Why

Why

Sunday, 29 January 2012

ADELAIDE – SCENE OF THE INDIAN WHITE WASH


Letting the chances go by, suffering and finally humiliation; Summing the theme of the first 3 Tests Team India came into the 4th Test having a long gap and one wonders if there could have been a 3-day match organized just to keep the cricket flowing instead of having nets alone. Did we overlook this gap when the schedule was drawn up?

Reality as it stood in Adelaide; with one test to go there was nothing much to lose since the Border-Gavaskar trophy was already taken. Winning the dead rubber would only salvage some pride but not repair the dents.

M.S Dhoni who was banned for this Test for over-rate issues gets time to plan mentally for the T-20 and the ODI series while Sehwag, the stand-by captain had hopes of continuing his good record as captain. Prior to this match, Adelaide has been dear and kind to the Indian team in the recent past, having won in 2003/04 season and dominant for most parts in 2007/08 season. This time the scene was different and any result has no bearing to the morale of the team, as the damage had already been done. Any positives out of this test will be an indicator as to what where the team is headed or if at all there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Michael Clarke winning the toss on a good batting track had every intention of keeping Indians on the field for long; not surprisingly he opted to bat. Ashwin was back in the team replacing for Vinay Kumar and Wriddhiman Saha would keep for the first time in Tests after having made his debut earlier in 2010 as a batsman. Did India miss a trick by not opting Ojha instead of a third seamer?
Indians had a good start as Australians found themselves in a situation like the previous Tests;  losing the top order and only to have two of their in-form batsman making the rescue act. It was time for the sequel of ‘Pup and the Punter Show’ – and the show went on much to the frustration of Indian fans and delight to all the Australians. Runs flowed continuously for 95 overs, spanning close to 400 minutes which yielding 386 runs in the process. For people who love records, this partnership was for statistical delight – the partnership was the highest for India-Australia Tests for any wicket. The selectors must be patting themselves for having kept Ponting in the team, as it weren’t to his revival Australians would have struggled to post those big totals which has been the difference between the two teams in the entire series.

Captaincy must be a great thing; ask Clarke and he will vouch for it as he is in the best form of his life. Not sure if it has to do with lack of penetration by Indian bowlers or really good quality batting. From what I have seen from the series, it was clearly evident Indian bowling lacked penetration at crucial junctures and intensity was missing when partnerships were built. Barring Melbourne Test, India never looked like picking 20 wickets and the failure of batting didn’t help the bowlers either as Clarke went on to make another double hundred and thereby became the first captain to hit a triple and double hundred in the same series.

It isn’t a pleasing sight when you are a fan and even the most cynical Indian fan would not have anticipated the extent the Australians have been drubbing the bowling attack in this series. It has been just three innings and those three innings have seriously dented the confidence of the bowling attack; This in spite of having the luxury of having injury free bowlers, unlike in England. The misery finally ended with Ryan Harris hitting a six off Ashwin and Clarke declared the innings  after his team posted 604 runs in little over five sessions of play.

What do you expect from the Indian batting this around? All I knew for a fact that, if Australia were to win the Test, Indians have to be dismissed twice. With 21 overs left on the second day and three more days, I hoped one brave act from our line-up. Sehwag blazed away scoring boundaries before getting out to Siddle. Not to mention, India did manage to get their highest opening partnership of the series, a meager 26 runs. Enter Rahul Dravid, a run later the brick was disturbed yet again. I am no expert talking about his technique and I shall only say, he is a much better player than this. Not often I have got this feeling, but in this series, I felt Dravid looked like getting out on most occasions whenever he came out to bat. I was speechless when he was beaten and was left with no explanation as the replays kept showing him getting bowled.  The feeling only got worse when the broadcaster displayed all his previous dismissals in the series.  Another day, I was left with wondering – Will the third day be the day?

On the third morning, barely the Republic parade had started; Indian batting line-up had a parade of their own losing five wickets for just over an hundred on board. A republic day hundred was what the whole of India hoped for, but it didn’t happen from the bat of Sachin. Gambhir and Laxman soon left and it seemed even a good batting track wouldn’t be of much assistance to the mental state of the Indian team. Will be there another low score? and by this time I was used to getting up early and watching India perform badly with the bat.

Kohli and Saha, a fresh pair was a pleasant sight to watch. For the first time, there was some intent and purpose in the way they batted. The pair went on to add 114 runs before an error of judgment from Saha at the stroke of tea; almost went through a session wicket less. Almost!!
With wickets  falling at the other end there were some anxious moments whether or not Kohli would score India’s first century of the tour. He got there finally and erupted like a wounded gladiator having just won a hard fought battle. His hundred was redemption of sorts, a personal victory more than anything else. His maiden hundred will be the highlight of the tour and a glimmer of hope for the batting line-up that someone stood up and made it big while for many the pride was lost in their final playing days.

It wasn’t a green top wicket - the batting order was disturbed by sheer discipline and Indians were lost all the wickets for 272. Clarke didn’t impose the follow-on; with the pitch still good to bat coupled with the heat, it wasn’t such a bad idea to give the strike bowlers some rest for a session or two before going all out on the Indian line-up.

It will be the final showdown in Australia for many of the batsmen and they will have no option but to save the match, avoid another white wash in less than six months or wilt away in the heat of the battle. But they had to wait as Australians opted to bat for some time.
Bowlers again stuck to their task and picked up the first three wickets easily. Barring the Perth massacre, the Australian top-order has rarely troubled the Indians. In quest for quick runs, the resurgent Aussies went after the bowling with Ponting having another good hit and showed no signs of being under pressure. Clarke declaring with a lead of 500 and with little over five sessions to bat out, the Indian batting was merely a formality as one expected nothing but a miracle to avoid the whitewash.

Looking at the batting scores posted in the series, even the highly regarded optimists wouldn’t have bet on India winning this Test. Logic!!! But cricket in the past has defied logic and has shown miracles don’t just happen on ice. I hoped for one last glory with track being flat. Frankly the finale started on a low note with Gambhir getting out cheaply as Sehwag opened up his attacking instincts with boundaries coming at ease. It was the first innings at Melbourne did Sehwag last play such a knock and when Lyon tried to strangle him for runs, the stand-by captain could not resist the temptation for too long and mistimed a full toss to Ricky Ponting.

Sachin Tendulkar in what seems like his final outing in Australia came to the crease with no expectations whatsoever. Or was that an exaggeration from my side? The 100th hundred talks had taken a back seat ever since India’s surrender at Perth. But expectations are like nails, they keep growing and can only be cut, trimmed from time to time but can never eliminate it. His hundred would have appeased few on the ground who had a tough time supporting the Indian team. Indians were the favourites coming into this series and never played like the ones with the top tag. The procession soon followed first with Dravid getting out to a wide delivery and then Sachin trying to defend Lyon’s ball gave a easy catch to short leg. Irrespective of what had happened to the little master, he was given a standing ovation send off for the memories of 20 years. As he walked back to the pavilion having had the worst Australian series individually, he must have wondered how life seems like a full circle. India had lost 4-0 when he had first toured Australia and now in what seems like his last tour, India were in the brink of losing 4-0. He has seen much better days and who knows he might make another trip to Australia, if form and body holds up.

VVS Laxman and Kohli put on some resistance before Lyon managed to induce a false stroke from Laxman and was out caught at short mid-wicket. Surely, I saw Laxman to have played his last innings in Australia. His career took a notice when he made that hundred 12 years ago at Sydney. It feels a curtain has been drawn and he has all the time to decide in the coming months as to where his career and life was headed.

With few overs to go in the day, Ishant Sharma walked in as a night watchman. The decision to protect the night watchman proved costly for Kohli as he was short of the crease when he tried to take a tricky single. With four wickets and a day to go, the question was how long the tail resistance would last?

The final four wickets could add only 35 runs and India had their second whitewash in as many away series. Not only they plummeted to number three in the Test rankings, it was a hard fact to believe that they are still ahead of Australia in the ICC Official rankings, although they are just ahead on mere technical basis. Later in the day with England losing to Pakistan on a spin-friendly track, I asked myself as to who really is Numero Uno at the moment?  It would take few more series and years to find a team which is suited to play in all conditions.


A few of the players likes of Dravid and Laxman would not be there for the ODI series, but the bulk of the squad will be boosted by few fresh minded ones who have come to Australia for the two T20 matches and a tri-series with Sri Lanka as the third team. The outlook will be different as India would like to repeat the heroics of 2008 when they won the tri-series. Will they perform as expected from World Champions ? or Would the white wash have an impact on the psyche going into the shorter versions of the game?  Time will tell