keeps picking up lots of wickets and bowling over the wicket on the hard pitches of Australia, where there’s not much turn on offer. Even with a lead of 190, more men were saving the boundaries than in catching positions. During England’s last visit to India three years ago, India lost the first Test but managed to make a comeback by winning the next three Tests comfortably. Hopefully, this team will pick themselves up and give their fans plenty of reasons to celebrate.

India certainly didn’t help their cause by playing a T20 series with Afghanistan before a marquee Test series like this one against England. Even if bilateral commitments had to be adhered to, those playing in the Tests should have played a Ranji Trophy game or two, for suddenly changing the mindset from a frenetic format to another less rushed one can take time. The bat speed and the desperation to play a ‘get out of jail’ shot can and do manifest themselves, as we saw with the dismissals in the first innings. Playing in the Ranji would have given the batters some good practice against domestic Indian spinners.

Sadly, tactical schedule planning is absent, and unless there’s a concerted effort to do so, India will keep ending up as the bridesmaid but never the bride, as we have seen over the last few years.

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