Vantage point

Friday, April 16, 2004


It took over a decade, but it tastes sweeter than anything. An overseas series win, that too in Pakistan.

Rahul Dravid's innings was like that of an Australian. By this I mean that he kept getting chances, either from the fielders or the umpires, every 50 runs or so. That does not take anything away from the magnitude of his knock. Imagine, this is his 3rd double ton in the last 9 test matches. In fact, all his centuries this season have gone on to become double centuries. With at least 5-6 years of cricket left in him, I can bet that he will overtake whatever tally of double tons Lara end up ith, and may even have a shot at Bradman's record.

Those who look for dark linings to silver clouds will obviously lambast the 7 catches that went down in the first session. Let these cribbers crib in their "cricketing nirvana". What we need to look at is that this was just a bad session. We have not dropped any catches in Australia, nor in the first two tests, and this has been an outstanding catching unit. Sometimes even the best fielders are entitled to bad days, and that is what we had today. What is important is that the catches didn't cost us much, because our bowlers bowled superbly. Like the Multan declaration issue, we the fans need to get over the catches and look atthe bigger picture - INDIA WON!!!

It was a complete domination by the Indian team, and though the margins of 3-2 and 2-1 give one an impression that it was a close affairs, we all know it was not. Like Australia, we lost only one session while batting. And like Australia, our inability to polish off the tail compounded the damage caused by the one session.

In my view, there are two things the Indian team needs to really work hard on.

One is dismissing the tail. There needs to be a clear cut strategy, different from that applied to the top order. The only Indian bowler I have seen in the past few years, capable to knocking off the tail, is Zaheer Khan, with his accurate bouncers and yorkers. But in his absence, we have almost always had problems with it, unless the opposition tail commits suicide like at Pindi. Other bowlers need to learn this from him.

Another area where we should work hard is the batting approach on seaming tracks. We often suffer collapses on such tracks, and when we don't suffer collapses, it is almost always due to Dravid's resilience. In Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and Yuvraj, we have attacking players who prefer playing off the backfoot. This often leads to collapses like the ones seen in Nw Zealand, Melbourne and Lahore. Tendulkar's defensive approach of late has not really paid off. The Indian team needs to do somethign else. One way out could be that Ganguly come at 4 in such scenarios, if Dravid is dismissed, and play a placid knock. It worked in Australia when he came out at 4 when a wicket fell late in the day.

Spaking of Ganguly, if it comes to choosing between Ganguly and Yuvraj, I would go with Ganguly, even if he was not the captain. This is because Yuvi seems discomfited against good spin bowling, and this discomfiture is more than what Ganguly faces against shortpitched fast bowling. And anyway, like Steve Waugh, I don't think ganguly has been dismissed by the short stuff in test matches. In ODIs, yes, a few times, because he has to play his shots, but as his Aussie tour showed, he can duck and weave if the pacers are pitching it short, with the occasional hook and pull.

Pakistan needs to do a lot. Their batting is in absolute shambles. What is worrisome is their technique appears flawed. What is even more worrisome is that it took an injury to get Asim kamal into the team. The first thing that struck me about him when I saw him during the second test is that his batting style resembles Lara a lot, what with the high backlift and the elegant flourish. But he is also blessed with a good eye and good technique. The calibre of the Pakistani selectors and team management is to be questioned if they can not recognise the promise in this man. Though Yassir Hameed is good to watch, personally I would place Kamal far ahead.

The Pakistani bowling....I have already dwelt upon in a previous post. Imagine a Pakistan attack that can't get any lateral movement. Even Umer Gul, I would like to watch on a flat track before going gaga over.

Another aspect I would like to comment on is commentary. :)

Rameez Raja was his usual wannabe-suave idiotic self.

Dean Jones is one of the better commentators inspite of being an Australian. If Channel Nine had any sense they would fire Bill Lawry and Tony Greig and sign on Deanno.

Michael Slater was decent, but nothing special.

Ian Chappel in the early part of the series was his usual efficient, knowledgeble and witty self. He has also gotten over the grudge he carried for Ganguly.

Sanjay Manjrekar is a genius when it comes to making observations about Tendulkar, but otherwise, he is very tepid. Gimme Shastri anyday.

Robin Jackman was okayish throughout, but he came up with the wisecrack of the series when he said "there is a misfielding epidemic going around, and it is NOT catching!!".

Navjyot Sidhu was his usual irritating self. His duels with Rameez Raja were beyond ridiculous. Sidhu would often make Rameez shut up by pushing him away. Well, someone had to do it. The regrettable fact is that then, Sidhu would start speaking.

All in all, an amazing tour. Can't wait for the Australia-India series.