Archive for the ‘Australia in India 2013’ Category

Shridhar Pandey

You might have already come across a bunch of notes and articles about Shikhar Dhawan and his debut innings in the print media and many more floating all over the internet. He was also trending on Twitter for quite some time while he was batting on Day 3 of the third Test between India and Australia. When you come to think of it, it does not really sound like exaggeration at all; such was the class of that innings which is yet to conclude. It kept me up all night (owing to the huge time difference between India and USA). So I won’t be unjustified in putting together my thoughts about it in a few lines.

Alright, it was a Test hundred on debut, the fastest one at that. But what really makes it even more special is the manner in which those runs were scored. Shikhar Dhawan almost nonchalantly raced to his Tirst test ton at more than run-a-ball (85 balls to be more accurate) and in the process, breaking the previous record of 105 balls for a debut test century. Hardly did he hit anything in the air till he was there. He did hit a couple of lofted shots once he had scored the 100, but no real signs of slogging yet. He stood unbeaten on 185 at the end of day’s play and there are already ominous signs that he might go on to make a big one.

Just before the start of Indian innings, I was speaking to a friend about the possible outcome of this match and had predicted a probable draw. I had also mentioned to him that I was very interested in watching Dhawan’s batting. Mind you, I’m not laying any claims that I had predicted him to become a revelation in the very first innings he would play. On the contrary, I had my doubts. I had told my friend that I have heard a lot about Shikhar and also seen him play many T-20 games and a couple of ODIs and that he looked good but not great. His domestic records point very much in the same direction (over 5500 runs at an average of approximately 46 in 81 first class matches). Neither am I contending that he has already achieved greatness by virtue of that innings. But that exemplary display of batting will surely go down in the annals of history as one of the best performances by any batsman on his debut.

Almost every scoring shot that came out of his blade was breathtaking, the ones played on the off-side cover boundary more so. So good did he look playing those shots that some have already crowned him the new ‘God of the off-side’. That, according to me, is going a step too far. Taking nothing away from Dhawan, it is just his first innings at this level after all – that too on a sub-continent pitch against a relatively depleted Australian attack. Remember, he is replacing a heavy-weight in Sehwag who owned that place for quite sometime and with great success. Once Dhawan comes out of that so called honeymoon period, he might have to come face-to-face with the cruel reality of fast and bouncy tracks in South Africa, England and Australia where the same Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc would look much more venomous.

His composure and steadiness at the crease is what stood out to me as the highlight of his batting apart from the glorious drives and cuts. A lot has always been said and written about attitude and not just talent being reasons behind the success of a player. Proponents of that theory could not have found a better day to emphasize their point. He batted like he belonged there and has owned the place for years before this. The anxiety and nervousness of a debutant were far from what he showed signs of. A couple of pull shots that he played had confidence written all over them.

That innings was, in every sense, a connoisseur’s delight. With that innings, Shikhar Dhawan would have pleased viewers and critics belonging to all school of thoughts. Perfect balance, precise foot movement, exquisite timing and supreme placement were some of the key features of his innings as far as the technicalities are concerned. At the same time, it was an extraordinary display of flare as he stepped out and lofted the spinners a couple of times en route his 185 not out. To those who believe in the modern day style of Test cricket, this innings would be the one to emulate – scoring at a strike rate of over 100 without taking any apparent risk, thanks to some lovely text book cricketing shots.

To sum up, I would refrain from making any extravagant predictions about India discovering a new star and a permanent solution to the opening slot. I would just like to conclude saying that Dhawan should draw a lot of confidence out of his wonderful start and look to capitalize on it. This should give him a lot of peace and satisfaction when he would look back on this performance once the test match is over and times after that – for this is truly an innings of rare brilliance!


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

A few days out from Team Australia High School, Micky Arthur’s policy suit has played its role in providing the necessary smokescreen to deflect attention away from what really went wrong in Hyderabad. Some of the reactions reflect a general belief – ranging across the Australian Test playing alumnus from disciplinarians to rebels and a few average folks in between (Michael Vaughan) – that the punishment is what, in Mark Waugh’s words, an Under-6 team would deserve.

True, Arthur hasn’t been perfect in his judgment.

His attempts could prove naïve if the result doesn’t go their way in a Mohali track that would, in theory, have had James Pattinson licking his lips. But to his credit, he has succeeded in the most important thing – conveying the message that the baggy green doesn’t come easy to anyone.

It serves as a stark reminder to those who’ve taken the easy way to the top – through T20 blitzkriegs and the odd show of brilliance – that the likes of Mike Hussey and Matthew Hayden, among others, had to carry a baggage in excess of thousands of runs to work their way up the ladder. Although circumstantially, the moment couldn’t have been more indecisive.

These aren’t exceedingly complicated problems. Discipline is a less significant, but more dangerous problem. Australia has faced bigger and more embarrassing challenges through Warne and Symonds, but this incident is likely the totem pole around which the third test will be fought.

Sehwag and Watson: Dropped for different reasons. © Getty Images

The incident, on the other hand, shows how diametrically apart the Indians and Australians are in the context of discipline. Pattinson has been Australia’s most dangerous bowler. It would have been hard to conceive the Indian team dropping R Ashwin on account of him failing to deliver an email to Duncan Fletcher. The old Zimbabwean would’ve faced the sack had such a thought materialized!

Having said that, the Indians will find themselves morally well-placed prior to the toss tomorrow. Indeed, the overwhelming reactions from the media have created a sort of joyous confusion in the Indian dressing room. They’ve made a brave call too, and it was about time, to drop Virender Sehwag and infuse young blood through the likes of Dhawan. Yes, even this decision had drawn a lather of complaints from the media and a few former cricketers – and some of the dust is justified.

The situation illuminates a larger dilemma for the selectors who’ve, rightly, placed the focus on youth: this is likely to be a big year for the youngsters, but not an easy one. And Dhawan’s performance, for one, premature and unfair as it may seem for a judgment, could have a script in the making that would determine if Sehwag would ever make it back to the Test Eleven. And by taking this call, the selectors may force themselves to spend most of their time discussing the weakest point of the Fletcher era – overseas victories.

Mohali isn’t likely to be a dress rehearsal given that Australia’s best pacer isn’t available for selection. It would act as a slow build up to the contest between the Sehwag doubters and the Sehwag backers. The result, for all you know, might be of lesser significance as compared to the never-ending debate of Experience versus Youth.

Team Compositions

India is likely to field the ‘winning combination’ with Dhawan replacing the dropped Sehwag. While the batting and spin departments look good, Ishant could well re-visit a few YouTube videos of him castling Ricky Ponting at Mohali when the Aussies toured in 2008-09. He’s looked the weakest link in the chain thus far, and had it not been for the injuries / absences of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, he might have found himself on the fringes of selection. He’s got plenty to prove this Test.

Australia, on the other hand, have too few to choose from. With four absences, and Haddin being flown in to act as a cover for Matthew Wade, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wade play as a pure batsman in case there are doubts over his fitness doing the job from behind the wickets. Haddin would add the necessary experience in holding the lower order together. Siddle, who’s looked a touch underwhelming all series, would have to step up in the arena where he’d made his debut in 2008. Australia need a leader, and he’s certainly the one Clarke would be looking at for support.