Vantage point

Monday, December 29, 2003

Some say that to beat Australia, you need bowlers who can take 20 wickets a match. That is wrong. You need bowlers who can take 40 wickets a match. Every batsman gets a chance early in his innings. Even today, Hayden survived an absolutely plumb LBW appeal very early. If that had been given, who knows what might have happened.

Like everyone says, what is expected from umpires is not perfect decisions. there are bound to be mistakes. However, at times, the umpiring gets a little too bad. At such times, the umpire concerned should think about retirement.

We all are talking about Sachin's poor form. Another person who has been in horrible form is David Shepherd. People who saw the WI-Aus series early this year will remember his atrocious decisions there as well. He seems to hate giving LBWs to batsmen who have a propensity to plonk their front foot forward. This means the entire Aussie team gets a benefit of doubt almost all the time.

India have collapsed a couple of times in this match. Australia, has not been allowed to collapse by the umpire. I recall so many times when immediately after a dismissal, there was a plumb decision turned down. Indian bowlers tend to attack the stumps more than the Australians, as was shown by the Hawkeye stats yesterday. Zaheer and Nehra are left armers who have modelled their bowling loosely on Wasim Akram's. remember the huge number of LBWs he got, and you will know what I mean. Kumble again, is not a big turner of the ball. His main wicket taking deliveries are his flipper and googly, both of which trap the batsman in front. So refuting a chunk of LBWs dries up a major source of wickets for our bowlers. Hayden got 3 reprieves in his first innings century, Waugh got 2 in his 19, and Ponting, hell, don't even get me started. He had got 2 lives in his duck at Adelaide.

What makes me not respect this batting lineup is the extremely high number of lives they get. Very very rarely have I seen them play a chanceless innings like some of the other better batsmen in the world. Which is why, for me, the batsmen of 2003 are Lara and Dravid, not Ponting and Hayden.

So anyway, Aussies rode their luck and won the test match. We did not help the cause, by giving our wickets away most of the time. Our tail reverted back to its usual habits, adding just 8 runs between them in 2 innings. V V S Laxman is one player who rarely uses his pads, and so at the rare occasion when he does use it, he gets into trouble. MacGill got him twice in this test with decent deliveries, but had Laxman played his natural game, he would have let them go.

Credit must also go to the Aussie bowlers. They used the second new ball in the second innings really well, getting it to seam sharply. Dravid and Ganguly fell to this seam movement.

There are, however many positives that have come out of this test.

Our bowling has generally been up to the mark, even though looking at the huge Aussies scores and the rapid runrates, one might laugh at this. But as I said, a few decisions given right, and this attack looks very good.

Saurav Ganguly has added another feather to his battered helmet. He has now silended those who dismissed his Brisbane knock as a fluke saying "now he wont make a big score for a year". His decision to shield Tendulkar shows bigtime guts. When everyone is still not fully convinced about his own form, he took on the Aussie assault in the closing hours of the day. This shows real leadership. He stood up to the Aussies, and wasn't fazed by the situation. His decision was vindicated to a great degree, with him getting a good half century, and Tendulkar scoring an "almost-back-to-form" 44 before he became too ambitious, trying to drive a ball that wasn't quite there to drive. Ganguly's innings should be remembered as one of the bravest gestures made by a captain. Not just bravery, but even the way he was playing was very compact. His feet were moving, his bat was coming down straight, and he was finding gaps in the offside. This man is in form, and mark my words, he will get big scores in the VB series.

Dravid is like the energizer rabbit. He keeps going on and on and on. The Australians have no idea how to get him out. They just keep bowling hoping he makes mistakes. He made a mistake in the first inning on 49, but the second inning delivery was a beauty from Lee. The ball pitched at a length and line, that he had to play at, lest it come back and hit him on the pads in front. But it seamed off the pitch sharply, taking the outside edge. There is very little anyone can do to such a ball. Just like his dismissal at Brisbane , he again was unlucky to get the best ball of the innings. However his form is amazing and it will be interesting to see who has a higher average at retirment, him or Sachin.

Sehwag's first innings was masterful. The Aussies had no reply for him. They did plan his dismissal in the second innings though, having noticed his tendency to scoop the ball to the onside uppishly. But as I said in my last post, i think he has enough brains to figure out what his mistakes are. This is a man who has got 5 centuries in 19 tests, 3 of them away on seaming tracks on the first day of a test match. All the centuries have come in pressure situations against good bowling attacks. We should really stop thinking that we know more about cricketing technique than him. Just because a player scores rapidly, doesn't mean he is another Afridi.

Another big plus from this match was the attitude of Parthiv Patel towards his batting. He seemed to have very little trouble protecting his wicket against the new ball. His duck in the first innings was to a beauty of a delivery, and he couldn't do much about it. But in the second innings, batted with maturity way beyond his 18 years. Playing out the first few balls of an over, trying to get a boundary, and then taking a single off the 4th or 5th ball of the over to shield the lower order. This guys bats better than any Indian wicket-keeper in the last decade or so. And I am not referring just to his talent or technique, which of course is there. I am talking about his attitude of putting a price on his wicket, and staying on top of bowlers. If a bowler glares at you, glare back. Fantastic. And this guy is just 18 years old. This guy is captaincy material. Now if only someone told him to correct his attitude towards keeping. Even there though, the changes required are minor.

Akash Chopra has been batting consistently well on this tour, and had he not been at the short of of a wrong decision stick, he might have played another valuable innings. He did not look troubled by the Aussie bowlers at any stage. In fact what makes this Indian opening pair amazing is the chanceless way in which they open most innings, not like Hayden and Langer riding their luck. Which is why they have outperformed the fancied Aussie pair so far. I think Chopra is a better selection ahead of Ramesh, and once again I must admit that Wright and ganguly made the correct decision by sticking with him despite Ramesh's successes in the tour games.

Anil Kumble. What has gone unnoticed in all this hoopla is his second successive 5 wicket haul abroad. I have been one of his biggest critics, but I must admit my mistake. He has been bowling very well , and even though other may laugh at the 320 plus runs he gave away for those 11 wickets, had the umpiring decisions gone his way, he would have had even better figures. He will be a key man in Sydney. However, he has this tendency to give one loose ball every now and then. One hopes that he shall correct this soon.

On to Sydney now. It will be interesting to see what sort of a pitch we come across there. Lately, Perth has been a paceman's nightmare, and Sydney has been a spinner's bane, contrary to the traditional nature of their pitches. The last time we came to Sydney, it had a green top. Whatever the nature of the pitch is, despite this defeat, I am convinced that the better team is india. Hope the luck with the umpiring decisions changes in the new year.

Here's looking at a series win. All the best, India.