Vantage point

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Bangalore Test

This was one of those defeats where the margin looks deceptively high. But if you get right down to it, the match was a lot closer than one would think.

As I have often said, India vs Australia battles are all about out-batting each other. Both sides are filled with talented batsmen who have a penchant for making high scores. When you have so many talented batsmen, more often than not, a bowler relies on either mistakes (the batsman's or the umpires) or producing a really good delivery.

Very few batsmen in either side have a glaring wicket that the bowlers can routinely take advantage of to get their wickets. The two glaring weaknesses I see in the two teamds combines are -

- Justin langer missing the delivery that straightens, and getting hit on the pads (check how much he's been LBW against India)
- Yuvraj Singh not being able to resist poking at deliveries outside the off stump

Other than these two, the rest of the batsmen will get out either to a magic ball, or because of a mistake from themselves or the umpire.

And if the umpire gives any batsman a reprieve, then it easily adds a lot of runs to the tally. If the umpiring is equally bad, then this tends to even out. But at bangalore, like in Melbourne 2003, the umpiring was heavily skewed against India. I am not saying that the umpires hate India or anything. They are just plain bad and unluckily, we were at the receiving end. Anyone who says "they are human, mistakes happen", please explain the following incident -

India's second innings. Dravid is batting with Pathan. Warne bowling. The ball pitches outside leg stump. Dravid gets on the forward defensive, his bat firmly tucked behind his pad.The ball turns, makes a noise as it passes Dravid, causing the Aussies to yell "CATCH IT!!" as the ball goes towards the slips. Hayden, in the slips, dives, but the ball goes wide of him. Dravid looks back, sees the ball is running away towards thirdman. Pathan starts running but Dravid sends him back. Rightly so, as the replays later show, the ball hit Dravid's pads. And in cricket, leg byes aren't awarded if you were not playing a shot. Dravid, like most batsmen aware of this fact, chooses not to take a run. The fielder chasing the ball, looks back, sees Dravid isn't running, and doesn't pursue the ball very aggressively. The ball rolls over the boundary ropes.....and Upmire Bucknor signals four runs!!!!! Dravid is shocked, gestures to the umpire that the ball didn;t hit his bat. But Bucknor insists on awarding India four runs!!!!!

Please explain to me the logic behind doing this, when the batsman himself says he doesn't deserve the runs. The only explanation is that Bucknor is senile and needs to be let out to graze.

Anyway, enough about the umpiring.

I do not believe the Aussies are very well prepared for this tour. Most of them looked very uncomfortable against India's spin duo, and Pathan. here are a few observations I made.

- The victory was achieved only because of brilliant individual performances. There was no real grit shown by the Aussie lower order. Warne's runs in the second innings were more Harbhajan-like and cavalier, than Pathan-like and determined.

- Warne's lacklustre performance, and the ease with which he was handled by everyone shows that he still hasn't learnt from his previous mistakes. In my humble opinion, Warne should stick to just one line, on and slightly outside leg stump, and cut down his turn a bit. When the ball pitches way outside leg stump, Indians can just pad it away. When it pitches on or just outside leg stump, it turns so much that Indians just rock back and cut it. warne's only two successes (the other two were umpiring gifts) of the match, both Laxman, came off deliveries that pitched on the line that I mentioned and turned moderately. If he persists with that line, he will definitely pick up more wickets.

- Adam Gilchrist is a bad captain. His bowling changes have been very uninspired most of the times. If this team is pushed against the wall by a big Indian partnership, they will crumble, like at Adelaide.

A few observations about India -

- Picking Zaheer was a mistake. Agarkar has been successful against the Aussies, and needs to be in the eleven. Like in batting, even in bowling a right-left opening combination is always more effective.

- We need to persist with Chopra, at least for this series. The experiment of promoting Yuvraj to opening should be performed against a weaker team. It succeeded with Sehwag but Yuvraj is not as talented and compact as Sehwag is. Chopra got out to good balls in both innings, while Yuvraj gave his wicket away. Even Patel and Pathan put more price on their wicket.

- The heartening change in the Indian lower order in recent years has been their desire to put a price on their wicket. we do not have Srinaths any more who would tilt their head and just heave the bat.

- This is the third time that Ganguly and Dravid have been involved in this sort of a run out in the last 6 tests. They need to sit down and work this problem out.

So that's that. The next match, I expect India to come back hard, and square the series. Let's see what happens.