Vantage point

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Mohali Test

Finally it all fell apart for England. The scrappiness which saw them dominate the first test and stage a valiant comeback in the first innings reducing India to 150 odd for 5 despite being a depleted side finally gave way. A team can go only so far on pure spirit alone, as England discovered. And when the worm turns and the dice starts throwing up wrong numbers, it all unravels. Which is exactly what happened after that stage. India rode their luck to post a lead, and then their bowlers struck form. Kumble was back to his baffling best and Munaf Patel did what very few Indian pacemen are known to do - grab an opportunity with both hands.

This match saw test cricket very close to its best because we saw wickets being earned and not given away. Be it England's bounce or India's guile, the bowlers showed their skills. It is only towards the end that ENgland seemed to have given up completely that the game became "easy". An exhausted England decided to give in without a fight, but in doing so they didn't realise they were making a mistake which could haunt them at Mumbai. They allowed Sehwag to roar back into form. When the dude gets going, he keeps going. Ask Pakistan! Another cheap dismissal would have seen him go into Wankhede a tad worried. Now his swagger will be back and with Jaffer proving that he is "ready" for test cricket, the two can lay an excellent foundation for a huge total.

All's not well with India either. One burning question that will be swept aside in the euphoria of this win - Is there any thought being given to the five bowler strategy? It is all well picking five bowlers. But if you don't utilise them well, then you are just effectively sacrificing a batsman and going in with 10 players. Kumble bowled almost 60 overs in the match. Harbhajan bowled 35. How many did Chawla bowl? Just 14! Why pick him at all then? Sehwag, Sachin and Yuvraj could have combined to bowl 14 overs in the match. It's not just about the number of overs given to Chawla. It was the way the bowlers were rotated. It did not seem like the captain really wanted to bowl the fifth guy.

And it's not like all four were doing well. Harbhajan Singh was as benign as an empty cartridge. The only wicket he got was thanks to an umpiring error. And yet Dravid persisted with him for 35 overs. Hardly any attempt was made to give Chawla an extended run. It's almost like Dravid didn't trust Chawla. He would rather bowl a toothless out of form clueless confused bolwer like Bhajji.

The Indian team nees to think their tactics through. This time we got away with effectively fielding just 10 players. We might not be this lucky every time.