Posts Tagged ‘Sydney’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

If Michael Clarke had hoped for a better start to the New Year, I yearn to know what his desires were.

Surely, a triple hundred, and the prized scalp of a legend approaching a significant landmark wouldn’t have found its place even in his wildest of dreams. Pup is not only a full grown dog now; he is a monster. And he is growing in size.

Clarke has not only answered his critics in style, he’s done it with the aura that each and every one of his predecessor possessed. He doesn’t seem as arrogant or as tough as Border, Waugh or Ponting; he’s more the Mark Taylor mould – a postulate that might help reason why he declared when he was batting on 329, with more than a couple of days left.

But what Clarke faces, rather pleasingly, is the challenge of grooming promising youngsters with immense potential to restructure a team that craves to regain lost glory. The Australian team has checked every box in the ‘To-Do list of Champion Sides’ during the course of these two Tests. They have transformed myth by harnessing promising young talent through seemingly undistinguished youngsters, and an odd ex-grounds man, who defied every limitation placed on traditional Australian selection policies.

The only drawback of this approach was over-burn, an opinion echoed by Steve Waugh during the rise of young, raw fast bowlers with limited first class experience. Pattinson’s injury blow follows the fate experienced by Pat Cummins post the South Africa series. How the selectors handle this issue would be interesting to watch. Their visitor counterparts, on the other hand, have a bigger share of headaches to address.

Some of us soothsayers may have well read the writing on the wall on the completion of Day One – that the Sydney Test wouldn’t last the five days. As much as we love to cherish the memories of Kolkata 2001, it is nice to remind ourselves every now and then that the Kolkata Test deserves its place in history as an event that no romantic would like to see a repeat of.

When the Aussies win, they win in style. And no one can take that away from them. Age didn’t seem a barrier when one witnessed the likes of Ponting and Hussey, both past their mid-thirties, steal quick singles or convert twos in to threes. In truth, their fielding standards of late haven’t been the greatest but they certainly seem more determined on the field as compared to their counterparts. An aggressive bowling line up ideally requires great support from the fielding unit, and this very thought was personified well enough. Barring a few hours of dominance from the Indian middle order, it seemed destined that the Sydney Test would end sooner than later.

A few pessimists from their camp would have shown signs of concern when both Tendulkar and Laxman, Australia’s tormentors in chief over the previous tours (and especially at the SCG), crossed half centuries and looked in fine touch. Clarke’s New Year got better when the rolled his left arm over to dismiss Tendulkar.

Clarke has been largely successful even with the ball in his hands against the Indians © The Age

Incidentally, Clarke’s remarkable bowling spells have come against the Indians – from the dusty minefield of Mumbai to the controversy-laden field of Sydney last tour. Laxman succumbed to the new ball soon after. The rest of the innings is probably not worth documenting (keeping Ashwin’s fifty in mind), given that Hilfenhaus had the last laugh grabbing a five-for to press for his constant contention to feature in the playing eleven.

Six consecutive losses away from home would do no good to any sporting team that had sat up on the Rankings Tables until not too long ago. It would be hard to comprehend how Sir Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola would react if Manchester United or Barcelona goes through lean patches. Even though the fundamental points of perspectives between these two sports differ, surely the thoughts planted are the same. And one wonders what Fletcher’s mind is experiencing now.

India’s brief glimpses of determination to succeed at what was, by any imaginable measure, a highly improbable mission is probably about the only facet that can be commended. Tendulkar’s ominous form was undoubtedly a treat to watch – it is only a pity that this couldn’t be translated into the much awaited three figure mark. Gauging how India performed otherwise, the respect for this man’s scores, over the course of the two tests, will not be expressed as overtly as the ovation he gets every time he walks in; it will be evinced through raised eyebrows admiring those deft late cuts.

That the SCG ticket sellers breathed sighs of relief after Tendulkar survived until stumps on Day Three is a testament to how much the Australian public awaits the milestone as much as we Indians do. But for the Indian fan, given the turn of events over the first three days of the Test, the contending forces were rival thoughts fighting a civil war within – does the result of the Test matter as much as a Tendulkar hundred? Or vice versa? As much as the Middle East’s inability to create any business outside Oil, it seemed as though the milestone was more likely than a favorable result.

Barring isolated shows of promise, and misdemeanor (courtesy Virat Kohli), the cricketing facts are a lot more virulent than the insinuations thrown around. History will one day point out that there couldn’t have been a better time to beat Aussies in their own backgrounds, whilst closing the curtains on two illustrious careers that were under pressure. Instead, Hussey and Ponting responded with tons. Just as strong as their responses were, equally insolvent were Indian ideas.

The body language of Indian players represented incessant tides of undifferentiated low morale. The exciting numbers thrown by speed guns pointing towards feats of Sharma and Yadav didn’t matter as it would have during the build up to the series. Neither did the plethora of runs amassed by the Indian batsmen.

The immense task of polishing their high-minded credentials, following displays of creative destruction, is one that champions do not particularly enjoy. And amidst tweets relating to the start of the year 2012 reminding many of the start back in 1999 when India toured Australia, the notion that the ‘next-gen’ players aren’t too far away from entering the Test arena offers a breath of fresh air. One can’t doubt the records that the current batsmen have, but a welcoming change is never shown a closed door as long as it is equitable.

Or maybe, we are just desperate to see a change.


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.