Posts Tagged ‘2nd Test’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

It was a real shame that the first test between South Africa and New Zealand had to end indecisively with weather inhibiting a game that would, in all likelihood, have had a result on the cards. On face value, the South Africans seemed the more likely of the two teams to have had a result tilted in their favor. And the critical difference between the two teams was evident on Day One of the 2nd Test at Hamilton. For those who bothered to watch/follow it in the first place.

It is understandable that the cricket fan’s focus is on the (meaningless) Asia Cup and the prospect of Tendulkar reaching his awaited milestone against Pakistan. As honorable as that intention (or wish) is, this milestone is a skeleton which perhaps only the most loyal sympathizers of Tendulkar really think worth discussing any more.

Whether or not this assertion is debatable, the fact remains that there is a pretty good game of Test Cricket being fought down in New Zealand. Yes, being oblivious to a Tendulkar milestone is suicidal in India – but not at the cost of quality cricket elsewhere. I’d fancy watching the ball bounce and seam at Hamilton, as against dead rubbers of the subcontinent. No disrespect – just my choice.

But I’ll close the milestone topic thus: Fans. Don’t worry. Tendulkar has said that “he’ll miss Dravid in the dressing room”. And you read that between the lines, it means that he’s going to be around for a while – plenty of time to reach there (I know it has been more than a year now, but good things happen to those who wait). But it is a shame that for all the nostalgia, for all the great memories that we have and cherish of this legend, the last one year will be a slight blot on an otherwise serene landscape.

Just kidding – my friends from the media (and from thousands of other relatively unknown newspapers) tell me that they’ve had their 100 page Tendulkar supplement ready (barring Page 1) ever since he’d reached his 99th ton. There’s even a Tendulkar special Crossword and Sudoku, amongst others.

Coming back to what I started with – yes, Vernon Philander. No, I don’t think I mentioned his name anywhere earlier – but goodness me! Had this guy been Indian, he’d have been all over the news for what he has achieved/and is achieving (and, if he’d had an equivalent, literally-translated Indian name, you’d have been tired of seeing newspapers compete for ‘pathetic sense-of-humor’ headlines). Closing in on forty wickets and he’s only playing his sixth test! It is not often that you come across a bowler who looks likely to take five wickets every time the red cherry is thrown to him.

Review Time: “You must be joking. This ain’t International Cricket, Umps?”

Given that South Africa is traveling to England next, record books beware! There might arise a need to erase history and rewrite what this guy is potentially capable of achieving, having represented Middlesex in the English County circuit (he’s no stranger to the conditions there – even if he is, he’s got a contract with Somerset starting April this year). I know its early days, but we’ve made heroes out of one-week wonders – I’m not even remotely close to crossing the line. And this guy seems genuinely good.

Graeme Smith has been wise enough to look at Philander in the eye and tell him that tougher times will come. Yes, at the present moment, the game looks way too easy for him. But browner pastures of Motera and SSC (with Jayawardene potentially notching up another ton/double ton) will await him with stark glimpses of reality checks.

It is a travesty, though, from New Zealand’s perspective – the only two players who seem capable of scoring runs end up throwing their wickets once they get starts. Certainly, neither McCullum nor Taylor would be batsmen you’d be willing to put your wager on in Test Cricket, but they bat at three and four – pivotal positions that demand a penchant for responsibility. And, Rob Nicol at the top of the order seems a batsman who could compete with yesteryear Indian opener Debang Gandhi (I find it hard to rewind to an earlier era and quote a better example) in to becoming laughable parody of themselves.

It looks likely that he wouldn’t hang around the setup once Dean Brownlie is back. Or after Jesse Ryder gives up alcohol (and sheds a few tons). As won’t Kane Williamson unless he makes an attempt to prove his detractors wrong.  He hasn’t even come close to living up to the ‘next best kid since Martin Crowe’ advertisements that took precedent (and briefly aired) after his ton against India on debut at … Motera (again!).

But the bright spot – at the end of Day One – is that the South Africans are two down for 27. Dale Steyn’s stay as night-watchman didn’t last too long, while Graeme Smith is still cursing over South African exports who seem to do so well when not playing for South Africa (van Wyk’s catch to dismiss Smith was a stunner).

P.S.  On Dravid – later.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

If Michael Clarke had hoped for a better start to the New Year, I yearn to know what his desires were.

Surely, a triple hundred, and the prized scalp of a legend approaching a significant landmark wouldn’t have found its place even in his wildest of dreams. Pup is not only a full grown dog now; he is a monster. And he is growing in size.

Clarke has not only answered his critics in style, he’s done it with the aura that each and every one of his predecessor possessed. He doesn’t seem as arrogant or as tough as Border, Waugh or Ponting; he’s more the Mark Taylor mould – a postulate that might help reason why he declared when he was batting on 329, with more than a couple of days left.

But what Clarke faces, rather pleasingly, is the challenge of grooming promising youngsters with immense potential to restructure a team that craves to regain lost glory. The Australian team has checked every box in the ‘To-Do list of Champion Sides’ during the course of these two Tests. They have transformed myth by harnessing promising young talent through seemingly undistinguished youngsters, and an odd ex-grounds man, who defied every limitation placed on traditional Australian selection policies.

The only drawback of this approach was over-burn, an opinion echoed by Steve Waugh during the rise of young, raw fast bowlers with limited first class experience. Pattinson’s injury blow follows the fate experienced by Pat Cummins post the South Africa series. How the selectors handle this issue would be interesting to watch. Their visitor counterparts, on the other hand, have a bigger share of headaches to address.

Some of us soothsayers may have well read the writing on the wall on the completion of Day One – that the Sydney Test wouldn’t last the five days. As much as we love to cherish the memories of Kolkata 2001, it is nice to remind ourselves every now and then that the Kolkata Test deserves its place in history as an event that no romantic would like to see a repeat of.

When the Aussies win, they win in style. And no one can take that away from them. Age didn’t seem a barrier when one witnessed the likes of Ponting and Hussey, both past their mid-thirties, steal quick singles or convert twos in to threes. In truth, their fielding standards of late haven’t been the greatest but they certainly seem more determined on the field as compared to their counterparts. An aggressive bowling line up ideally requires great support from the fielding unit, and this very thought was personified well enough. Barring a few hours of dominance from the Indian middle order, it seemed destined that the Sydney Test would end sooner than later.

A few pessimists from their camp would have shown signs of concern when both Tendulkar and Laxman, Australia’s tormentors in chief over the previous tours (and especially at the SCG), crossed half centuries and looked in fine touch. Clarke’s New Year got better when the rolled his left arm over to dismiss Tendulkar.

Clarke has been largely successful even with the ball in his hands against the Indians © The Age

Incidentally, Clarke’s remarkable bowling spells have come against the Indians – from the dusty minefield of Mumbai to the controversy-laden field of Sydney last tour. Laxman succumbed to the new ball soon after. The rest of the innings is probably not worth documenting (keeping Ashwin’s fifty in mind), given that Hilfenhaus had the last laugh grabbing a five-for to press for his constant contention to feature in the playing eleven.

Six consecutive losses away from home would do no good to any sporting team that had sat up on the Rankings Tables until not too long ago. It would be hard to comprehend how Sir Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola would react if Manchester United or Barcelona goes through lean patches. Even though the fundamental points of perspectives between these two sports differ, surely the thoughts planted are the same. And one wonders what Fletcher’s mind is experiencing now.

India’s brief glimpses of determination to succeed at what was, by any imaginable measure, a highly improbable mission is probably about the only facet that can be commended. Tendulkar’s ominous form was undoubtedly a treat to watch – it is only a pity that this couldn’t be translated into the much awaited three figure mark. Gauging how India performed otherwise, the respect for this man’s scores, over the course of the two tests, will not be expressed as overtly as the ovation he gets every time he walks in; it will be evinced through raised eyebrows admiring those deft late cuts.

That the SCG ticket sellers breathed sighs of relief after Tendulkar survived until stumps on Day Three is a testament to how much the Australian public awaits the milestone as much as we Indians do. But for the Indian fan, given the turn of events over the first three days of the Test, the contending forces were rival thoughts fighting a civil war within – does the result of the Test matter as much as a Tendulkar hundred? Or vice versa? As much as the Middle East’s inability to create any business outside Oil, it seemed as though the milestone was more likely than a favorable result.

Barring isolated shows of promise, and misdemeanor (courtesy Virat Kohli), the cricketing facts are a lot more virulent than the insinuations thrown around. History will one day point out that there couldn’t have been a better time to beat Aussies in their own backgrounds, whilst closing the curtains on two illustrious careers that were under pressure. Instead, Hussey and Ponting responded with tons. Just as strong as their responses were, equally insolvent were Indian ideas.

The body language of Indian players represented incessant tides of undifferentiated low morale. The exciting numbers thrown by speed guns pointing towards feats of Sharma and Yadav didn’t matter as it would have during the build up to the series. Neither did the plethora of runs amassed by the Indian batsmen.

The immense task of polishing their high-minded credentials, following displays of creative destruction, is one that champions do not particularly enjoy. And amidst tweets relating to the start of the year 2012 reminding many of the start back in 1999 when India toured Australia, the notion that the ‘next-gen’ players aren’t too far away from entering the Test arena offers a breath of fresh air. One can’t doubt the records that the current batsmen have, but a welcoming change is never shown a closed door as long as it is equitable.

Or maybe, we are just desperate to see a change.