The first test is over and India lost badly. It would be fair to say that the batsmen lost the game for India. Even if India had been given another turn to bat, they would have still lost. There was still another day left (over 100 overs) and over 300 runs to make. There was no way they would have even come close!
The Australian victory did not come out of the blue for most Indian fans – it was probably the expected result. Doesn’t mean I am not disappointed. I am. Is there no way to stop the Australian juggernaut? Actually it is possible, but to beat Australia in Australia, you need to do several things right and doing these things starts well before the actual tour starts. This is where the Indians have missed a trick or two.
So, what needs to be done? A lot of these things seem like no-brainers, and yet we’ve missed out on quite a few of them –
- Preparation: Touring teams need to get accustomed to bowling and batting in the Australian pitches, the conditions, the Kookaburra ball, etc. To do this, they need to arrive early and at least play a couple of tour games. The Indians have basically missed out on this crucial aspect and they are going to pay. (Also read Peter Roebuck’s excellent column titled – Late arrival has cost India dearly)
- Selection: Selecting the team for the tour and for the individual matches is important. The team selection to Australia was probably the best India could have picked, but they missed out on picking a good opening partner for Jaffar. The last time India toured Australia, Chopra was a great foil for Sehwag and although Chopra didn’t cross fifty even in one innings, there were two 100+ partnerships and two 50+ partnerships. This time around, although Sehwag was in the team, he wasn’t expected to play – not in the first test anyway. (This may change for the Sydney game). I also think that picking Harbhajan Singh for the MCG test was a bad move.
- Take 20 wickets: It is not rocket science. Unless you get the opposition out twice you are not going to win matches. The Indian bowling was seen as being incapable of doing this and was being talked about as the weakest link in the team. But it was not the bowling that let India down in Melbourne. I thought that they performed fairly well for an under prepared team.
- Bat out sessions: To win (or even draw) matches against Australia, you need to bat out at least 5 sessions in the first innings. This doesn’t assure you of anything, but at least by occupying the crease, you give the opposition a much lower chance of winning easily.
- Bat aggressively: Batting out sessions alone is not enough – you have to score at a good clip, which is anything around or over 3.5 runs an over. As soon as you get into an ultra defensive mind set while batting (like what Dravid did in the first test at the MCG), you allow the opposition to get aggressive with the field placing and the bowlers get their confidence. One of the main reasons India dominated the series the last time they were in Australia was because their run rate was around 3.5 runs an over. Even Rahul Dravid scored at around 3 an over. If you can’t score boundaries, try rotating the strike by taking singles.
- Think partnerships: Rather than working towards individual scores, India should plan on building partnerships. The opening partnership should be the most important one, but India need to have good partnerships through out the innings to get to a good score. Even the tail should collectively be given a specific target to achieve.
There are also several other areas for improvement, such as fielding and running between the wickets – but this cannot be achieved overnight. India should also consider doing the following –
- Open the batting with Sehwag (replacing Yuvraj Singh in the eleven)
- Laxman coming in at No. 3
- Dravid (who is not in the best form of his life at the moment) should come in at No. 6
If there is any team in World cricket that is capable of beating Australia in Australia at the current moment, I think it is India. All they need to do is play to their potential…and put the pressure back on Australia.