Posts Tagged ‘MCG’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Anyone who experienced the events leading up to Tendulkar’s half century on Day Two of the Melbourne Test would have been forgiven for thinking that the Boxing Day test was hovering towards a Tendulkar biopic fleetingly waiting to acknowledge a long awaited milestone. The next couple of days, however, seemed to outline the fact that the periphery of this achievement has rather harsh boundary conditions. As did the hopes of a victory on foreign soil, given that India’s next tour outside the subcontinent is a far two years away.

Thus, yet another favorable Test result has vanished into oblivion, leaving many of us wondering over the secret behind the magical formula that Gary Kirsten possessed, that others didn’t. A logical thought would question the challenge posed by during those tours outside the subcontinent when Kirsten was in charge as compared a tour to England and Australia, the latter by no means pushovers albeit their recent results.

Cricketing plans, in general, anticipate years of austerity and stability with fitness of talent pools ranking high amongst others. While talent remains plentiful in supply, the longevity of most remains a function of form and/or fitness. A lot of the younger players who’ve paid brief visits to the international setup resemble the yesteryear Internal Combustion Engines that possessed low volumetric and thermal efficiencies – a direct correlation to unfavorable statistics and rapid breakdown. Temperament remains a spark plug that pre-ignites when exposed to high temperatures.

Virat must be persisted with, and the quick hopeful fix of bringing in Rohit instead will only send wrong signals © ThatsCricket

Having said that, it is important to remember that the inevitable day when the Indian batting would be forced to field a middle order that resembles the current Australian top order – sharing a grand total of five test matches between them – isn’t far away. Whether the best laid plans weave a middle order fabric that fills the gap between the large sized shoe and small feet will remain unanswered for some time to come, it will be worth persisting with a few who’ve shown that with time, maturity evolves.

Persisting with Virat Kohli for the rest of the series, irrespective of the statistics that come out, is one way to tap the right ore. Given that he has matured into an outstanding ODI cricketer, it is hard to imagine why he cannot replicate his achievements in the longer formats. This would, on the other hand, mean shutting the doors for Rohit Sharma this tour, who seems to have picked off from where he left off the last time he toured down under. He has certainly seen enough downslides to let this hit his game hard again.

The archetypal Indian sentiment would find it hard to drop a veteran to accommodate a couple of youngsters given the lack of proximity of the next tour abroad. One may find it even needless to house such a need given that a prolonged gap wouldn’t require youngsters to be armored with foreign soil experience as immediately as the present moment. Even if the contrary decision was made, there is every chance that a few selectors could be painted as villains by a section of the fans and media for robbing their ‘local legends’ of a last ditched attempt to gain glory. The fact is hard to argue against, given that the veterans have had very good track records down under during previous tours.

But again, only one out of the four scheduled tests have been completed – even if it was premature. A Test match that gets over with over a whole day’s play left reflects quite strongly on either the nature of the wicket, or a single sided dominance. The effect of losing a potential entire cricketing day dances to a different tune than the one set by Samoa changing time zones in order to remain in line with its trading partners who are nearly a full day ahead.

The key for India to succeed will remain focal around sticking to this combination. The inabilities exposed haven’t changed with time – the opposition tails have forever wagged at amplitudes that summate those of all hundred odd Dalmatians. A large part of the blame, as gathered through eavesdropping on discussions between common man and common man during train and bus journeys, among others, has been cannoned towards MS Dhoni and his ‘defensive’ methods. The picture painted resents a star who neither takes his himself nor the dream job too seriously.

Although in reality, the belief must be that the Indian tail fails to place a price on its wicket. As much as men want to hate (yet find it hard not to like) Harbhajan Singh, he proved the most infuriating of all lower order batsman to get out, even amidst bouts of unaffected public depreciation down under. Ashwin, a craftsman plying the same trade, seems the nascent player showing signs of steadiness amongst a sample that includes the Indian skipper. Dhoni’s lack of inventiveness in wiping out an opposition tail would certainly have been neutralized, or even forgotten, had his willow yielded more runs.

The series is still young and alive, and whatever was learnt out of Melbourne must be applied in Sydney for sustenance. This would mandate sticking to the same combination, unless injuries hamper the thought, if India hopes to gain anything out of Sydney.


Prasad Moyarath

The MCG pitch was the best thing about this Test. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Yet another Boxing Day Test debacle for India or another usual Indian start for an overseas tour. The Boxing Day Test match result can be interpreted by an Indian fan in either way but irrespective of the result, this Test match between India and Australia provided a great advertisement for Test cricket. Though this match lacked the usual intensity of an India – Australia duel and finished in four days, the entertainment it provided was worth for any Indian who woke up early morning in this chilling winter to watch it on television. The Test match which started on a cloudy day with a few rain interruptions on the first day proceeded in bright sunshine leaving a doubt whether the rain Gods were sitting and watching with awe.

Not a single century scored, only a single five wicket haul, what was that made this Test match so special? For those who did not follow this match, its scorecard won’t provide the right answer either.

Going into the Boxing Day Test match, concerns were many for both the teams. The career of Ponting and Hussey hung in balance and they were contemplating playing Christian in place of one of the two. Hilfenhaus was making a come back and Cowan making his debut. For India, the fitness of Zaheer and Ishant was the major concern and so was the ability of their batsmen to adapt to the Australian conditions.

Michael Clarke’s decision to bat first on a cloudy day though raised the eye brows of many, considering the poor batting record of India in Melbourne, was a daring one which was vindicated in the coming days. Warner gave an explosive start to the Australian innings but an incisive spell of fast bowling by Umesh Yadav helped India fight back. Ponting despite been hit on the helmet by Yadav at the start, made his critics eat their words with a fluent innings which was cut short by a Yadav’s beauty. Two dubious umpiring decisions against Cowan and Hussey ignited the debate on UDRS and BCCI once again. Ponting and Hussey proved that they are still good enough to play for Australia with some fine batting in the second innings. Australian tail wagged in both innings, thanks to some unimaginative captaincy from Dhoni. Hilfenhaus made a remarkable comeback was well supported by Pattinson and Siddle.

Sehwag played in his own style in both the innings and luck favoured him only in the first. Australian bowlers never looked like bowling in the right areas on the second day and Sehwag, Dravid and Sachin capitalised on it. Sachin was the only batsman who looked comfortable in both the innings. Dravid getting bowled in both the innings has put a question mark on the technique of this great player. Gambhir and Dhoni continued their poor run outside the subcontinent and Ashwin made Harbhajan’s absence inconspicuous. Indian pace attack put relentless pressure on the Australian batsmen and Ishant and Umesh clocking 140+kmph consistently was a delight to watch.

Three of the four days ended like a television serial leaving the viewers to ponder what next. Scores of both teams in each innings drew a slanting graph line putting a question mark on the quality of the pitch. But for those who watched this Test match on a drop in pitch, the curator was the Man of the Match ahead of the official choice.

  Bini Sathyan

If Australia had declared yesterday at end of play and put India to bat in the first session today, the match would have ended in 30 overs. It is a shame we could not bat out 50 overs. Except Sachin, no batsman in the Indian camp looked good. Sachin did not seem to have any major problems and looked very solid in both the innings. It really looks like his century could happen in Australia.

It was all too familiar when the Indian batting surrendered meekly to register their 5th straight away loss. Photo: Pat Scala.

Sehwag was his usual self – he lived and died by the sword. But the other opener, Gambhir seems to be a misfit in the Australian pitches. Either he is not learning from his mistakes or the Indian team coach is not interested in him. He got out in similar fashion to different bowlers in both the innings. Unless he can resist the temptation of sticking out the blade at an angle in the last moment to an away swinging ball, he might not get to play a long innings in this tour. Rahul Dravid did frustrate the bowlers to an extent but did not look comfortable during his stay in both innings. Kohli has got a taste of the Australian pitches, but he being a quick learner, we can expect more from him. Dhoni tried to attack but seemed out of sorts. He is yet to come good in such conditions.The sooner things improve in the batting department, the better for the Indian team.

The bowling that was considered India’s weakness looked promising with Zaheer leading the attack. Umesh and Ishant looked very good. They were just unlucky that they did not get more wickets. Ashwin promised a lot but was unable to deliver in the 2nd innings. He is turning out to be a an all rounder.

What experts considered as the inexperienced bowling attack of Australia easily got the better of the the most experienced batting line up in the world. They seemed to have done their homework very well and had a plan for every batsman. Though it did not work for Sachin, they easily got the better of him by using plan B which was to stop his flow by denying him the strike.

Siddle, Pattinson, Hilfenhaus all looked menacing. If India does not learn from the mistakes and improve, this bowling attack will push them further down the ranking ladder. Pontings determined comeback will only augur well for Australia in this series. Mr. Cricket, Hussey, as usual played his role to perfection. He led the fight back along with ponting. They have found a good anchor in Cowan who before the series was planning to watch the matches from the stands and instead got to watch it from the inside circle.

Warner is a destructive batsman like Sehwag and he almost got going in the 1st innings. But India was lucky that he tried to do too much. With Marsh and Clarke subdued by the Indian bowling, Australia was held back from a big score. But this was not enough to hold them back from winning the Boxing day test and take a 1-0 lead in the series. India’s hope lies in the fact that they have bounced back many times in the past from the initial shocks.

Goutham Chakravarthi

The rain had stopped and the MCG bathed in sunshine. There was no trace of moisture in the wicket, nor dramatic movement in the air or off the deck. And a champion batsman had managed to survive a hostile spell of quick bowling by a wholehearted local with grit and luck the previous evening. And a magician who once made an Australian Prime Minister jog from his home to the SCG to see him bat waited in the dressing room. All signs pointed to a day of hard toil for the home quicks. But, then, cricket writes it own script. And then, a swinger who was resigned to thinking that his playing days were over produced a swinger’s version of a perfect ten to send back a champion batsman.

It was a fine day for cricket. It has been a dramatic Test already. Fortunes have oscillated more than in a Federer-Nadal classic, and the less-than-perfect performance by both teams, both batsmen and bowlers, has meant that the result of the Test is still as hazy as future of world economy.

On a day dominated by fast bowlers, Umesh Yadav picked four wickets for India. ©Getty

The first session saw Australian quicks bowl much better than they did for most part yesterday. The consistency in their lengths and their discipline in line meant the pressure was constant on the batsmen. Like the heart of a good story lies in its plot, the wicket played its part in a remarkable day of bat versus ball. With tall and quick bowlers able to generate steep bounce off a good length, it kept them interested. Inevitably, Laxman perished after being kept scoreless for what seemed an eternity. Only the introduction of Lyon seemed to release some sort of pressure, but the quicks kept it tight and soon Kohli and Dhoni were out in familiar fashion. And soon the rest of the batsmen too. The heart and the effort shown by the young Australian quicks augurs well for the home side for the rest of the summer. However, their consistency will be a factor. India’s second innings holds answer to that.

It was always going to boil down to India’s (in)ability to take 20 wickets that was going to determine its fate in the series. That Australia has a dodgy batting record and prone to collapse would have raised optimism. And you needn’t be a cricketing sage to have figured out how crucial Zaheer Khan is to this attack. His mastery over his art is mesmerizing, but his presence at mid-on talking to Ishant and Umesh seems as important.

Zaheer’s opening spell had the inexperienced Australian top-order in check and Umesh Yadav reaped the benefits of Zaheer’s tight bowling at the other end. And Ishant produced a quick spell with pace and bounce that on another day would have tagged him a cluster of wickets. His 149.9 kmph off-cutter to knock over Clarke in a spell where he constantly was around and over the 150 kmph mark augurs well for India given the scare of his ankle injury coming into this Test. Zaheer came back to trigger another collapse to leave the Test wide open.

Two champions of the game, ironically both on the selectors’ radar for the chop, stepped up to the challenge and constructed an important partnership in the context of the game. The impressive Indian bowling unit went past the bat on numerous occasions, but the champions held strong, attacking at every opportunity. That none of their younger teammates crossed double digits makes the partnership that much more valuable. Should Australia go on to win this Test, this partnership would have played a pivotal part. And perhaps the dropped catch by Dravid late in the day. His catching in the slips to spinners has been abysmal this year.

May be the bowlers will hold the ace on day four as well. May be, we are in for another Australia-India classic. Laxman might be itching to put his stamp on another famous chase. Perhaps a Tendulkar masterpiece to on another Test involving Australia. Or may be, the two locals, Siddle and Pattinson will have the last laugh. Or, may be something else. In any case, it promises to be worth it to wake up at 5 am IST to catch the action.

Goutham Chakravarthi

Teams were beaten even before they set their foot on these shores over the last two decades. Bowlers targeted batsmen and former players and media targetted the captain. Crowds were one sided, and invariably, so were the contests on the field. Insofar, this tour has been anything but that.

Two days into the series, the talk has largely revolved around DRS in the Aussie press. No talk to players and ex-players targetting opposition. Even newbies like Kohli and Yadav are left alone. If anything, a scathing attack was made on the pace of Ed Cowan’s batting in the first innings. Mental disintegration on and off the field that was the norm is now missing. It is a fair reflection of the times. It is still a marquee series, but it is still a battle between a side arresting its downward slide and another that is trying to rebuild to reclaim the top spot. It will be fought to the end, but the winner will not be crowned the champion as it was the case for much of the last decade.

Sehwag and Tendulkar scored aggressive half centuries in India's strong reply to Australia's 333.

Sehwag and Tendulkar scored aggressive half centuries in India's strong reply to Australia's 333.

Like Australia’s faded aura, cricket vocabulary seems anything but right with regards to its bowling. Words like attack, guile and spell sat well with the writers and bowlers of the past, but it chokes your throat to say that when you see Hussey and Warner as part of a bowling unit.  It was touted as much a battle of the young Australian quicks high on velocity and potential against an ageing yet formidable batting side. By lunch on day two, a determined lower order had taken the Australian tally to 333. The wicket had considerably quicked, and notably there was less happening off the wicket. But, good carry and enough movement off the wicket promised a lot in store for the remainder of the day.

Ivan Lendl was among the first to play mind games. He didn’t do it by targeting his opponent through the media space, but used his well-toned physique and the locker room to carry out the task. He would walking around the locker room doing skips stark naked. With Sehwag, there is no fear of such physical intimidation. But with bat in hand, he is designed to destroy bowlers. He is the barometer of courage for bowlers. He plays his game, and often with a smile. May be, Pattinson will not second that after his altercation with Sehwag. But India got what it wanted out of Sehwag – a quick and positive start for Dravid and Tendulkar to build on. Sehwag’s was a chancy innings, but promised more good in the remainder of the series.

The innings of the Test so far came from Tendulkar. With immense brouhaha surrounding his hundreth 100, he played with freedom and decorated the MCG with spectacular strokeplay. He was rarely in any trouble and put on a show. A repeat of his 2007-08 showing with the bat might well pull the series in India’s favour this time, but that is a discussion for later. The MCG crowd gave him a rousing reception and he didn’t let them down. With the day drawing to a close and a partner suffering with cramps, he closed shop early only to be bowled by the fiery Siddle who was the sole hope in a largely flat performance by the Australian bowlers. India will sleep comfortably in the knowledge that Dravid is still unbeaten, even if luckily so.

Both batting units have put up a good show thus far and the wicket has flattened out. It promises to be good for batting for another two days. But given the recent history of both batting units that is skewed towards more than the occasional batting collapse, there is still plenty to look forward to in the Test.