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Bini Sathyan

The post match ceremony of the 3rd India-Australia test which was scheduled for the evening of the last day of the Test was advanced and took place in the afternoon of the third day’s play. This was due to the sudden and sad demise of Indian cricket due to old age and certain other factors which have come up in the post mortem report.

Even though this was an expected event, things took a sudden turn and impact of the fall from grace was colossal that everything around collapsed and was buried in the blink of an eye in a hot summer afternoon in Perth. The rot that set in at Edgbaston from which time Indian cricket has been living on the edge was finally set to rest in Perth. Skinned alive and left half dead, Indian cricket was bludgeoned and put to death at the WACA. Buried under 22 yards of soil 6 feet down under heaped with shame and disgrace. A black day for Indian cricket.

The chief architect of the collapse and who remained stone cold throughout the turn of events, Dhoni, looked like a man giving a funeral speech at the post match ceremony, even though he did not go on to give a speech per se. He wished that the team had more time to adapt to the harsh conditions of pace and bounce in the fast Australian pitches. Wonder what the team was doing when it reached Australia to get used to these conditions well in advance?

This team of veterans who had built their legendary reputation in Australia and against Australia was still trying to find their feet in the third test. Will they be able to adjust to the conditions if they play a dozen Tests more in the continent? Then BCCI should think of extending the series and in future should keep sufficient number of Tests in the series. This is necessary for getting beaten black and blue in the first few, learning in the next few and giving it back in the last few, that is if they survive to do it.

Clarke, the full grown pup that has matured into a leader and revived his team by leading the fight back from the front, in his speech made it clear what his team’s priorities are. To be the team to beat. To become number one in all three formats. With priorities clearly defined, the Australian cricket board and the team know their direction. And going by their history, they will pick up the right men to execute their plans. BCCI on the other hand is planning for the next IPL. So it is very obvious on the priorities of both the boards. When Clarke says they want to become no.1, he and Cricket Australia means business. BCCI also means business. Only that their businesses are different.

Australia have not just won the series but may have also put an end to a few careers. © Getty Images

It was a shameless and spineless display by the Indian batsmen again barring the determined Kohli this time. The Test was supposed to last 5 days but the Indian batting could not last 5 sessions. The responses and reflexes of the once great batting legends who are in their twilight years seem to have slowed down. The grit and determination to fight it out when they had their backs to the wall has disappeared. Their fighting capabilities would have put lions to shame. Now they are a shame to the nation. The legendary wars that they fought, the lonely battles they waged are all folklore. They scripted legends in time and now its time they write their own epitaphs.

The Indian batsmen made the same mistakes again and again. Their attitude seemed to be casual and careless and was evident in the captain’s batting. The Australians have done their homework well. They planned well and executed clinically. They have found that there is a hole in the wall and they have made it to look bigger. They have created records for Dravid to be the player who was bowled out the most number of times and Sachin the player who was out LBW the most number of times. Their nemesis Laxman has lost his magical touch. Sehwag failed to trouble them. Gauti and Dhoni always made sure that they self-destructed. The tailenders have brought back their old habits of batting is not my responsibility. The lack of application in a team is well evident from the way the tailenders bat. The spirit to fight and the determination to overcome is clearly absent in this team.

And the Australians made the most of the mistakes of the Indian batsmen. The pace brigade of Starc, Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Harris bowled consistently and was ruthless till they saw the back of the last batsman and made sure that the burial was complete. If this was war, then the Indian team has no comeback. Luckily this is a game.

The one man from Australia who simply blew away the game in a session is the pocket dynamite, David Warner who is known as the bull amongst his mates. And boy, what a charge he has made. This charging bull simply ran away with the honors before the amazing Umesh struck at will. The two balls that went through the gates of Ponting and Cowan, a right hander and a left hander, are more than enough to see the quality of his bowling. And Virat Kohli’s performance with the bat has shown the talented fighter in him. These two are definitely part of the future. Other than these positives that India can take away from the match, this Test is better forgotten.

It is time for the most experienced batting greats of India to exit before it is too late. They have to go. The earlier, the better for Indian cricket. Greats become true legends when they exit gracefully and gloriously. If they hang on till they fall from grace and are no longer needed, they become a laughing stock. The legends should be treated with respect. So it is high time the they think about a decent exit.

Maybe it is time for the selectors to think differently. Or the selectors themselves should go if they are not brave enough to think beyond the veterans. The greats might play well and hit a couple of centuries more in the flat Indian pitches or in favourable conditions. In that way they still have a future. But if we are going to persist with them, Indian cricket’s future is bleak. We need to think about the unfriendly pitches in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and the future tours to be played here. Pick up young players who can and send them to survive these harsh conditions. Baptize them with fire. Put them to the lions. Let the fittest survive and we will get a team to beat. The resurrection of Indian cricket lies in the tough decisions that will be taken after the Australian series or may be even before.


Bini Sathyan

Warner bats very much in the mould of a Sehwag. Image: sportinglife.com

David Warner is only five Tests old. In this short span, he has hit a century and another. The second one against India at WACA is the fastest ever to be hit by an opener. And it was completed in a session at the WACA. To hit a century in a session is no mean feat. Something that the greats dream of. The stuff that legends are made of. And it is a rare feat. Warner has announced his arrival in Tests and his stature is growing.

Till a few months ago, he was a Twenty20 hitter, an entertainer who was nowhere in the Test scene. He went around the world playing in T20 leauges entertaining the crowd. The selectors did not have him in the scheme of things. Neither did he have Test cricket in mind. In his own words, he never believed that he could play Test cricket.

All that changed when he was contracted to play in the IPL for the Delhi team which was led by the dashing Virender Sehwag. When Sehwag was a hit in the ODIs, he was also not considered for Tests as the purists felt that his style of play is unsuited for the longer version. But once he was given a chance, he revolutionized and brought entertainment to test cricket batting. Records were rewritten and batting never remained the same again in Tests. It was Viru who instilled in Warner the belief that he would do well in test cricket. Inspired by Sehwag’s words and work, he finally landed up in the Test arena. And the rest as they say is history.

Both the hitting machines shared one thing in common. They both believed in only one thing. The ball is there to be hit and hit hard. The pitch is not a concern, the situation is not a bother and the bowler does not matter. The only thing that mattered was where the ball lands for the fielding team to pick up. They have only one cricket gear, the top gear. So they did not have the confusion of switching it as the situation changed. They go all out from the word go. They try to hit the first ball of the match out of the park. Brought up their centuries with sixes. Lived and died by the sword. And on their day, decimated the opposition in such a way that the destruction was complete and total. They are the weapons of mass destruction in cricket. The similarities do not end. Records fall by the wayside when batting for them is a walk in the park. Sometimes it looks like they are out practicing boundary hitting out in the middle a match.

Though Warner’s debut in Test cricket has coincided with a big slump in form for Viru, for Warner, it is just the beginning. He is an improved version of Viru – faster scoring, farther hitting and better footwork are the improved features in the new version. India’s batting machine reengineered and invented at IPL and launched in Australia with a ‘Made in Australia’ tag. Australians have found a Viru for themselves. A new brand of Test cricket batting belonging to the Viru breed has been launched. The weapon gifted by India is being used against its inventor.

The doubts about the improvement in consistency and longevity can be proved only with time. Such power hitting which can influence the results of 5 day long Tests in a single session is going to be a threat for the Test playing nations and a treat for the fans. These power hitters are definitely going to entertain. India will have to think hard and come out with a better version of Viru to counter the Warner threat. A reloaded version of Viru who can last longer and more often. Or we need to find a newer version. Let’s leave that task to Viru himself.


Bini Sathyan

The Indian caravan consisting of wounded and bloodied gladiators reluctantly moves to Perth, Western Australia. They include centurions, defenders, destroyers, slingers, marauders, specialists, pacers and the lot.

Bruised and wounded, heads hung in shame they must have dragged themselves to the Western part of the large Australian continent. Till some time back they were the most feared men in the dusty bowls of Asia. The East and the West shuddered to face them in their dusty brown backyards south of the great Himalayas and the mightiest of them considered it as the final frontier.

Expect to see a lot of ducking at the WACA. Image: firstpost.com

Everything changed six months ago when they crossed the seas and went to conquer a far away land called England and met some tall Englishmen who were quick and deceived them with fiery balls that swung in and out and thrashed the pulp out of them with the English willow. Defeated in four battles, the Indian gladiators were driven out which also resulted in their fall from grace. Glory lost, they returned to regain some strength by practicing in the dusty bowls against lesser mortals. The overconfident ageing lot, led by a lad known as the Ice Man and guided by some God, now, set their sights Down Under.

The first battle was lost after they had the opponent pinned down. They just could not hold on for long. Where they were expected to hang in and then go for the kill, they offered the jugular instead. In the second battle, initial advantage was gained as the spin of the coin favoured them. But then the quick young pacers hit them hard and they surrendered meekly. No lessons learnt from England.

Two battles in which they could last only eight days and they seem to meet the same fate they suffered at the hands of the Englishmen. Kicked and bounced around in unfamiliar terrain in the first battle only to be beaten black and blue in the second one. Now they have 10 days to redeem their lost pride and regain their lost glory.

But it seems to be a very tough battle ahead. The fight against the opposition will get tougher from here. The enemy has acquired the proportions of Goliath. They are stronger after two victories, the last one better than the first. The invaders are weakened further with the battering given by the local toughnuts. The terrain gets rougher. And as they prepare for the battles ahead they are demoralized even more. The reason is that the battleground is the most treacherous piece of terrain in the whole world. It is danger lurking beneath your feet and stretching out in front of you. Welcome to the WACA. They have got demons to conquer, not just in the 22 yards but the ones lurking in their minds too.

The WACA pitch in Perth is infamous for its treacherous behavior and is considered the fastest and bounciest in the world. This is well documented in history many times when McGrath and Merv Hughes let out their fury and blew away the opposition teams by taking 8 wickets in an innings. Both of them had bedazzled the opposition with a hatrick too. Another example is the jaw rattling pace of the not so courteous Curtly Ambrose. After the fearsome foursome of the West Indies left the arena, they had another fearsome man in Curtly Ambrose and he lived up to his reputation in WACA when he once broke the jaw of a tail ender and in another instance he took 7 wickets in an innings. Then came Mitchell Johnson of Australia who also went on to take 8 wickets in an innings here.

This said about the bowling, this pitch seems to be equally famous for batting. It was here that Lara’s world record of 375 was broken by Mathew Hayden. Another Australian great Gilchrist has created a sensation here by scoring the 2nd fastest test hundred falling just behind the great Viv Richards. South Africa too made history when it achieved victory here against Australia by chasing down 414 which is the second highest run chase in history.

India can take heart from the fact that the last Test that they played here was won by them. It was here that India started the beginning of the end of Australian domination in world cricket by beating them and ending their world record winning streak of 16 Tests. India can also take hope from the fact that Australia had lost their last two Tests here and one of them was to India.

But all this is history. For history to repeat, the unit has to play as a team. Here is a bunch that is in pursuit of individual glory wherever they go. And the Australians are well aware of this.

The scenario does not seem to be different even now. And the Australians know very well to take advantage of this. So they will be looking to go all out at WACA. They are planning to try an all pace attack to hunt down the visitors when they try to redeem themselves. And the Indians have practiced driving well in the go-karting tracks. It will be interesting to see how much this will aid them at WACA. So it will be a battle of a team against 11 individuals. And it will be interesting to see who goes down and under.


 Bini Sathyan

The one moment that will remain etched in memory forever from this Test is the satisfied smile of Ponting after rising from the dirt on completing his century. He runs for a non-existent single, dives into the crease to save his wicket which brings up his hundred. Then he rises from the pitch with mud all over, smiles at himself, smiles once again at his captain and then waves his bat to the stands. For the great batsman that he is, it was literally a rise from the dirt, defying all who bayed for his blood. Ricky Ponting is back.

Clarke ensured it remained his Test by knocking over Tendulkar. © Getty Images

Ricky is a changed Ponting now. We cannot find the aggressiveness in his batting which was his hallmark. The arrogance on his face has given way to a sense of calm. But the true Aussie steely determination underneath could not be hidden by that calm. He simply refused to die away. And what a comeback he has made. 60, 62 and 134 in three innings in two different pitches when the ball swung in and out and where the greats of Indian cricket struggled to make a mark.

He had come in at a time when Australia was in dire straits. Two wickets down for 8 runs. Later he was joined by his captain, Clarke, whom he had nurtured as a pup. Together they rebuilt the innings. They kept things simple. They were careful not to swing at anything that moved away. And dispatched all things that came their way. Soon everything seemed to change. The Australians started to bat with authority. They made the pitch look like a batting beauty. The Indians lost their way. The captain looked lost. He started forgetting basic things like field placements in accordance with who was bowling and to whom. The fielders started chasing balls instead of attacking them. The bowlers lost interest. And India lost the test.

Clarke matured. He knew that his responsibility did not end with his century. He went on and on and on. From century to double to triple and still kept going. And on 329 when many records were in sight he declared the Australian innings. A country obsessed with individual records, we Indians are still wondering why he did that when there was glory awaiting him at each step. Whether they are not fond of individual records, or it is putting team before self or it is their ruthlessness will be a debate which will rage for some time. But Clarke made it clear that his task was to ensure that his team won. And that task was accomplished easily, with the Indians more than willing to surrender meekly.

When many were expecting Tendulkar’s hundredth hundred during the hundredth test at SCG, Clarke came down and played the innings of a lifetime. He joined Ponting when India had the noose around their neck. Then Clarke came up with his epic innings which is the biggest ever score at SCG. And when the little master threatened to create the three figure magic, Indian hopes of another epic innings were crushed by Clarke himself when he came in to bowl and sent back Tendulkar making sure that this will be known as his Test. Now that’s leading from the front. First he resurrected. The he built. Later he towered. And finally he destroyed. And made sure that the SCG belongs to him.

Just like Ponting there was another great Husseya.k.a Mr. Cricket, who also played a superb innings and made sure of his Test place in the team! Mr. Cricket had to do something for survival and he just did not do something. He supported his captain till the end and in the process produced another great innings.

The Indians did not learn from their failure in the last test. They failed not because they are not good. But because they just did not learn. Just like in the first Test, they kept fishing at away moving balls or perished due to lack of patience. The Australians on the other hand showed how to build an innings. After watching three great innings from close quarters for seven sessions, neither were they inspired nor did they learn anything from this. Any hope of an Indian revival if there would be anything was here. Though Sachin and Laxman did look good, it did not matter. As good does not do any good when what is required is something that will better the best. And that did not happen in Sydney. The Indians went down and under.


  Bini Sathyan

If Australia had declared yesterday at end of play and put India to bat in the first session today, the match would have ended in 30 overs. It is a shame we could not bat out 50 overs. Except Sachin, no batsman in the Indian camp looked good. Sachin did not seem to have any major problems and looked very solid in both the innings. It really looks like his century could happen in Australia.

It was all too familiar when the Indian batting surrendered meekly to register their 5th straight away loss. Photo: Pat Scala.

Sehwag was his usual self – he lived and died by the sword. But the other opener, Gambhir seems to be a misfit in the Australian pitches. Either he is not learning from his mistakes or the Indian team coach is not interested in him. He got out in similar fashion to different bowlers in both the innings. Unless he can resist the temptation of sticking out the blade at an angle in the last moment to an away swinging ball, he might not get to play a long innings in this tour. Rahul Dravid did frustrate the bowlers to an extent but did not look comfortable during his stay in both innings. Kohli has got a taste of the Australian pitches, but he being a quick learner, we can expect more from him. Dhoni tried to attack but seemed out of sorts. He is yet to come good in such conditions.The sooner things improve in the batting department, the better for the Indian team.

The bowling that was considered India’s weakness looked promising with Zaheer leading the attack. Umesh and Ishant looked very good. They were just unlucky that they did not get more wickets. Ashwin promised a lot but was unable to deliver in the 2nd innings. He is turning out to be a an all rounder.

What experts considered as the inexperienced bowling attack of Australia easily got the better of the the most experienced batting line up in the world. They seemed to have done their homework very well and had a plan for every batsman. Though it did not work for Sachin, they easily got the better of him by using plan B which was to stop his flow by denying him the strike.

Siddle, Pattinson, Hilfenhaus all looked menacing. If India does not learn from the mistakes and improve, this bowling attack will push them further down the ranking ladder. Pontings determined comeback will only augur well for Australia in this series. Mr. Cricket, Hussey, as usual played his role to perfection. He led the fight back along with ponting. They have found a good anchor in Cowan who before the series was planning to watch the matches from the stands and instead got to watch it from the inside circle.

Warner is a destructive batsman like Sehwag and he almost got going in the 1st innings. But India was lucky that he tried to do too much. With Marsh and Clarke subdued by the Indian bowling, Australia was held back from a big score. But this was not enough to hold them back from winning the Boxing day test and take a 1-0 lead in the series. India’s hope lies in the fact that they have bounced back many times in the past from the initial shocks.