Posts Tagged ‘SCG’


 Bini Sathyan

The one moment that will remain etched in memory forever from this Test is the satisfied smile of Ponting after rising from the dirt on completing his century. He runs for a non-existent single, dives into the crease to save his wicket which brings up his hundred. Then he rises from the pitch with mud all over, smiles at himself, smiles once again at his captain and then waves his bat to the stands. For the great batsman that he is, it was literally a rise from the dirt, defying all who bayed for his blood. Ricky Ponting is back.

Clarke ensured it remained his Test by knocking over Tendulkar. © Getty Images

Ricky is a changed Ponting now. We cannot find the aggressiveness in his batting which was his hallmark. The arrogance on his face has given way to a sense of calm. But the true Aussie steely determination underneath could not be hidden by that calm. He simply refused to die away. And what a comeback he has made. 60, 62 and 134 in three innings in two different pitches when the ball swung in and out and where the greats of Indian cricket struggled to make a mark.

He had come in at a time when Australia was in dire straits. Two wickets down for 8 runs. Later he was joined by his captain, Clarke, whom he had nurtured as a pup. Together they rebuilt the innings. They kept things simple. They were careful not to swing at anything that moved away. And dispatched all things that came their way. Soon everything seemed to change. The Australians started to bat with authority. They made the pitch look like a batting beauty. The Indians lost their way. The captain looked lost. He started forgetting basic things like field placements in accordance with who was bowling and to whom. The fielders started chasing balls instead of attacking them. The bowlers lost interest. And India lost the test.

Clarke matured. He knew that his responsibility did not end with his century. He went on and on and on. From century to double to triple and still kept going. And on 329 when many records were in sight he declared the Australian innings. A country obsessed with individual records, we Indians are still wondering why he did that when there was glory awaiting him at each step. Whether they are not fond of individual records, or it is putting team before self or it is their ruthlessness will be a debate which will rage for some time. But Clarke made it clear that his task was to ensure that his team won. And that task was accomplished easily, with the Indians more than willing to surrender meekly.

When many were expecting Tendulkar’s hundredth hundred during the hundredth test at SCG, Clarke came down and played the innings of a lifetime. He joined Ponting when India had the noose around their neck. Then Clarke came up with his epic innings which is the biggest ever score at SCG. And when the little master threatened to create the three figure magic, Indian hopes of another epic innings were crushed by Clarke himself when he came in to bowl and sent back Tendulkar making sure that this will be known as his Test. Now that’s leading from the front. First he resurrected. The he built. Later he towered. And finally he destroyed. And made sure that the SCG belongs to him.

Just like Ponting there was another great Husseya.k.a Mr. Cricket, who also played a superb innings and made sure of his Test place in the team! Mr. Cricket had to do something for survival and he just did not do something. He supported his captain till the end and in the process produced another great innings.

The Indians did not learn from their failure in the last test. They failed not because they are not good. But because they just did not learn. Just like in the first Test, they kept fishing at away moving balls or perished due to lack of patience. The Australians on the other hand showed how to build an innings. After watching three great innings from close quarters for seven sessions, neither were they inspired nor did they learn anything from this. Any hope of an Indian revival if there would be anything was here. Though Sachin and Laxman did look good, it did not matter. As good does not do any good when what is required is something that will better the best. And that did not happen in Sydney. The Indians went down and under.


Prasad Moyarath

History repeats. For a cricket team which depends a lot on history, this can be a solace after its comprehensive innings defeat in SCG. India is 2 down going into the WACA Test like in 2008 but unlike 2008 this team doesn’t inspire any confidence in its followers to remain optimistic. When the captain of this side which has now lost six consecutive Test matches outside the subcontinent says “We can beat this team in Perth”, it draws only laughter.

Not much to celebrate for the Swami Army this Australian Summer so far.

SCG has always been a favorite venue for India for its comparatively low bounce and help to spin. Batting is easy on the first few days and there are many memorable knocks by Indians there including those from Tendulkar and Laxman. Those who anticipated the Indian batting greats to flourish in SCG were treated to a show of their fading antics which were rustic and devoid of any flamboyance or passion. The realization that the Great Wall has developed cracks, Laxman – no more Very Very Special, Sehwag – a lottery and Tendulkar – trepid while nearing his personal milestone, was a jolt for many.

Dhoni looked courageous but was unrealistic with his decision to bat first. The Indian procession to the dressing room started in the first over. Sehwag looked like playing club cricket in both the innings and it is time for someone to remind him that he cannot continue in the side as a once in a while performer. Though Gambhir put up a brave face in the second innings when the conditions were good for batting, he never looked convincing whenever the ball moved or bounced. Dravid never lived up to his stature and Australians succeeded in rearranging his stumps for the fourth time (once of a no ball) in this series. Laxman looked rusty though he scored a half century in the second innings. Ageing footwork and reflexes of Dravid and Laxman have been exposed in Australia. Kohli showed glimpses of his talent but did not utilize the opportunity. Only Tendulkar looked assured but his continued inability to play a long innings should be a worry for the Indians. Dhoni once again proved to be a non performer outside the subcontinent and his unbeaten half century in the first innings came more because of the Clarke’s decision to attack the tail enders than his batting ability. Ashwin once again proved that he has the abilities to become an all-rounder. Indian fast bowlers never looked menacing except Zaheer on the first day. This can be attributed to the good batting conditions and also to the short gap between Melbourne and Sydney Tests. Dhoni’s mediocre captaincy made run making easy for the Australians. Seeing the Australian bowlers correct their mistakes after each session, the Indian supporters were forced to wonder whether this Indian team really has a bowling coach.

After a poor start, the Australians sent Indians for a leather hunt. Unlike the Indian veterans, Ponting and Hussey seemed to improve with age. Clarke assured an Australian victory in the 100th Test in Sydney with a captain’s knock and a prized wicket and declared the innings without bothering about his personal milestone. Will this open the eyes of those Indians who see every Test match as a venue for Tendulkar’s milestone? Haddin had a very poor match behind the stumps. The pace trio of Pattinson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus once again tormented the Indians. The Australians had a plan for every Indian batsman and executed it to perfection like in Melbourne.

Australians made a remarkable comeback after their poor performances against South Africa and New Zealand and made the 100th Sydney Test, their own. The innings defeat in SCG has flooded the Indian camp with gloom and now it is up to the team to sit together and find a way out. The WACA pitch is well known for its pace and bounce and the Indian win there in 2008 might have prompted Dhoni to express optimism in the presentation ceremony after the SCG Test. For the moment, all the Indian fans are heart broken not because of the Indian team’s loss but because of its lack of passion, professionalism and willingness to fight. Swami Army summed up the Indian minds in their song “Why This Kolaveri Di”.


Goutham Chakravarthi

There are many ways to look at Clarke’s declaration. For now the divide is even. Some say it was Pup putting team before self: the Australian way. And some say it is more to do with Pup was deliberate to declare there to show he put his team before self: desperately wanting to show that he does it the Australian way. He still has some way to go before he can win the public over. But, it is certain that an Indian captain wouldn’t have declared with another two and half days left, bowlers jaded, fielders disinterested and with a batsman closing in on a world record. And Clarke’s celebrations on reaching 100, 200 and 300 were stories in themselves. He has said the right things through the summer and has been intuitive and impressive for a young captain.

Clarke: Ace batsman and captain. He'll hope his image of a person with questionable lifestyle is all about to change.

Not another wicket fell for the visitors in another day of uninspired effort on the field. Barring Ishant, the bowling lacked penetration. It was like watching a perfect cover drive over and again. It is hard to forget that Clarke walked in to a crises on Tuesday. Those who remember it as a big score on a flat track against a blunt attack have short memories. It could all have been a different story if he had nicked one early. It has been Clarke’s Test so far, and might have firmly established himself in to the job and begun the turn around for Australia.

For the Indians, there is little point in staring at the obvious. It is all fancy to call Dravid as the wall with an open gate after he has been out bowled thrice this series. And Sehwag can be more annoying than gum sticking to your shoe on his bad day. There are reasons for them being on this tour and that cannot be forgotten. Gambhir’s determination came through and Haddin will have played his part should Gambhir go on to play a marathon innings. India will rely on Gambhir to anchor and Tendulkar and Laxman to find their Sydney magic. Their best deeds have come in this land, and there is still hope that there is time for magic even on their last series in Australia.

India’s fall from grace has been spectacular over the last year. They, evidently, seem to find more holes than they can sew every passing Test and seem to lack direction. Their reputation on being a tough side to beat seems now to be a fading memory, in black and white. India are now at crossroads and need something spectacular to lift them up (and not Kohli’s finger-lifting kind).

It is but obvious that changes are inevitable sooner than later. India’s rebuilding cannot mean dismantling the current, but needs vision on how best to use the tools at hand to be in a position to challenge for a top spot at the test level in 18 months’ time. India’s administration and selection aren’t known for forethought and vision. It might throw Indian cricket back a decade nullifying the efforts of a generation of committed players.

For now, the immediate goal of salvaging this Test should be its sole objective. There is enough happening during a Test to be worried about introspection. That can happen when the Test is done. For now, the mission would be to bat determinedly and put up a fight.

Though much of the last hour was a struggle for survival, it is apparent that the wicket has not played any tricks. Australia might have to work harder than earlier in the series to bowl India out this time around. Their quicks have been impressive and they would love to see Lyon give them some control from one end. Australia are still odds on favourites to win this in a canter, if anything, it is only a question of day 4 or day 5.


Goutham Chakravarthi

It was the most fascinating twenty minutes of the day. Sourav Ganguly and Ian Chappell had spent twenty minutes on air both talking two separate things. Ganguly spoke of Tendulkar’s solid defence. Chappell responded saying Chopra and Sehwag ran well between the wickers and that Gambhir and Jaffer, previously, were walking wickets at the top of the order. “Coming back to the point,” said Ganguly “Tendulkar’s defence is solid. See how he takes his foot out to reach for the ball.”

An all too familiar Indian collapse put Australia on top Photo: Reuters

It was bizarre. May be that is how any conversation between any Chappell and any Ganguly transpires. I didn’t know which was weird: the commentary or India’s batting out in the middle. It had been an hour and half of poor cricket: Gambhir came and went, Sehwag lived on the edge before nicking one to Ponting who promptly dropped it only for Pattinson to send back Sehwag shortly thereafter. Dravid and Laxman look more like the Dravid and Laxman of 1999-00 than of 2003-04. They struggled. Tendulkar and Kohli took India to the brink of lunch when Clarke summoned Hussey to deliver the final over. After 20 minutes of rambling, finally Ganguly and Chappell struck a conversation.

Ganguly: This is a smart move by Clarke. Everyone expected him to bring in Lyon for the last over, but he springs a surprise. Tendulkar has a history against these dibbly-dobbly bowlers. He hated facing Hansie Cronje.

Chappell: Then he must have nightmares facing Kiwis!

I pictured Greg Chappell chuckling at this back home and perhaps throwing a couple of air punches in delight at his brother’s clever retort.

Ganguly: Not sure about that Ian, but am sure you guys have problems. You just lost to them in Hobart last month!

The cameras panned to the Indian dressing room and they were clapping. You’d think for Tendulkar. Surely, they were clapping for Sourav. If you can take out two Chappells in one sentence, it is worth more than the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

I punched the air in delight. At least waking up at 4 in the morning didn’t go waste. We were one up going in to lunch even if the score card said something else!

And that was that! Nothing went India’s way. Even a determined Tendulkar who looked in tremendous form dragged one on to his stumps. It was another day of good fast bowling by the home team. Their lengths to the Indian top-order would have done their bowling coach, McDermott, proud.

Pattinson set up Sehwag and Laxman with the guile of a veteran while Siddle bowled a hostile over to knock over Kohli who had looked very comfortable till then. Between the three quick men, they had India in knots for the third successive innings. Given India’s repeated weak response to good quick bowling, the three quick men will fancy a rich harvest this summer.

Jokes of Indian batsmen’s lack of patience and feet movement fill the entertainment sections of Australian newspapers. “If you want to see fancy Indian footwork, bypass the SCG and take in a Bollywood musical,” read one of the newspapers. And the taunts of No Country For Old Men seemingly now a dig at the Indian middle-order than their own ageing greats.

It has been a miserable time for Indian batsmen over the last one year playing outside of India. No longer can the batting unit continue to surrender meekly. Yes, the Australian bowling has been hostile and good, but the application and hunger they were famous for seems lacking. It is highly unlikely that they will all survive should this series pan out like their last English summer.

All is not lost. There are another four days left in this Test to redeem themselves. Meanwhile, Ponting, Clarke and Hussey will know that two sessions of batting tomorrow could well seal the Test in their favour.


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.

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