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    October 13, 2008

    A great advertisement for test cricket, if you can excuse a few things

    The Bangalore test was superb to follow, regardless of your cricket affiliations. It was a fairly low-scoring game. The balance swung so often (more often in favour of Australia). As late as the last hour, Australia were still in with a chance before bad light ensured there was going to be only one result.

    It would have been awesome (for cricket, not necessarily for the Indian team & its supporters) had both teams agreed to use floodlights when the light conditions were poor. I don't understand why teams need to agree about these things. Why can't the ICC impose these rules by making them part of the standard playing conditions? As long as the playing venue has floodlights (regardless of the availability/quality of lights at other venues hosting games in the series), the umpires must be empowered to have them switched on. If test cricket is to survive, anachronistic aspects of the game such as tea breaks or bad light must go!

    While ideally both teams would have dearly wanted a win, I guess they'll both take a draw. Australia were touted by many as being the underdogs, but like I pointed out, that can never be the case. It is actually funny how this 'inexperience' excuse works. When Lee, Johnson, Clark & co. have never played a test in India, they're inexperienced. But when you stack it up against all the years (5 for Lee, 8 for Clark, 5 for Watson & 5 for Johnson) they've spent playing in TSFCCCITU before being picked for Australia, that inexperience disappears.

    Australia's only problem was going to be spin, and despite White picking up his first test wicket, the questions will persist. He bowled 18 overs on the last day only because Clark was not fully fit, and the light situation meant the umpires would have offered the light multiple times if quicks were operating. While he did biff the ball around in the second innings when Australia were going for quick runs, he didn't offer too much hope. As a package, I guess he's better than Krejza. Unless he disgraces himself at Mohali, he will play all four tests, if only to have some sort of balance in the bowling department because Clarke may not be able to bowl 20 overs every innings.

    Australia's batting is in much better shape, despite Hayden and Clarke failing twice. Haddin's horror show behind the stumps will be put down to the vagaries of the pitch.

    India's problem before the test was the aging middle order. Despite not having any big score (Dravid's 51 was the highest of the lot), all of them got some crucial runs. The first innings middle-order collapse was shocking though - going from 70/0 to 106/4 & 155/5. Sehwag and Gambhir frustrated everyone as usual, putting on a 50-stand and not quite going on either individually or as a partnership. The main problem in the batting is Dhoni. He pottered around for 51 balls and made 9. It'd have been interesting to see his batting approach if he'd come out to bat today. His batting average has been stuck between 33 and 35 for nearly a year now. The last time his batting significantly impacted the result of a game was the Lord's draw in 2007. After that, he did try and save the Sydney test but ended up using a periscope rather than a bat and forged a valuable partnership with Pathan at Perth. Barring these two, he's largely been anonymous. In fact, the more surprising aspect of his batting is the strike rate. If you considered his fastest innings (of say 25 or more) the only inning from 2008 was against South Africa at Kanpur, and his innings strike rate was marginally less than 60.

    We've seen him change his batting style in one-dayers over the past 2-3 years. Even as the strike rate has gone from 100 to 80, his average has increased from 40 to 60. Is he unable to adapt to test cricket? Can he actually handle his job of wicket-keeper batsman? Given he is the vice-captain, are we to assume he will become the test captain after Kumble? At this point in time, I hope not. Someone like Sehwag, who returned after a post-World Cup 2007 cleanup, and is now a regular, would be a better option if Dhoni doesn't do anything of note soon.

    He's definitely a very safe keeper. Barring dropping Hussey, he kept well throughout the game. Overall, you don't remember too many of his bad wicket-keeping days. But is 9(51) what the side wants from him? There's no chance of him being dropped. I'd really love him to change his batting style. In one-dayers, he typically waits for 20 balls and then starts hitting the boundaries. Why can't he do something similar in tests? Well, if not the boundaries, he can start taking singles for starters!

    Harbhajan was bad on the first day and ranged between good & very good on other days. Zaheer and Ishant were very good. It isn't too often that two Indian quicks share 9 wickets. There've only been 3 other instances this decade and 7 others overall, including the unlikely pairing of Madan Lal & Mohinder Amarnath against New Zealand in 1976! Interestingly enough, it is the first time this is happening at home. In 2001, Zaheer and Venkatesh Prasad got 9 at Kandy against Sri Lanka. In 2005, when Zaheer & Pathan got 9 when India beat Zimbabwe while internally self-destructing thanks to the Greg-Sourav war. Last year at Lord's, Zaheer & RP Singh got 9.

    The elephant in the house is Kumble. He has been below average for nearly a year now (bowling avg. 52 & strike rate 100 from 9 tests this year, last 5 wicket haul was 10 tests ago). India can't afford to carry a passenger. He really needs to get himself sorted out before Mohali, assuming he plays.

    Just as I wrote last week, the lower order batting has impacted the result of this game. It remains to be seen if any of the top order batsmen have an impact. I believe that Hussey's inning was more significant for Australia than Ponting's, because he got them to 430 instead of 350. The game may have developed totally differently if Australia had been dismissed for 350. I also think Ponting should have declared overnight. The target (264) was already stiff. The overall runrate in the test had been around 3 an over, so it would have given Ponting more time to force a result, given India's propensity to screw up 4th innings chases of over 200. If India Sehwag had got off to a good start, the option to use the sweeper cover & other defensive fielding positions was always going to be there.

    I suspect that Australia will be more disappointed than India.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:48 PM |
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    1 sledge(s):

    The last two test between Aussies and India have ended in a draw.
    In both matches Ponting has scored 100s.
    Aussies outght to be disappointed more.
    They scrwed up more than India is, less than 300 on the first day and not cleaning the tail swiftly enough.

    Indians would be thanking their stars

    By Blogger Tarun (14-Oct-2008, 2:22:00 AM)  

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