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    October 16, 2008

    Too much of a fuss about the pitch and the captain

    Leading in to the second test at Mohali, I think there's just far too much unnecessary focus on how the pitch will behave, and who India's captain for the game will be.

    Australia have confirmed that Stuart Clark will not play because of an injured elbow and Peter Siddle will debut. In contrast, India seem like in a fair amount of chaos. It isn't immediately apparent if Anil Kumble, who struggled in Australia's second innings (and was off the field for a fair amount of time), will play.

    The question then arises if he is good enough to play, given that the Mohali pitch has historically tended to favour fast bowlers. So, will India be better off picking Munaf Patel, with the obvious implication (assuming that none of the batsmen will can be dropped) that Kumble will be 'rested'?

    My gut feeling is that Kumble isn't the sort of chap who's going to sit out a test match against Australia, with the series at 0-0 and 3 more tests to go. Unless he has a cast on, he will announce himself fit, and we should respect his judgement.

    Kumble bowling at Antigua, 2002After all, if he could bowl, and get Lara out, bandaged, broken jaw and all, then he will definitely play at Mohali.
    I know he hasn't had a poor year so far, but the best part about Kumble is when people write him off, he's back with a bang. Even if he doesn't turn up at Mohali, I fully expect him to take back the captaincy at Delhi and do well.

    There's a lot of talk by Indian commentators as well as Australians about Kumble's performance. The worst part was the NDTV reporter continuously prodding Ricky Ponting about what he thought of Kumble's performance at Bangalore and if the non-performance by a captain would impact the team. It almost sounded as though this was a case of embedded journalism. Perhaps Ponting had marked out for the reporter that questions that he wanted her to ask!

    Ponting then added fuel to the fire by offering to pick India's XI, including Harbhajan and dropping Kumble.

    Maybe this is a good time to point out that after his one-legged century at 'The Oval' in the 2001 Ashes, Steve Waugh averaged 29.3 with one century over the next 16 tests. In fact during those 16 tests, before he scored a century at Sharjah against Pakistan, he averaged 21.6 in 11 tests over a year! He then scored that century in the Sydney Ashes test, where he also got past 10,000 runs. After that, until the end of his career, he averaged 76.6, if you include Bangladesh & Zimbabwe, and 54.6 if you don't!

    In any case, Steve Waugh hasn't been the only Australian captain to have been given a bit of a leeway by the selectors. Over a period of 1.5 years and 10 tests between January 1996 and June 1997, Mark Taylor averaged 18.2, with the bat. Obviously the selectors kept persisting with him, knowing that he was good enough to come out of his bad patch.

    As for the pitch, even if it is the 'traditional' Mohali wicket (explain why a nice bouncy pitch has resulted in 4 draws from 7 tests!), it shouldn't worry India's batsmen, especially since Australia's quick bowling is further weakened by Clark's injury. India's batsmen have actually done better at the bouncier venues, in comparison with pitches where the ball 'stops' on the batsmen. This is mainly because it is difficult to play your shots, and boundaries are harder to come by.

    So, just toss the coin, and let's hope for a great game!

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:47 PM |
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