Archive for the ‘India in Australia 2011-12’ Category


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Siege warfare has been their stock in trade. For Australia, this series was a case of truth being stranger than fiction – in the good sense. Consistency across four tests reaped benefits earlier not thought-of, and it certainly wasn’t a case of a chain being as strong as its weakest link when a few individuals failed to step up to the occasion. Not a single test seemed likely to enter the fifth day, with the exception of the final one that might have not lasted so long had Australia enforced a follow on.

The worst thing about India’s 4-0 whitewash down under was the inevitability of it. That a large set of the players looked withdrawn and out-of-sync (every time the cameras focused on them) didn’t help the cause either. Astronomical numbers gathered over years of batting is what constituted the middle order, but there was little evidence to suggest that this was the barometer by which their performance was being gauged.

As unpopular as this view will probably be, the proverbial rant surrounding why Rohit hasn’t played a Test yet will continue for some time to come. After all, when wickets fall at intervals so short that the same old advertisements are shoehorned every five minutes (in some cases, ironically featuring the stars that are on the field – or ones who had just lost their wicket), little can be said in defense of their numbers, irrespective of how large they are.  They are statistical quirks, no more, and cringe-worthy.

How meekly the Australians made a team of eleven Indians capitulate throughout the series ranks alongside General Friedrich Paulus’ surrender at Stalingrad in 1943.  Never before had a German Field Marshall surrendered to enemy forces. And the Indian fans’ displeasure is as much as that, if not more, experienced by Adolf Hitler back then. The Australians have dominated the series with an air of perfection that would have made Michelangelo knock of the Sistine Chapel ceiling on a Sunday afternoon to target a work of art likewise.

Playing a Test in Australia is never a pleasant experience – precisely why it is so fervently anticipated. The IPL might have forged opportunistic alliances between these two nations (among many others), but nothing further seems to have transpired. The Indians’ only comforting presence in the Australian dressing room would be that of Shaun Marsh, whose IPL image contrasts that which he has built during this series, albeit the formats being grossly different. Marsh is an unlikely candidate to catch the plane to the Caribbean, come this April. He has cut a lonely figure, resembling a Greek window-shopper unable to buy runs.

Australia’s biggest gain over the series (apart from unearthing/refining an outstanding pace attack) has been the resurgence of Clarke as both a batsman and skipper. For some, Clarke’s Midas touch could’ve come as a greater shock than American Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns. Just as it seemed during the build up that Clarke’s perceived image would receive boo-eliciting responses to every remark he makes, given how unpopular he was among certain sections of the public, the response couldn’t have been more timely and stronger. That he had Ponting by his side all along the course of this series is a tribute to how the two of them have responded to immense pressure.

Now who is more subservient of the two? © Sportsbanter

Premonitions over their roles and future in the Australian setup have finally been buried. With Brad Hogg making a comeback at 40, it would be hard to stop a rampaging Ponting from continuing to play on until he experiences another lean patch like he did in 2011. As will Mike Hussey fancy his chances in hanging around the International setup for some time to come – given how the influx of promising youngsters hasn’t quite worked out the way that the selectors might have anticipated. It would require a Marsh-esque run with a virgin willow for either of these two batsmen to have their performances under intense scrutiny once again.

Haddin’s forgettable patch has rightfully seen him relegated, as much as claims may state that he was rested. At 35, it seems that his path henceforth is a foregone conclusion. The absence (injury) of Paine brings in a whiff of fresh air via Matthew Wade, a youngster who has shown potential to dazzle crowds with his reassuringly simplistic approach to the game – more reassuring than Mickey Arthur’s claims that Haddin is on the right track for Ashes 2013. In truth, Haddin was only marginally better than being hopeless.

Wade’s outing in International Cricket has been much anticipated

Wade, on the other hand, will be in action as early as tomorrow when the two teams face off against each other in the first T20I at Sydney. He’ll feature alongside a few veterans, a few new names, a quirky Marsh and his younger brother Mitch (possibly), under the leadership of George Bailey after Cameron White’s inconsistent form relegated him into oblivion.

Australia sits at a disappointing fifth in the ICC T20I Rankings. A new stadium, a new home outfit; the Aussie fans will hope that it is the same old result though.


Goutham Chakravarthi

Short post.

IT’S OVER!

Over and out.

 


Goutham Chakravarthi

There is nothing wrong with this Indian team. That is if you believe in the theory that bowlers who bowl with a straight arm actually bowl with a 360-degree bend.

It was another day of what has now become the norm with the Indian team. Catches were dropped and the batting collapsed. And Clarke finds himself where Dhoni was not so long ago: his juggling of bowlers as mesmerizing as that of juggler in a circus and is easily among the three best batsmen on the world on current form. It is a far cry from not so long ago where he seemed desperate to want to earn the respect of the fans and his questions over his lifestyle.

Lyon accounted for the wickets of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman. © Getty Images

On another day, Haddin would be accused of being selfish in not going for quick runs closing in on a declaration, but winning teams can afford to carry some struggling players. But not for long and Clarke’s angry declaration just minutes past lunch might have passed on that message to Haddin. If Haddin were Indian, he would have been accused of looking after his average.

Sehwag’s innings bespoke of a man trying to chase down an impossible target. But it lacked conviction. Sehwag at his best keeps out good deliveries and goes after the rest. Here, he was lucky, initially, and ultra-aggressive when he eventually skied a waist-high full-toss to get out. India needed to bat five sessions to save the Test. And the skipper didn’t show the determination he did four years ago at the same venue to do just that.

Tendulkar’s series has nose dived post Sydney. His dismissals have become tamer and today, Lyon ensured Tendulkar’s last series in Australia wasn’t going to be as profitable as his previous four tours there. And by the time a Laxman flick brought about his downfall, Lyon had proved that he had the game and the temperament to succeed. And his captain set good catching fields for him to look for wickets all the while.

And as Kohli ran himself out at the fag end of the day, India’s misery on the field seems all but over.

A young Rafael Nadal believed his uncle and coach Toni Nadal had super powers and that he could even bring in the rain as he wished. Toni promised that he would bring in the rains should Nadal look like losing. Once playing in an age group tournament, after struggling initially against a boy much older than he, Nadal seemed to get the hang of it when it started to drizzle. Nadal walked up to Toni and said that he could stop the rain because he felt confident that would beat the older boy and did just that.

May be, India’s best option is to see if they could borrow Toni for a day.


Goutham Chakravarthi

It was another day of disappointment for the Indians. But no so much when compared the disappointments of their team selection and body language. As sun beat down the City of Churches, Peter Siddle, in an inspired spell of wholehearted fast bowling, ensured India didn’t have a prayer.

Hitherto a bowler who liked to bang it half way in to the pitch, a strong message was sent to him when he was not picked for the Tests in Sri Lanka after he failed to bowl the lengths his coach recommended. A trier and a captain’s delight, he has come back strongly with a performance that will do him proud. On a hot day and on a very fine batting surface, he eked the life out of Indians and deservedly given a rapturous applause whence he took his fifth wicket.

Kohli and Siddle shared the day's honours. © Getty Images

”The situation of the game, how much time was left in the game, there wasn’t too much need to talk about it,” said Siddle in the press conference at the end of the day’s play on the decision to enforce the follow on. If any one earned a rest, he did that today. His captain will need his energy and effort when they bowl again. And with the wicket offering to crumble at the end of third day’s play and with two hot days predicted, the decision might well have been straight forward. Siddle added, ”The Adelaide Oval wicket is one that you don’t really want to be batting on last so we didn’t have to think too much about that. It’s just a matter of getting out there now and batting a bit of time out of the game but still scoring some runs to obviously try to bat them out of the game. We’re in a good position.” The heat did get to the umpires in the last session where they at leas made three mistakes.

Nathan Lyon impressed with steady bowling and looked threatening with the dip, turn and bounce he extracted. He accounted for Laxman, a supreme player of spin even on his worst day, with one that gripped and bounced. His ability to hold his own and offer control at one end was mighty impressive and looks to have finally nailed the spinner’s slot that has been a bit of a lottery ever since Warne retired. He can expect to bowl a lot more over the next two days.

The best thing to have come out of this Test for India so far has been the fight shown by Kohli and Saha today. Two spirited youngsters kept an honest attack out for session and half. They defended well and played some sparkling strokes. Beyond everything else, they fought with everything they had.

Saha has carried the reputation of being the best glovesman in the country for quite some time now and is more than a capable batsman. He might not be a regular in the Test team yet, but he seems a good bet to invest on. Like perhaps that India have not dumped Kohli after a few failures, they will do well to invest in Saha and give him a long rope.

It is very evident from this series that the best days of many of India’s greats are behind them. Some might still come good if given an extended run, but will be juvenile of the selectors not to build on the promise shown by youngsters in Kohli, Saha and Umesh Yadav in this series. Perhaps it is time they tried out at least one new opening batsman and shunned one of the older middle-order batsmen. Virat Kohli should be pushed to number three and two experienced middle-order players can follow him opening up a slot at 6 for another young batsman. India should look to the future. A golden era has ended, but doesn’t mean the next generation cannot be as successful as its predecessor.


Goutham Chakravarthi

Some of the biggest names in cricket, of all time, are represented in the Indian and Australian cricket teams. Yet, as cricket chugs on to 26th January – Reuplic Day for India and also Australia Day – it is difficult to imagine many excited about cricket. With Australia also offering a colossal battle between Nadal and Federer for the 27th time, it is hard to believe cricket will be fans’ top priority even among stout Australian fans who are witnessing a great run by their team.

Rivalries elevates sport to a different level, a level that stretches physical limits and collective beliefs. Federer might have fallen off the perch and Nadal no longer the king, but when they clash, tennis reaches a level that can rival any art at its best. Australia and India always produced close contests. And the rivalry defined the highest level of cricket in the 2000s, but the last three series have been flat with the odd throwback to brilliance, but this series has been poor.

Clarke and Ponting thwarted the Indian attack for 95 overs in their near quadruple hundred stand. Photo: AP

A day, when a past champion and a young captain who currently ranks to be as good as any one going around, thwarted an attack that had plans, but none else, it looked nothing like Federer vs Nadal or Brazil vs Argentina. It did not even resemble Sampras vs Agassi on the seniors’ tour. One team had plans – Ishant bowled outside off, Umesh tried his best to rough the batsman up, Zaheer tried his various tricks and Ashwin his various spins – and constructed its points like a good tennis player would, but would find the winner coming from the opposition. Sometimes, luckily so, but mostly through sheer brilliance from the opponent.

The day belonged to a champion who is past his prime, but one who has shown ability to graft and bide his time that was considered too passe to him not so long ago. His determination, mostly, and his change in his trigger movements, to a lesser extent, have turned around his summer in to perhaps a couple more Australian summers . Sadly, neither the determination nor the desperation is to be seen in the visitors’ camp.

There is little to suggest that the Indians tried anything different in their planning or preparation in the long break between the Tests. It is clear that the routine that has not been good enough so far is being persisted with. Indians lacked plans and direction when partnerships flowered in Sydney and Perth and now here in Adelaide. Captains and bowlers seem clueless and the fielders seem a dispirited lot.

But none of those mattered to Clarke. He was earmarked as a young player with quick feet and sharp brains. His handling of his side – the veterans and the youngsters – has been remarkable. More so, he has found his best form with the bat and is having the best summer of his life. Though his batting this summer is nothing short of astonishing, it is his personality as a skipper and a leader that has outshone everything else.

As Australia Day and Australian Open beckons, as Australia and Clarke push for glory, as India’s summer spirals out of control like a Formula One car on gravel, when Gambhir and Tendulkar resume their battle, Indian fans might flip channels to see Federer or Nadal in action, but will hope, even if for a fleeting moment, that they see a fight. Not a Tendulkar rampant half-century, but a grinding and stone-walling ton. Not a Gambhir with flashing blade and a loose mouth, but a stodgy and determined Gambhir. Not a Laxman with the languid drive and an airy flick, but the Laxman who produces his best when his team needs him the most. The rivalry is no longer Federer-Nadal class, but should it even match the Sampras-Agassi levels in a seniors’ tournament, it might be worth the while. The hope of putting up a fight is all that remains.