I managed to see a fair bit of India’s batting in the 3rd test at Perth and a lot more of the out pouring in the media. The batting display was disappointing and a trifle saddening .You tended to be off colour on those days when our team was getting roundly or squarely beaten and headlines in the print and electronic media cried “murder”.
It’s sad that the TV channels should treat this as another “scam” or political gaff .The Channel anchors spoke with the outrage and vociferousness they have learned to use from repeated broadcasts of scam related telecasts and political fiascos .A sports event needs completely different treatment and sports analyst and former sporting greats respond better to thoughtful assessments of the game and their views on what they think needs correction. Of late we see just meaningless shouting matches on TV in the guise of debate .The TV Channels surely have a role to play in ensuring quality debates on their channels .
The Australian media slammed the Indian team and in most cases were quite derogatory of the batting performance of the erstwhile legends in our team.” Here’s a snatch from The Herald Sun, ” Indian cricket by contrast just lobs along. It’s players pocketing millions each year too spoilt to make major sacrifices .It’s appropriate that many Indian players spent a lot of time last week sitting under trees at training, because their entire test match game is being left in the shade.” It’s funny to read how Michael Clarke was being made out to be an excellent captain when very recently in the South African tour, the Aussies where bundled out for 40 or 50 odd runs and Clarke’s captaincy and leadership came in for sharp criticism.
The best commentary in the press that I read was Ravi Shastri’s assessment of what he thought was the cause of the dismal batting performance. Here’s what he had to say.” The 23 overs bowled towards the end of the first day set the cat amongst the pigeons .Australia galloped to 149 for no loss , David Warner to an exceptional and opposition deflating hundred .In the sequence of events that followed , that had to be the knockout punch of the game. The events preceding and following these 23 overs show both teams in almost equal light .India’s bowlers were as difficult to bat against as the Australian bowlers. India’s middle order greats were unequal to the task .But so were Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey.”He goes on to say of our batting greats “.. Their own greatness is a burden too heavy for their weary shoulders. Swing and seam at high speed in helpful conditions at great accuracy meant that a wicket is always around the corner .When you bat against such a force the margin of error is wafer thin. After some time your concentration weans away .Every failure also has a compounding resonance. Soon you are caught in a whirlpool “.Clearly the best of the lot, in terms of analysis of the situation our team is in, I should think.
The bits and pieces I watched on TV showed the ball swinging and seaming quite appreciably and yes ball after ball, over after over as four fast bowlers pounded away relentlessly at our batting greats .At times ,such as for Gautam Gambhir the ball rose disconcertingly towards his throat, to get him fending awkwardly and to be caught at slips. Laxman , Shewag and Dhoni were out to sharply seaming and bouncing balls that took the edge of their bats to catches at slips. You marvelled at the accuracy and sustained hostility of the Aussie bowlers and couldn’t help feeling that none of the young batsmen waiting in the wings would have fared any better. More so, as none of them would have had any experience of batting on such fast, bouncy and seaming tracks. Honing their batting on the slow and low tracks in India would not have prepared them to be technically equipped for such a fiery test.
What one noticed was the hesitancy of our batsmen, baring Virat Kholi ,to play on the front foot with confidence , and this observation was being oft repeated by the TV commentators also. It was plain to see .The Aussie pace bowlers more often than not pitched the ball up and allowed for swing and seam off the wicket. It was only on the rare occasion that they pitched it short but to telling effect, as they caught batsmen fending the ball off their throats to be out caught at slips or by the wicket keeper.
Our ageing greats now have reflexes that don’t match up to the needs of the hard pacy wickets overseas .Clearly the time for phasing them out and blooding the young guns has come .As most commentators now agree , this should have started a long time back . It was short-sighted on the part of our selectors not to do so, lulled as they were by sporadic hundreds and successes on the slow lifeless wickets in India. Luckily for us there isn’t an overseas tour to Australia, England or South Africa for the next two years or so and this should enable us to do the necessary rebuilding in the comparative comfort of the South Asian pitches.
In any sport ,as I believe in any profession, past performance and legendary feats are not the consideration for team selection on the day. For sure ,class has a place in the consideration set but so too have form , fitness and suitability for the match conditions, horses for courses as they say. This call for the abrupt end to the cricketing careers of our greats, isn’t right . It’s really good to see the determination behind Sachin’s desire to play in the one day series on the current tour of Australia. He seems determined to make a major impact in these matches and I do hope he does .
For now as Ian Chappell says, it would be a step in the right direction if our team fought Australia tooth and nail in the Adelaide Oval instead of totally capitulating as we did at the WACA. Best of luck to them.