After the conclusion of the 1st Test, which ended in a draw, both Australia and India can take some positives. Likewise, both teams need to dwell on a few negatives too. I thought I’d draw these up and use this as the basis of further discussion on where both teams need to go from here. For each of the dimensions below, I distributed 5 points between the two teams.
The result: India 4.0, Australia 1.0
In my books, India had the upper hand in this regard. A draw was probably a better result for India than Australia for a few reasons: (a) India has traditionally performed badly in Bangalore. India have won 4 and lost 6 of the 17 Tests played in Bangalore! India have never beaten Australia in Bangalore! And since 1998, India has lost 4 Tests and drawn 2 in Bangalore. So this was a get-out-of-jail result for India! (b) It is quite well-known that India are traditionally poor starters in any series. (c) Most importantly, as has been pointed out in this blog before, Australia was ahead in all but 1 of the 15 sessions of the Test match! As we have said here, thanks to this “new age cricket” brand, Australia may only have themselves to blame for the draw result. Hence the 4-1 score to India on this dimension.
Overall bowling effort: India 3.0, Australia 2.0
In my opinion, both teams did not stack up in the bowling stakes. It was, admittedly, a tough pitch to bowl on and, if I were on the KSCA, I’d look at the curators contract! Bengaluru did not need to import a curator all the way from New Zealand to cook up a pitch that any old “maali” (house gardner) would have been able to put out in a sleepy state on a Sunday morning before breakfast! The pitch did not offer much at all to the bowlers. However, I thought Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan bowled exceedingly well on this track for the Indians. The two of them kept things really tight. The two Indian pace bowlers actually bowled better than the 4 pace bowlers that Australia had (Lee, Clark, Johnson and Watson). Lee had a somewhat disappointing Test match. Clark was somewhat under-utilised and Mitchell Johnson bowled one terrific spell in the Test match. While Harbhajan Singh showed some glimpses of what he was capable of, Anil Kumble’s 3rd wicketless Test match in his career was a worry. In contrast, Australia’s spin stocks were shown up in this game and that’s the reason I scored this 3-2 in India’s favour.
Overall batting effort: India 2.5, Australia 2.5
While Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke had poor outings, Australia actually put in a stodgy batting performance. It certainly wasn’t attractive. It was attritional and grinding — perhaps the way Australia like to play in India these days. Even Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Cameron White chipped in in the 2nd Innings. For India, the start was bright in the 1st innings, but the rest of the batsmen did not stand and put their hands up. The top three high-scorers in the 1st innings were Zaheer Khan (57), Harbhajan Singh (54) and Mr Extras (52)! However, there were good signs from Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid (1st Innings) and the batting held up in the 2nd Innings through Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. So there are signs that the Indian batting is coming together after the debacle in Sri Lanka!
The Fielding, Intensity and Fields: India 1.5, Australia 3.5
This is not really a surprise. There were quite a few lapses in the field from India. A few run-out chances went begging. A few sharp chances — particularly close-in — were spilled or not attempted. Australia’s approach was epitomised by the diving catch that Ricky Ponting took to dismiss Rahul Dravid in the 2nd Innings. It was also interesting to note that Australia set innovative fields against the Indians. This gave them more opportunities, I thought! Except that that period in the second session of Day-4 when M. S. Dhoni captained India, I thought India lacked the intensity and drive. In this period, Dhoni did set innovative fields and was trying something different. He did not allow the Australia bats too many opportunities to either settle down or escape to the comfort of the non-strikers’ crease! Both ‘keepers had a nightmare of a time behind the sticks. However, Brad Haddin must learn to concentrate more on his hands than his lips in India. Haddin finished the Test after having a somewhat undesirable record pinned against his name! He had conceded more byes (23) than any Australian in an innings against India! The previous “record” was held by Adam Gilchrist in Madras in 2001 (19 byes).
Leadership: India 2.0, Australia 3.0
Again, this was somewhat evident right through the match. Ricky Ponting marshalled his troops really well, set inventive fields and was always trying to do something. He seldom got the game to drift and always seemed to have his finger on the pulse. Anil Kumble is never really a fidgety skipper. He is quite competitive as an individual and doesn’t like losing. However, he does let the game drift and was quite unprepared to do something different. I thought he under-bowled Virender Sehwag, for example and did not once throw the ball towards Ganguly. However, I score Australia at only 3.0 because I firmly believe that Australia was tactically wrong. I do wish Australia returns to playing its own brand of cricket; the sort of cricket that won Australia 16 on-the-trot!
So, in terms of the overall result, I score it: India-13, Australia-12!
Overall, India can perhaps claim to be ahead at the end of the 1st Test… just!