Posts Tagged ‘P Ojha’

 Goutham Chakravarthi

On a day were only 38 overs were possible, it was still a day of two halves for the Kiwis. The first 19 overs had them losing their last 5 first-innings wickets, with Ashwin and Ojha continuing to tie them down with nagging flight, dip and slow, but significant turn off the wickets. The last 19 were an improvement in approach and batting as they were made to follow-on by Dhoni.

Zaheer and Yadav started with pace at either end with Yadav sending back van Wyk soon. Barring James Franklin, the Black Caps seemed starry eyed by the Indian slow bowlers. Ojha’s nagging length and discerning spin had Doug Bracewell caught between slogging and defending and finally perished trying to charge Ojha only to have Dhoni uprooting the stumps.

But for dealing with the Indian medium pacers, the Black Caps’ lower-order lacked conviction and failed to provide support to the hard working Franklin. With the 30-run partnership broken between Franklin and Bracewell and the introduction of Ashwin, any hopes of avoiding the follow-on disappeared into the dark and gloomy skies of Hyderabad.

Ashwin was the undoubted star, needing only a handful of deliveries to clean-up the Kiwi tail. Soon he sent back Jeetan Patel (10), Boult (4) and Martin (0), there by ensuring India would make the Kiwis follow-on for the first time since 1956.

Ashwin would be keen to run through the Black Caps batting line-up to wrap up the test match soon.

With the various administrative changes happening in the Kiwi set-up, this batting performance on a typical sub-continent wicket wouldn’t have pleased the new coach Mike Hesson. And for a team that looked suspect against the spin of West Indies not so long ago, and coming in to this series with no practice game, perhaps this was expected.

Perhaps Mike Hesson did have a stern word with his wards at the end of the first innings even if it meant he did have a word with the third umpire on a couple of decisions through the first innings (no UDRS in this series). McCullum and Martin Guptill looked up to the task of dealing with the spin and guile of Ojha who opened the bowling for India looking to extract any bounce and bite off the wicket.

The openers looked compact and more determined even as the threat of thundershowers loomed large. As play carried on under dark skies and artificial lights, the battle the Kiwis seemed to be battling were with that of discipline.

Ojha’s nagging length and turn eventually induced the edge only for Kohli to put down the chance to give Guptill a life. Just when Guptill thought he had done the hard yards of seeing through the initial period and having had a chance put down, he was given out shouldering arms to a straight Ojha delivery. Replays suggested that the ball had turned enough to perhaps miss the stumps.

Rain came to the Kiwis’ rescue soon after with only 38 overs bowled in the day. With rains expected through Sunday, the Kiwis would hope the overnight not out batsmen McCullum (16) and Williamson (3) would show the same grit and determination they showed in the hour before the stoppage to give them a chance of saving this Test.

As the Kiwi spinner Jeetan Patel said leading in to Day 3, “It’s still low and slow with the seamers – it’s not bouncing as much – but it is starting to take some more turn, which you’d expect.” There is indifference bounce, but the turn is not sharp once the ball gets a bit old. SG balls are prone to aid reverse-swing when the ball gets old, but the pace of the wicket is slow enough for the Kiwis to handle that threat.

The rains have been relentless all across the southern portions of India and Sri Lanka. With rain and thunderstorm predicted over the next few days, it is a question of Kiwis surviving the time they get in the middle that is keeping their hopes alive in this first Test.

Dhoni and team would look to wrap-up the Test on Sunday though.


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.