Posts Tagged ‘Adelaide’

Bini Sathyan

They came in fast. They charged in furious. They delivered in precision. And they never stopped coming. We fell in a heap. The story repeated. The fall continued. Again and again. The pace battery of Australia assumed the proportions of a battering ram and the battering continued unabated. Until The God fell from his pedestal and was brought down to earth. Until the wall cracked and crumbled. Until the legends lost their greatness and fell from glory. The big guns were silenced. And Indian cricket lay in tatters.

Another series whitewash. The fall from grace that started in England was completed with another similar script in Australia. From the first innings of the first test to the last innings of the last test, the Indian story was the just the same. Repetitive and boring. The story scripted by Clarke & Co. failed to generate thrills because the storyline seemed too predictable. Four venues. Four matches. Four failures. Same players. Same story copied and pasted. Only the duration changed.

Billed as the Agneepath series, with India considered the favourites and Australia the underdogs, Clarke & Co. made sure that the Indians faced the heat rather than them. At the beginning of the series, there was a talk that the Australian camp had a few problems in the batting department. Irregular openers, an out of form middle-order and a captain fighting to gain the respect of his team. Whereas India was a team which had the two greatest run scorers of all times, an opener who could end the game before it all actually began, a very special batsman who took a special liking to Australian bowling and a captain considered to be the shrewdest of cricketing brains around. The four tests that followed resulted in busting many myths about the various sentiments about some India’s all time greats.

Their faces tell the story. © Getty Images

More than the defeats the manner in which it was brought upon them was saddening. In all the series that preceded this, even though the series was lost, the Indian team always put up a tough fight and it was remembered for the valiant effort than the defeat. And at times they were brilliant enough to turn the tables on the invincible team of the times and that is what made these men legends. So when the first test ended in four days, there was still hope that they would put up a fight in the next. But that turned out to be a bigger shocker when it ended in four days again with the Indian team refusing to put up a fight. The third one was the most humiliating when they could not fight for more than two and a half days. Australia should have invited Bangladesh rather. They would have done better.

Retirement calls started for the ageing brigade. But though not valiant enough on the field, they shamelessly fought on off it. When the young guns continued their wait for ever to be blooded, the greats continued to hold on to selfish motives. Little did they realize that other legends before them had moved on to bring them in.  Little did these guys seem to care about a series white wash. The hope was that the billions back home would be pacified with that one ton even if they went down 4-0.

After three failures, luck had it that the captain was banned. A new captain and a new keeper could change the fortunes of the team. Expectations were that the maverick Sehwag would surprise with his unorthodox ways. Since the series was lost after trying the same tricks in the first three tests, the fourth one could have been taken up for experimentation. Two spinners could have been brought forth. May be Ojha could have replaced Ishant. Kohli could have been sent to open the innings or brought in at no.3. A new opener like Rohit could have replaced Gambhir. Sehwag could have come lower down the order. But it was not to be. He stuck to the conservative and traditional thinking of the think tank. Same field placings. Same mistakes. Same body language. Batting collapse. Some catches dropped. Another record for the Clarke-Ponting pair. The agony continued. Retirement calls grew louder.

The experts analyzed that the Indian greats have outlived their sell by date and could not survive in the swinging conditions in England. And the pacy pitches in Australia. Come Adelaide. It was a batting beauty. A much better batting display was expected from India. Australia’s 600 runs in the first innings gave the Indians the much needed hope. But then Siddle’s riddle caught them unawares. He made the batting pitch look like a lively track. The way he bowled, the Indian’s had no answers again. This test would also have ended in four days had it not been for Clarke’s concern that India could bat them out of the game. But he failed to understand that the Indian cricketers were spineless and had lost all interest for a fight after all the battering they received. Clarke tried to show some sympathy to the Indian batsmen by withdrawing his quick guns and giving them an opportunity to play a game they are experts in. May be the Australians were concerned about the dipping revenues as the first three tests did not last five days. But Lyon proved to be trickier than they expected. The web was spun and the plot only got murkier. He accounted for Sehwag, Sachin and Laxman all great players of spin bowling. And to add insult to injury, Clarke then put all his fielders around the night watchman! Such was the state of the famed Indian batting.

Virat Kohli’s performance was the only blessing that India had. He fought well and used his chances to declare that he is India’s batting mainstay in the future. Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh also proved that they have it in them to excel in the big stage. Saha too has shown that he is a fighter. They need to cement their places through consistent performance and constant improvements. There are many more spinners, pacers and batsmen waiting in the ranks to grab their opportunities which are sadly not coming by. They will have to bide their time till the big guns call it a day. Or they will have to keep waiting till the selectors realise that the future of Indian cricket lies not in record holders whose glorious days are past but in youngsters who can bring back those glorious days for the country.


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.

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Grafter or not, Ricky Ponting’s 41st ton did not resemble a large set of the other forty but it was an innings certainly built through with perseverance and grit. It is tempting to wonder if Ponting’s approach is a reflection of knowing the squalor that would arise if he’d gone about batting the way he normally does. But his innings today certainly didn’t lack class.

Clarke’s stories, recent and not-so-recent, are strikingly different ones. His presence at the crease of late barely resembles the Clarke who, until not too long ago, struggled with his feet movement and approach for a period of time that could well be termed lengthy. He’s had his own share of issues in dealing with knife-wielding Brutuses behind his back, but he’s skipper now and is leading from the front in a series that is fast approaching a 4-0 whitewash.

He now appears a lot more frugal than his predecessor Ponting, and his views are minimalist. He spent the best part of the day trying to catch up with Ricky, and overtaking him by the time stumps were called. He had his share of luck while coasting through to 140, something Ishant would’ve sneered at given how his day turned out.

Sydney all over again. Image: Sportlive

A day’s play that would have left a hopeful Indian fan frothing at the mouth has drawn nothing more than a remorsefully apathetic response, almost as though this was expected. As the cliché goes, the mature heads will know that things are not always what they seem. At least, from the perspective of a source from the visitor’s dressing room who seemed to reckon that with the score line already 3-0 against them, things can’t get worse.

One can’t attempt to try and defend the indefensible. Just as the introduction of Ashwin as early as during the fourth over of the game seemed to light things up, more due to Umesh Yadav’s inconsistent start with the new ball, Sehwag’s ideas lacked the durability required to bundle out a supremely confident unit on a placid track. He’d have been fairly satisfied going in to lunch with three wickets fallen, but would have found it hard to sport a smile after that.

Ashwin did well to restrict Warner from cannoning off to a start that he’s so accustomed to, thereby building the pressure needed to get the southpaw in to committing an error. Marsh’s misery continued to haunt him as he looked like a rat lost in a maze, unable to get anything right in what could probably end up being his last Test in some time to come. Never before has an Australian Number Three looked so unconvincing. He’s certainly exhausted the large quantities of trust and patience which he might have found during the build up to Adelaide.

And that is Australia’s fear right now. It was the underlying theme of Sydney – that the veterans performed, and the youngsters didn’t. Although it is too early to conclude so at Adelaide, a few of them, to their credit, did justice elsewhere. A spot in the eleven now appears perennial for a few with great appeal. But with Brad Hogg returning to International Cricket (T20) at forty, Ponting could well set his sights on another nine hundreds by the time he decides to hang his boots.

Dat Two, as history suggests, will offer plenty more runs to trouble the scorebooks. But for this Australian side, this series, with a fragile bowling opposition, no total appears unimaginable.

Goutham Chakravarthi

India came in to the series after a drubbing in England but were still the favourites. The talks of ageing players on their last legs was more an Australian worry than India’s. A month in to the series, it is the story of a 40 year old Brad Hogg making a come back in to the national reckoning that is doing the rounds and not that of the other old guns having to hang up their boots. It is the turn of the India’s older batting superstars to face the heat. And in all probability it should be the last time we see them all together.

It is strange but also true that much of India’s great success in the past decade was largely due to the determination and collective efforts of a group of dedicated and proud cricketers. While the administrators were busy marketing one-day cricket and later T20 cricket, the selectors seemed more interested in looking after themselves than Indian cricket. In the process, though selection has become a paid job, it is but fair to conclude that it is the players who put the Indian cricket on a pedestal. And now, with the last bunch of those from the great generation on creaky legs and wonky backs, neither the administrators nor the selectors seem to have an answer to India’s problems.

While it is true that India perhaps picked its strongest squad for this series, much of India’s success overseas had to do with its batsmen being able to put up strong scores on the board. Taking 20 wickets was never India’s strongest suit and it needed the big scores to give itself a chance. And it is remarkable as to how they put themselves on top of the world with an average bowling unit at best.

India's strength for a decade now is suddenly its weakest link. Image: The Daily Telegraph

The islanders down south have taken their first steps to clean up their mess by sacking their coach and appointing a new captain. They have revamped their selection committee. India seems to be bullish about its slump and fails to acknowledge its shortcomings. It is blatantly obvious that India has failed to groom its youngsters for the future. Neither the administrators seem bothered nor the selectors. That India will not look to the future in Adelaide is a resounding slap on the all faces of those who care for its cricket.

Adelaide is a no win situation for India with neither the selectors nor the stand-in captain showing any inclination for the need to change. The strength of this side has been its seniors for a decade now. It now seems as though even the selectors seem reluctant to do anything to upset them. Or that they are simply not bothered. It is painful and disrespectful for the ones who care about Indian cricket that the ones that run it seem not bothered about its future.

Irrespective of what transpires at Adelaide, India cannot have the same set of players representing it going forward. A transformation needs to take place between now and in two years’ time, when India set foot off their shores for challenges abroad, a new team, settled and well oiled with Test match cricket over two years should represent it. How India chooses to rebuild will determine how serious it is about its cricket image. It might have to be the players again who lead the change. And once again, it might be a senior who makes it easy on the selectors by announcing his retirement at the end of this Test.

There’s more to lose in Adelaide than just the Test.

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy finds itself back in Australian shores once again. It has been over a decade since this series was won so convincingly, although fingers will point/will continue to point at India’s incompetency. The indignation in the visitor’s camp hasn’t seen a single day of untroubled repose yet. Which is why the essence of the Adelaide Test will lie more on Australia’s battle with themselves than anything else around.

The 3-0 score line is only a number that highlights the success achieved thus far, not an acknowledgment of the goals set themselves. The Australians have settled for the mere truth:  a few individual performances has overshadowed many meager stats from players who, now, find themselves at cross roads of their career – given that a few of their names don’t automatically find their ways into Arthur’s Playing XI when given a fully fit pool to select from.

Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin, the same names that propped up during the build up to Perth, have done little to boost their credentials to get them away from the relegation shortlist.  They’re going to have to find themselves away from a lean patch that increasingly resembles Greece’s financial muscle. Perceptions that people have about their abilities (lesser empirical in the case of Haddin, given that at 35, ability isn’t what one is judged by) doesn’t seem to match the statistical reality required to warrant a place in the national side.

Combine the perception of a mid-thirties age bracket with a very lean form with both bat and gloves, and it leaves Brad Haddin beatable, something that even he has acknowledged publicly. The scanners over his performance are worth having, and the only way to put an end to his debacle is to address his uncertainty over shot selection.

Haddin looks most likely amongst the Australians to get the axe post-series

With Clarke appearing to be a leader further to the right of Genghis Khan, the Adelaide Test would prove more important to a few individuals in the Australian team than to those in the visiting camp attempting to grab a consolation victory. Australia’s rebuilding phase has created avenues for talent to sneak in to, and only the bowlers seem to have answered the call of duty thus far. Ed Cowan’s performance, from the batting unit, hasn’t done his reputation any harm – although whether he’d be in the reckoning for a place in the Top 3 is subject to further debate.

Reports of a hard, dry surface ‘favoring’ the visitors (not in the literal sense) will matter little to Nathan Lyon who returns to the side on the same ground where he served as a groundsman not too long ago. No better time, and venue, to justify the faith shown in him by the selectors.

4-0 looms.