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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Humiliating loss for India

It did not come as a surprise that the Aussies defeated the Indians in the first test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy - what was disappointing was the margin of victory. Especially after the first day when the Indians had fought back. Though they had taken 9 wickets, the Aussies had already put 330+ runs on the board - this was where the Indian bowlers would feel let down by their batsmen.

If one looks at the line-up of both teams, in terms of runs scored and wickets, India scores higher than Australia. That should typically mean a much better understanding of situations, knowledge of pitches, varied experience. But, this remained only on paper. The Aussies showed how far they are ahead of the rest of the teams, in terms of preparation and more importantly, execution. They managed to restrict the scoring of the Indians in both innings - to such an extent that even after Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman stayed at the crease for long periods, they did not have any runs to show. Was it because there was no time available for the team before the first test started - Probably. But, the pitch for the first test was resembling the sub-continent more than the typical Australian wicket.

What should the Indians do now? They need to look no further than the Australian team for inspiration. The way the batsman rotated the strike and made use of the freebies offered by the Indian bowlers, is something that the Indian batsmen would do well to emulate. The batsmen should try out different strokes, just to put the bowling out of rhythm - just look at the way Hayden stepped out to Zaheer Khan, when he started bowling round the wicket. The horizontal strokes should come out of the arsenal now, even play the shots over the slips for short-pitched balls. This will put pressure on the Aussie bowlers and they would have to change their line and length. With the current approach, the Aussies dont have to do anything - just line-and-length bowling is good enough for them to get wickets by the bagful. The team is not required to take the second new ball !!!

The Indian batsmen would do well to talk to a psychologist (Gary Kirsten has done a good job in selecting one to assist him when he comes on board) - for the problems seem to be more mental than anything else. The one man who needs it more than anyone is Rahul Dravid - he might agree to open in team meetings but it shows in his batting that he is not comfortable at all. Also, of late, he does not know whether he needs to be aggressive or defensive. He seems to waver in extremes and hence loses his wicket. VVS and Sourav Ganguly were looking good at the crease before they were undone by the Aussie thinking (not bowling). Should Sehwag be brought back to the Indian team? Since there is not much time between the 2 matches, a change might be what is required. Yuvraj Singh should be rested for the next 2 matches when Sehwag can be tried out. When the conventional doesnt work, the think-tank needs to think on different dimensions - and Sehwag might be the one!

The Indian bowlers also would do well to look at their Aussie counterparts and learn how to choke the batsmen. Hayden, especially, has shown an inclination to throw away his wicket when he doesnt score much for 3-4 overs. That is definitely a trick that the Indian bowlers should pick up quickly. This way, they can continue their decent work (wouldnt call it a great job) with the ball. RP Singh seems to be struggling with his rythm and maybe its a good idea to replace him with Irfan Pathan, who can bowl a wicket-to-wicket line. Harbhajan has not regained his early form and the next test might be his last chance to prove his worth. Murali Karthik and Piyush Chawla are waiting in the wings.

The Sydney wicket will help the spinners but only from day three. It depends whether the Indian team can go into Day Three, staying abreast of Australia. If they sink early, by the time the ball turns the Indians would have no chance to get back into the match (and series).
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