Posts Tagged ‘Curtly Ambrose’


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.


Goutham Chakravarthi

India hadn’t won the Boxing Day Test in its three recent attempts before this tour. They didn’t this time either. They come to Sydney with a similar track record: no wins in their last three attempts. And the last of those Tests will be remembered as the bloodiest among all India-Australia tests. It wasn’t cricket. Reputations were scarred. Careers suffered – both cricketers and umpires. Cricket burned.

Thankfully, the relationship between the two sides are more amicable these days and some credit for it should be given to the IPL. Four years have passed, and Symonds and Harbhajan are now teammates and reigning champs of Champions League T20. But Symonds might still feel let down by his Aussie teammates and the board with the incident four years ago. It affected him and eventually ended his Test career. He never made peace with the incident and felt more let down by his board and his teammates.

Neither India or Australia are the top Test team any longer, but cricket between the two sides, for most part of the Boxing Day Test, was exhilarating. It is a great moment for SCG as it is all set to host its hundredth Test. And Tendulkar’s quest for his hundredth ton has now reached Sydney (On the occasion of Sydney’s hundredth Test, Sydney Morning Herald listed the top 10 innings played there and Tendulkar features twice in it).

India have won only one Test in 1978-79 in Sydney in all their tours (in 9 attempts) of Australia so far. That it is supposed to be the ground that suits them the most in Australia is not translated in to more Test wins at least. When India walks in to the SCG on Tuesday, they will know that it is still their best chance of putting it across Australia in a generation.

SCG is all set to host its 100th Test. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

India’s batting has shown up to be brittle over the last year. A famed batting order has been tamed. And as much can be inferred from their recent performances, it must not be forgotten what they are capable of. Each of them have defined some great batting moments of the decade gone by, and some, like Laxman’s 281, have redefined the fortunes of their country.

Sometimes, it takes an enormouns effort to change the tide. Viv Richards’ decline in his last three years of his career were offset by Richie Richardson’s backfoot strokeplay and the emergence of Walsh, Ambrose and Patrick Patterson. The swagger never really disappeared and Australia seemed to be more worried about hosting the first three Tests on bouncy wickets before going to Sydney and promptly lost the series before the Sydney Test came along in 1988-89. Yes, it was an Australian side still re-building and West Indies was still the overwhelming champion concealing its cracks rather well.

But this is more the opposite for Indians. They are not fighting Steve Waugh’s Australia of 2000. Their batsmen made their names with performances against the great Australian sides and then some others. This is more a case of a heavyweight boxer returning to the ring after being felled by a young challenger. Often, adversity was tackled and overcome. But apparently, not so over the last year. The mind knows what it takes to be the champion again, but it also wonders if the punch is as strong as before, if the reflexes are still good enough to sway out of strong punches and if the legs can survive twelve rounds of boxing.

Sometimes, you need to take a blow and stand the ground to know that you can still do it. It was the same for a young Virender Sehwag playing the Boxing Day Test in 2003. He was peppered with bumpers, and after an hour of ducking and weaving, he was hit on the head by a Lee missile. He stood his ground and scored one of the most celebrated near double hundreds in Australia. He would later say that getting hit made him realize that there was nothing more for him to be afraid of. He was hit and he was still there. He realized he could take it. And he realized he could scare the opposition as much as the quick bowlers scared him and his teammates. Perhaps that one ball was all it took to shape his career in the remarkable way it did.

There are more worries and question marks over India than Australia going into this Test. Once the game starts, it only takes one inspired moment of cricket to change things around. A top draw batting order will fight its battles individually and collectively and a celebrated captain has confessed to having been conservative when he had the chance to finish off the battle with the right call.

Remarkably, bowlers have come through well in the first Test, and the captain and the supporters will hope the fitness and form will continue through the remaining Tests. Australia still remains a fragile batting side and it will keep the Indian bowlers interested even when a strong partnership is flourishing.

It is still a battle of two teams capable of lot more than what they have achieved of themselves over the last one year. Series are won over jelly beans, and careers made in a single Test. India should believe Sydney’s hundredth has one inspiring moment in it that will change the fortunes for them.

More than that, let’s hope the cricket helps erase the pains of 2008.

You can read the match preview from the Australian perspective here