Vantage point

Friday, November 05, 2004

W(h)ining Aussies

Another illustration of Aussies being bad losers. Another illustration of the Indian media sucking up to the visitors.

Having won the series thanks to a friendly pitch in Nagpur, one would expect the Aussies to show some grace in defeat. But no, they continued with their tradition of whining and blasted the pitch....also throwing in the usual "Warne would've helped us win" comment.

And if you see the interviews on TV, it is the Indian media which is digging out these whines by asking "So what are your thoughts about the pitch?". Did anyone from the Aussie media throw India any lifelines during press conferences down under? No! Why can't the Indian media get over its obsession of white skin?

The most appropriate comment about the pitch came from Geoff Boycott -

Okay, it was a poor pitch for batting, on which the match could not
go the whole distance. But it wasn't a dangerous pitch. No one had to
be given medical attention or taken to the hospital. Those people
saying that this pitch will be reported to the ICC are daft. (The ICC
rules forbid only a pitch that holds the danger of bodily harm to the
batsmen. As long as it is safe, it can be as dusty as hell.) Those
Aussies think all pitches must be the like in their country - flat,
hard, grassy. Well, to hell with what they think. It was the same
pitch for both teams, remember.

Exactly! It was the same pitch. Everyone was saying that it would turn from day one. If everyone knew it, one would like to ask why Australia played three spinners? Why was Clarke's introduction delayed so much? Why wasn't Katich given a bowl?

M/s Buchanan and Ponting are covering up for these errors that they made. Poor selection and poor rotation of bowlers.

Now coming to the pitch itself.

I have always wondered, for years, that how is it that the ultra
bouncy Kingsmead, Gabba or WACA pitches.... where few matches go into
the fourth day, and hardly any teams cross 250... because the pitch
gives exaggerated assistance to fast bowlers... are kosher pitches...
often applauded, and looked at as challenges.

Whereas dusty pitches, or cracked pitches... where few matches go into
the fourth day, and hardly any teams cross 250.... because the pitch
gives exaggerated assistance to spinners.... are supposedly a
"disgrace to the game".

The Wankhede pitch was not good for batting, granted. But was it as bad? I don't think so.

Runs were scored at a good clip by both teams. And the wicket did not get worse, as Manjrekar and Slater said. I think most batsmen, Indian as well as Australians, let the pitch get into their heads. Most dismissals were a result of either excessive caution, or reckless aggression.

It was not a pitch where you saw a lot of unavoidable dismissals. Unavoidable ones are those which you can't do anything about. The ball either stays too low, or bounces too high, or hits a crack and turns where it shouldn't. Only one such dismissal I remember is Kaif's LBW in the first inning, when Gillespie's ball turned as much as an off spinner's.

I am gonna go through all the second innings dismissals of recognised batsmen that I can remember. And I will make a judgement about whether the pitch caused it, or it would have been the same on any other track. Tell me if you agree.

Gambhir - Neither forward nor back, undone by the typical McGrath line, edged one too slips. Was out on any pitch.
Sehwag - Set up beautifully by McGrath, by bowling some aay going deliveries. Padded up, misreading an inswinger. Plumb in front. Again, out on any other pitch, if Sehwag had not played this uncharacteristic shot.
Tendulkar - Slog-sweeping a ball from way outside off stump. Not the perfect shot selection. Pitch might have held up the ball a bit, but not an unavoidable dismissal.
Laxman - Undone by flight, not to the pitch of the ball. Again, not an unavoidable dismissal.
Dravid - Playing forward, ball jumps up, takes his glove. May be classified as semi-unavoidable, because the bounce was too much
Karthik - Poking at a ball, caught brilliantly by Ponting. Again, unavoidable.
Kaif - Padding up to a delivery pitched in line. Never a good idea
Langer - Have seen Langer falling to this line before. Very McGrath-ish line from Zaheer. Poking at it away from his body, edges it to keeper. Could have been avoided.
Ponting - Unsure footwork to spinners. Edged the ball. Dismissal similar to the 2001 dismissals. Still hasn't sorted out issues about facing spinners on the subcontinent...a fact cemented by his failure in Sri Lanka.
Martyn - His dismissal was predicted by Slater on air. Taking an off stump guard, and covering stumps while playing back, was always going to be a risky game. Could not read a Karthik arm-ball. Again, out on any pitch.
Katich - Poking at a ball turning away. Uncertain shot, edged to the slips. Semi-avoidable.
Hayden - His sweep shot had been bottled up because of some canny field placing. The pressure got to him, and got into a very awkward position to sweep. Planted his front foot a little too much forward, lost balance, and played it on. His horrible balance can be judged by the way he fell over. Again, out on any track.
Clarke - Playing back, wanting to cut, did not spot the arm ball, bowled. Out on any track.
Gilchrist - Saw the fielder in the deep, yet slogged, backing himself to clear the field. Didn't happen. This was a shockingly irresponsible dismissal. He could have stayed there and got to the target with just 1's and 2's. Could have made the Indian earn his wicket, like the tail=enders did. Instead threw it away.

Now most of those dismissals would have happened on any other track, if the batsmen had let the demons in the pitch get to their heads. I'm not saying it was a wonderful pitch for batting.... far from it. But it sure was not a 600-run pitch. It was more of a 1000 run pitch, if the batsmen batted with application.

Sachin and Laxman's partnership showed that this was a playable pitch.

This is a victory we as Indians need to be proud of, more so because of the narrow margin. It is an evidence of how well we held our nerve, never letting the aggression flag. At the end of the day, at least in this match, we just handled pressure better than Australia. For this match, let us give full credit to the team.

Oh yes... as Rajk said to me yesterday, all the doubting Toms who say Sachin doesn't play match-winning innings, this was one. The Mumbai test was won by the bowlers, but the opportunity created by Tendulkar.

My judgement on the whole series is that it was a lot more even than the score-line suggests. The luck was with the Aussies, what with the rain at Chennai, and the wicket at Nagpur. But then champion teams make their own luck.

The Aussies bowled very differently this time round, as opposed to 2001 or even earlier this year. Earlier they would only concentrate on the just-outside-off line. In 1999, this line got them a lot of batsmen caught behind the wicket. But by 2001 India had wisened up. So this time, the attack plan was to stick to that line, and every once in a while attack the stumps. And that did us in. Notice how many guys were bowled or LBW.

In this series, out of the 49 (7 X 7) possible recognised-batsmen (including keeper) dismissals for India, 21 were LBW or Bowled. That is about 43%.
In the series in Australia early on, out of the 46 possible recognised-batsmen dismissals, only 9 were LBW or bowled. Just about 20%. Hardly any were dimsissed early on like in this series.
In the 1999-2000 white-washed tour in Australia, out of the 42 possible recognised-batsmen dismissals for India, only 11 were LBW or bowled (out of these, 4 were of the wicketkeeper). That is barely 25%. Most were caught behind, or caught in the slips.
In 2000-2001 in India, out of the possible 42 recognised-batsmen dismissals for India, only 6 were LBW or bowled. That is about 14%.

These stats you a story don't they?

One thing I missed about not watching this match on ESPN-Star was that there was no hawk-eye. With the hawk-eye analysis, you realise which line the bowler bowled to. In the drawn series in Australia ealier, it was interesting how miniscule was the proportion of balls targetted at the stumps.... especially from Bret Lee.

So anyway, I think this new tactic of attacking the stumps paid off. It also helped that most Indian batsmen were out of form. And when you are out of form, you often play down the wrong line in the beginning of your innings. We simpy could not outbat them as a result.

Anyway, let us target South Africa now. Oh yes, before that we have this farce of an Indo-Pak one-dayer on diwali.