Australia does have a terrific opening batsman who can’t bat at the moment and they do have an opening bowler who can’t get a bowl at the moment.
Cricket is played on rough maidans and not in plush couches in psychiatric clinics!
One thing about the Australian cricket team is its resilliance and strength. Australia will bounce back from this crushing defeat that India inflicted at Mohali. To come back strongly from this demoralising defeat will be hard for Australia though — the next Test is being played in Delhi, where India has not lost since 1993! Indeed, India has won the last 7 Tests played at Delhi since 1993! Admittedly, 3 of these victories have come against lowly Zimbabwe. But 7 from 7 is an daunting mountain for Australia to climb when staring down the barrel — if I am permitted to mix my metaphors! But that mixing is the least of Australia’s worries at the moment. There is a fair bit of mixing happening in Australia’s collective head spaces.
This was India’s biggest win ever in all Test matches (by number of runs) against all countries. In other words, even Bangladesh had been spared such a thorough spanking and humiliation! This was also Australia’s heaviest Test defeat since April 1991, when they were beaten by 343 runs by the then mighty West Indies.
The two main differences between this defeat and other big defeats that India has inflicted on Australia is that this was more of an ‘Australian pitch’ than an Indian pitch! Secondly, unlike Kolkata in March 1998, the previous ‘best’ defeat that India has inflicted on Australia, this Mohali victory was secured on a good batting track and by pacemen (mainly)! Although Javagal Srinath had a cracker of a game in that Test match (Kolkata 1998) that really was Kumble’s game on a traditional Indian dust-bowl.
Mohali 2008 wasn’t. It was a batting pitch. The victory was achieved by some splendid opening bowling by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma in the first innings. Two spectacular deliveries from Ishant Sharma in the 2nd Innings (to remove Ponting and Watson) and by Zaheer Khan cleaning up the tail in the 2nd Innings. In saying that, I am not devaluing the contributions made by Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh. Not at all. However, from the moment Australia was pegged back in the 1st Innings, given Australias’ “defensive mindset”, there was only one possible result in this game. And this mindset was reinforced by the Indian pace bowlers who got the ball to reverse swing from the 8th over itself!
A few observations about the victory that need emphasising:
- How come the Indian pacemen are getting much more traditional and reverse swing than the Australians! It almost looked as if the Indians and the Australians were batting on two different pitches! As Peter Hanlon says in The Age today, “How come Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma get more movement off the pitch than our spinners – at 140 km/h?”
- Apart from V. V. S. Laxman, every other Indian player contributed strongly. In batting, the openers, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and M. S. Dhoni played strong hands. In the bowling department, all 4 strike bowlers played a solid hand. Laxman will rue missing out and if there is a change to the team plan of going into the Delhi game with 5 bowlers, Laxman may miss out.
- India dominated from the get go. And in a very Australian manner, once India had its foot on the pedal, unlike India teams of the past, the foot remained on the pedal.
- Australia paid dearly for its defensive mindset in Bangalore. At the end of that Test match, I rated India as having come out on top. I was criticised for this rating by some of the people who left comments behind (hope the pie on the face tastes good guys!). I said then and I say again that the main reason for that rating was that Australia let the match drop from their hands after being on top right through the game! You can’t do that with good teams like India! Positive outcomes come from seizing the key moments in a game. Australia failed to do that and displayed a negative mindset — which was somewhat evident from the start of the tour with this “new age cricket” nonsense.
- Australia played like India do! They were out-thought, out-batted, out-bowled and even out-sledged! We even saw Australian players complaining on being sledged! Aren’t these Australians masters of the art form? Soon we may have Ricky Ponting wearing a halo and suggesting that all sledging ought to be stamped out of the game!
- Zaheer Khan was fined 80% of his match fee for asking Matthew Hayden about his post-match dinner plans! Matthew Hayden complained to the umpire! Poor thing. His pride was hurt. It is time to change the “what’s said on the field is left on the field” adage to read, “What the Australians say on the field ought to be left on the field. However, Australians will don nappies and reveal what other teams say on the field to anyone that is even remotely interested!”
- More seriously, Zaheer Khan followed up his pre-match talk (which commenced, rather unnecessarily in my view, from the Bengaluru-presentation-ceremony) with on-field performance. What the Indians are realising is that it is not enough to be aggressive in words (read: Robin Uthappa and Sree Santh). Unless it is followed up by real aggression on the field through on-field performance, the talk is meaningless.
- Perhaps what Zaheer Khan’s talk did was put Ricky Ponting off his own game! Ricky Ponting focussed on attacking Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble instead of worrying about the cleanliness of his own stable! He now has 8 days to mull over what he needs to do with his own team’s performance! At the end of the Bengaluru Test, in response to Zaheer Khan’s observations, Ponting said, “[Zaheer Khan] just happened to have a good game as well, which is pretty unusual for him. It’s up to him to back it up again. I think a lot of his comments might have been to try and get us to play a different style and different brand of cricket.” Well, Zaheer Khan did have a good game in Bengalure. No, it is not “unusual for him” and yes, he has backed it up! And yes, he did rile Australia’s “new brand” of cricket. But it didn’t work because, as Dhoni said “Honestly speaking, we have not seen this before. I mean in their first innings, they were 22 for two wickets after 13 overs. I was so surprised that I told Rahul (Dravid) that you don’t see things like that very often.”
Ricky Ponting needs to focus on his own game and his own team without being distracted by the performance of Zaheer Khan and the (non)selection of Anil Kumble! I do believe that this “new age” nonsense should be consigned in the history pages to the “dark age” of Australian cricket! It is time for this approach — and its author — to be kicked out of the Australian dressing room.
Australia needs to change its approach and mindset; not its personnel. And that should start from cleansing its dressing room of needless and unwarranted management-speak. Cricket is played on rough maidans and not in plush couches in psychiatric clinics!
The intervening 8 days should be a time for soul-searching for the Australians. This is a champion Australian team and they will come back hard at the Indians. Australia does have a terrific opening batsman who can’t bat at the moment and they do have an opening bowler who can’t get a bowl at the moment. But Australia will regroup and come back strongly at the Indians. That is what champion teams do!
I can’t wait for the Delhi Test to commence!