Daily Archives: 6 November 2008

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-1

Ricky Ponting may have a lot of luck with the Match Referee who has been blind to Australia’s over-rate recalcitrance in all recent Tests. However, one thing that Ricky Ponting has bad luck with is the recent run of tosses! He lost even to Anil Kumble, a man notorious for bad toss-luck! M. S. Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat.

As expected, Harbhajan Singh replaced the retired Anil Kumble and M. Vijay came in for Gautam Gambhir who was rubbed out of this game without a proper appeal! The young opener from Tamil Nadu came in on the back of a double century in the Tamil Nadu game against Maharashtra.

Indeed, that TN-Maharashtra Ranji Trophy game only concludes today! Vijay was pulled out of that game after scoring a record opening stand of 462 in the company of the immensely talented 19-year-old, Abhinav Mukund. Incidentally, Abhinav Mukund, a stylish left-hander and son of former TN player Mukund, went on to make a 300 in that game.

I wrote in my preview of this Test match that Australia had to take Jason Krejza instead of Cameron White and perhaps, Peter Siddle instead of Shane Watson. Instead, however, Jason Krejza came in for Stuart Clark! Shane Watson and Cameron White remained in the side. This was, in my view, a strange tactic from Ponting. Only time will tell if it pays off for the Australians.


The pre-drinks session belonged to India. Australia started off with a Brett Lee wide — it ought to have been two wides in a row really, to match Steve Harmison’s start to the Gabba Test. India started off in a hurry. The rest of the first hour was roughly similar apart from a few false shots and inside edges from the Indian openers.

I was particularly impressed with Murali Vijay. He played with utmost composure a cool head and a tight technique. When he came forward to meet the ball, he did so in an assured manner. When he rocked back, his balance was brilliant.

Just before the drinks’ break, Jason Krejza came in for a bowl. Sehwag hit him for a 4 and a 6 in the same over. Perhaps this was a sign of things to come?

However, there were a few good signs for the Australians. The pitch had bounce and offered some spin. However, most interestingly, the top soil was already starting to crumble!

With the score on 98, Shane Watson bowled a few well-directed bouncers at M. Vijay who ducked easily into these. However, this was followed by another one closer to Mijay’s body. The ball squared him up and the resulting poke was taken by Brad Haddin. M. Vijay had made 33 off 53 balls and the score was 98-1!

At the other end, Sehwag faced up to Jason Krejza who had figures at this stage of 3-0-32-0. However, he was getting some sharp spin and unnerving bounce! Sehwag’s strategy to the first ball he faced from Krejza was strange; he attempted a reverse sweep! At this stage, Sehwag had scored 63 off 58 balls! I didn’t quite see the need for a reverse sweep, but then that’s how the man plays!

The fall of Vijay brought Dravid to the crease. Off the very first ball he faced from Krejza, Dravid lunged forward tentatively and poked the ball off the front foot. The ball bounced awkwardly, ripped and cluttered into his pads before travelling into the safe hands of Simon Katich at forward short leg! Dravid, after looking solid, but unlucky at Bengaluru, Mohali and Delhi, was out for a disconcerting duck off the second ball he faced!

This was good bowling by Krejza and underlined the folly of Australia not including him in previous Test matches.

Soon after, the score was 116-3 when Jason Krejza induced a lazy glide off the back foot from Virender Sehwag. With just 5 minutes to go for lunch, this was perhaps a play-for-lunch shot. The ball took the under-edge of the bat and crashed into the stumps. Krejza had his second wicket in Test cricket! Sehwag was out for 66 off 69 balls with 9 4s and 1 six!. India was 116-3 off 22.3 overs!

V. V. S. Laxman, in his 100th Test match, caressed the first ball he received for an off-driven 3 runs.

India found herself in a hole of her own making really! Jason Krejza was able to crowd the bat with 3-4 fielders now.

At lunch, India was on 122-3 off 24 overs! Only 24 overs were possible by the Australians in a two hour session! But the Match Referee will continue to look to take candy money from a few Australians before training his sights on the over rate!

India had an excellent start to the session, but blew it towards the end with about 25 minutes of madness.

My Session by Session (SBS) scoring gives this session to Australia. The SBS Score reads: India-0, Australia-1.0!


India started the 2nd Session on 122-3 (a run rate of 4.80) with Laxman on 4 off 5 balls and Tendulkar on 16 off 16 balls.

I suspect Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Virender Sehwag would like what they saw of the pre-lunch session. Krejza was able to extract spin and bounce from the pitch! It would be an early call and it is potentially foolish to make a call on an Indian pitch, especially when one is a few thousand miles away and watching on TV! However, I have a feeling that a score of 400 or so in the 1st innings would be quite competitive! The surface was already crumbling and there already was a bowlers’ rough! And we have just completed the 1st Session of the match! Having said this, I realise Dravid got out to a poke and Sehwag got out to a lazy shot. Yet, what was disconcerting was the bounce and spin that Krejza was getting.

Australia are in a good position despite the brisk scoring from the Indians.

Despite going for nearly 8 runs per over at this stage (6-0-48-2), Krejza was actually bowling quite well. He was getting good spin and bounce. His top spin was also working for him and he was able to extract good bounce from it. I didn’t see anything that went on with the arm though and that may make him somewhat predictable perhaps.

There was a pointer though for me that was good about the first session. India didn’t look like a team playing for a draw! This could play into Australia’s hands.

Australia started off after lunch with Jason Krejza and Mitchell Johnson.

Mitchell Johnson started off with a 7-2 off-side field. This meant a lot of off-side bowling! This was a somewhat strange tactic from a team that had to win the match! Agreed this was just Session-2 of a long Test match, but I couldn’t quite understand this from Australia. Sachin Tendulkar, who faced most of these balls, was having nothing to do with these. Perhaps Australia wanted to attack at one end and slow things down at the other end?

Having said that, the first time Johnson strayed onto the pads, Tendulkar was able to whip it through mid-wicket for a four. Still, Johnson continued with a 7-2 field.

Ponting’s approach was to give his pace bowlers short bursts of 4-5 overs. It was a hot day. Nine overs after lunch, Mitchell Johnson was replaced by Brett Lee. India had added 27 runs in the 9 overs after lunch. It was India’s turn to consolidate. The Australian pace bowlers continued to bowl outside off stump although Brett Lee did catch Laxman flush on the shoulder from a fast in-ducking bouncer!

Krejza was bowling steadily and was getting some slow spin and bounce. His figures read a more respectable: 12-1-74-2! He even bowled a maiden over!

The ball was 37 overs old now and was showing some signs of reverse swing. Brett Lee produced an in-swinging yorker, which Laxman kept out. This was starting to make the game just a little interesting. We had an off-spinner playing his first Test match, able to extract some slow spin and bounce from the pitch. We also had a paceman steaming in to bowl with fire at two well set batsmen who were quite intent on staying there.

This was absorbing Test match cricket.

The 50 of the partnership came off a strange, false shot from Laxman! A Jason Krejza ball gripped the surface, bounced and turned a bit. Laxman was into his trademark whip-flick shot before the ball arrived at him. The ball stopped a bit too. The resulting shot just lobbed agonisingly over the head of mid-wicket to reach the boundary fence. Tendulkar and Laxman had made their 50 runs from 14.3 overs at a rate of 3.44 rpo. Tendulkar was on 41 from 55 balls and Laxman was on 19 from 44 balls.

Tendulkar was batting wonderfully. There were no histrionics or thumping off drives. This was a relaxed and in-the-zone outing for Tendulkar. He was looking good.

Drinks was called at this stage.

At this point, Jason Krejza had bowled unchanged since he was introduced! Although he had given away a few runs, it highlighted once again why Krejza’s absence from the team in the first three Tests was beyond belief.

In Jason Krejza’s 14th over on the trot (39th over of the innings) he even bowled from around the wickets. I was getting more and more impressed with this Australian bowler. He wasn’t frightened of tossing it up. He wasn’t fearful of the reputations of the batsmen he was bowling to. Perhaps he had the “temerity” too huh?

In Krejza’s next over, Tendulkar got his half century. He had had a wonderful landmark-loaded series without scoring a big one. This was his 52nd half-century, and with it, Tendulkar had scored his 91st score of 50 or more runs — the highest for any player in the world. The records continued to fall his way. However, he would perhaps agree that nothing would matter to him more than a big match-winning score here.

In the 42nd over Cameron White came in for his first bowl of the match. At the other end, Shane Watson replaced Brett Lee. The ball was starting to “reverse” just that little bit. There was something in it for the pace bowlers now. Perhaps Stuart Clark will have made better use of the conditions? One will never know.

Cameron White had figures of 3-1-3-0 at the end of his 3rd over. However, truth be told. He bowled nonsense really. Most of his balls were nearly a foot outside off stump. But perhaps he was part of the ‘holding pattern’ for this pair (Watson-White) of Australian bowlers.

At Tea India was 202-3 off 51 overs at a rate of just under 4 rpo. In that session, 27 overs had been bowled for 80 runs. India hadn’t lost a wicket in that session in which its run rate was 2.96 rpo. It was a steadying session for India. India won the session and the SBS Score reads: India-1.0, Australia-1.0!


Onto my pet peeve: Australia’s over rate

Up until Tea on day-1 Australia had bowled 51 overs! Of these, 20 overs had been bowled by spinners! This was beyond sloppy territory. The was beyond unprofessional territory. This was even beyond recalcitrance. This was beyond thumb-nose-at-establishment territory even. I am thoroughly gob-smacked that Chris Broad will still do nothing about it!

If Ricky Ponting is serious about getting even with the bowling rate, I’d expect Jason Krejza and Cameron White to do a large bulk of the bowling from overs 50-80 before the new ball is due. It will be interesting to see how this session plays out in this regard. But for me, it will be interesting to see when the Match Referee stops this blatant and continuous insult to the game of cricket itself!

After Tea, Australia started proceedings with Cameron White and Shane Watson. Cameron White continued to bowl nonsense.

The 100 partnership was soon secured. Laxman had 38 runs from 102 balls while 73 from just 103 balls! I hadn’t quite realised that at that stage these two had faced almost the same number of deliveries! Perhaps Cameron White had bowled more nonsense to Laxman than to Tendulkar.

Soon after the century partnership, Tendulkar and Laxman attempted to run the worst run I have seen in a long time! Jason Krejza who collected the ball could have said a brief prayer and composed a song before throwing the ball at the stumps! Tendulkar would have still been out! However, Krejza’s snap throw was wide of the stumps. Tendulkar who had given up on the run arrived in the TV frame a few seconds later! This was the first wrong step that Krejza had made all day!

As if to punish him for that, Ponting had him into the attack the very next over!

Cameron White switched ends and bowled instead of Shane Watson. But it was a case of different ends, same nonsense from White though!

Somehow in this session it looked as if the bite and fizz had been lost in this pitch for the spinners. Krejza wasn’t able to get the bite and purchase that he had received in the 1st Session. I did like how he bowled though. He wasn’t afraid to flight the ball and he copped the occasional hammering that he received.

The two Indian batsmen had pitched their tents for the long haul. This was again an example of khadoos batting. The Australians looked a bit lost. But having said that, this did appear to be a pitch on which one wicket could lead to a clatter of them!

It would be interesting to see Simon Katich in for Cameron White who, in my view, was wasting balls.

In his 18th over, Krejza had given his 100th run for his 2 wickets.

When on 85, with India on 241, Tendulkar miscued an off drive off Jason Krejza. The resulting skier seemed to stay in the skies for an eternity! Mitchell Johnson would have had ample time to say a prayer and compose a song before it landed down on him. Like Ishant Sharma had at Delhi, Mitchell Johnson had dropped an important catch. Had he drop the Border Gavaskar Trophy with it? Too early to tell really. But that was an easy catch if ever there was one!

The very next ball, on his 100th Test match, Laxman had a half-century.

Australia needed a wicket badly at that stage and Mitchell Johnson had let the team down.

Just as he brought Jason Krejza to bowl after being the the culprit of a Tendulkar run-out let-off, Ponting now got Mitchell Johnson in for a bowl. He replaced a listless Cameron White.

The catch drop seemed to have sapped the energy of the Australians. Heads drooped. Shoulders dropped. But there was hope. All Australia needed was a wicket or two, one felt. Wickets would always fall in a heap on this pitch, I felt.

Krejza continued to bowl well at both batsmen. However, for both batsmen the field was well spread. So, they were able to pick the singles and rotate the strike reasonably easily and soon Tendulkar stepped into the 90s for the first time in the series.

Against the run of play, V. V. S. Laxman tried to play a cut to a ball from Jason Krejza that just gripped, turned a bounced a bit. The resulting edge got stuck between Haddin’s legs and India had lost the 4th wicket at the score of 262. Laxman was out for 64 off 141 balls with 5 boundary hits. The partnership was worth 146 runs off 46.1 (at a rate of 3.16 rpo).

Laxman will have wanted a century in his 100th Test and like Sehwag, looked set for it. But like Sehwag, he too was out in the 60s!

Sourav Ganguly came out to play in his last Test match.

When on 96, Tendulkar was let down again off Jason Krejza. An off-drive hung in the air for a long time long time. Brett Lee dropped the resulting hard chance. Given his recent trend of getting out in the 80s and 90s, perhaps Tendulkar was looking a bit nervous and edgy out there? But then, perhaps this was Tendulkar’s day after all?

My question was whether Ponting would bowl Brett Lee now! He did not. Mitchell Johnson continued to bowl. He bowled a maiden over to Tendulkar.

Twice against Jason Krejza, Tendulkar had tried to hit a six on the off-side — perhaps following his sons’ advice — and twice he had been lucky that his miscue wasn’t pouched.

Clearly this was a very important century for this champion player.

The runs dried up for a few overs. Tendulkar was stuck on 99 for 10 balls. It was as if the game stood still for this great player. Ponting had conversations with Jason Krejza to build the psychological pressure on the man.

In the end, Tendulkar got his 40th century; his 10th against Australia. He had come close to century number 40 on several occasions in the recent past. This time, even though he tried very hard to give it away, he got there. His century had taken 166 balls and came with the help of 12 4s. India had reached 277-4 off 75 overs.

Simon Katich then replaced Mitchell Johnson — perhaps this was Ponting’s bid to up the over rate, which continued to be shameful.

At exactly 3 minutes to 10pm AEST (4.30pm IST), exactly 80 overs had been bowled. Of these, spinners had bowled 41 overs! And still, Australia was 9 over short of where it needed to be!

This was outrageous! Nothing else.

Australia took the new ball immediately when it was available. India reached 300 of the first over with the new ball. India’s 300 runs had come in in 81.5 overs (3.69 rpo).

Of the very next over, Sachin Tendulkar’s innings came to an end. He was LBW Mitchell Johnson for 109. Sachin Tendulkar, who was dropped twice in this innings, was out to one of the Australians who had dropped him earlier on when he was 85! This wasn’t really great bowling. Nor was there movement off the pitch. It was a decent ball. However, even with about 11 overs to go for the end of days’ play Tendulkar was already playing for the close. He had pulled down the shutters for the day and that caused him to play with a negative mindset. Just as he had got out to the new ball at Mohali after doing all the hard work earlier, here too, Sachin Tendulkar had fallen with just 20 minutes or so left in the days’ play.

Australia had been let back into the game really. Not once, but several times in the day. First by Virender Sehwag’s lazy shot, then by Laxman’s lazy shot and then by Tendulkar’s shut-shop negative-mindset.

India was 303-5 off 82.5 overs. Tendulkar was out for 109 off 188b with 12 4s. The partnership was worth 41 runs from 14.1 overs off a run rate of 2.89.

India got to 311-5 off 87 overs when the end of the days’ play was called.

Australia ended the day bowling 3 overs short despite the extension of play by half hour.

So what is the Match Referee doing about this?

Although India had batted well, I can’t help but feel that this was a day of missed opportunities and one concern for India. Missed opportunities because I feel Sehwag, Laxman and Tendulkar could have gone on to make more. One concern is the form and the mental state of Rahul Dravid. I am not sure what Paddy Upton is doing in/for this team. But he does need to work on Rahul Dravid to prepare him for the 2nd Innings. The way this match is shaping up, it could be a very important 2nd Innings for India and for Rahul Dravid.

Australia will feel pleased. It was a solid effort from Jason Krejza. If Australia can take the remaining Indian wickets for just 50-60 runs, Australia will be well ahead in this match.

The first session of play tomorrow will be crucial for both teams!

I give the last session to Australia and so, the SBS Score reads: India-1.0, Australia-2.0;

A crazy coincidence:

At Mohali on day-1, India finished at 311-5!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Preview

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) caravan arrived at Nagpur. Immediately, Ricky Ponting the Australian captain commenced his complaints on the practice facility! He then realised that the Indians were practising at the same ground and using the same practice facilities that his team was, and retracted to turn his focus on other things to whine about.

Ricky Ponting was, however, extremely happy at having Gautam Gambhir, the highest scorer in this series so far, rubbed out of the Nagpur game.

Ricky Ponting’s problem, however, is his bowling composition. I feel that right from the first Test, Australia’s approach has been negative. The team was loaded with batsmen and bits-and-pieces players. This strategy made less sense when Cameron White, the spinner in the team always bowled after Michael Clarke was given an opportunity! An aggressive strategy at Nagpur, in what will be a must-win game for Australia would be to take Jason Krejza instead of Cameron White. Another strategy that might work for Australia would be to take Peter Siddle instead of Shane Watson. In reality, although he has picked up wickets and scored a few lower-order runs, Shane Watson has looked ordinary as a player. In my view, he does not rate as a Test player. The bottom line is that Australia must take 20 wickets in this Test match. They haven’t taken 20 wickets in either of the 3 Tests of this series thus far!

India may be distracted by the brouhaha surrounding the Gautam Gambhir fiasco. And it was a fiasco and a sham. No other way to look at it in my view.

Gautam Gambhir will not play. He cannot play. I do hope that the BCCI does not hand over a team sheet that includes Gambhir’s name in it — through Dhoni, the team captain.

There are other means that the BCCI can — and must — adopt to shake up the ICC and these means must be put into action right now! More of that later!

Murali Vijay is Gautam Gambhir’s replacement. This is a huge match in which to make a debut. I am not sure if he will be up for it. Personally, I’d have preferred Aakash Chopra. However, I am glad that the new selection committee is forward-looking and forward-thinking. The scuttlebutt is that, just as Wasim Jaffer, Romesh Powar and Ajit Agarkar made the cut the moment a Mumbai Chief selector was appointed (Dilip Vengsarkar), it is now time for Tamil Nadu players to have their place in the sun, the moment a Tamil Nadu Chief Selector (Kris Srikkanth) was chosen! After all, S. Badrinath and M. Vijay are the first two major selection decisions that Kris Srikkanth’s committee has made, and both are from Tamil Nadu! However, this is the realm of conspiracy theorists!

It is reasonable to assume that M. Vijay was pencilled in for the ODI team after his strong showing in the Challengers. Indeed, Vijay has been chosen for the first three ODIs against the England team. The moment the Test team needed a replacement opener, he may have been an automatic choice.

Ironic clock turns full circle for Ganguly!

It is ironic that this Test match, which will be Sourav Ganguly’s last, will be played at what is thought to be the start of the end for Ganguly! When the Australians toured India last, it was at Nagpur — albeit at a different ground — that Ganguly left in a huff on the morning of the Test match, citing an inability to play!

Ganguly will play his last game for India at a new ground in Nagpur. He will hope that the team itself is not distracted by either that or V. V. S. Laxman’s 100th game. It should be just another Test match at the end of which another great will have retired in the footsteps of Anil Kumble!

Who will force the pace in this game?

India does not have to force the pace in this game. A draw will suffice for India if it is to regain the BGT. Australia does have to play aggressive cricket over the next 5 days. It will not be easy. The pitch is red and without a blade of grass on it.

The expectation is that the toss will be extremely important with a “bat first, bat long, bat once” philosophy to be expected on winning the toss. Australia has to use its bowlers more carefully. In my view, Ponting has not used his resources well in this series thus far.

Australia has been far too restrained in this series for my liking. There have been flashes of aggressive play. But truth be told, there has been far more Australian aggression from the mouth than from the bat and ball!

Ricky Ponting will be comforted by the knowledge that all of his batsmen are in good nick. All of them had a terrific game at Kotla and Ponting will hope that they have carried that form to Nagpur.

India, on the other hand do not have to force the pace. On the last two occasions when India could have won the last Test in a series, the team played out boring and frustrating draws! I don’t think I will ever forgive the team for its dull, unimaginative and listless play at The Oval when India led England 1-0 and then by a mile in the Test match itself! In that match, Rahul Dravid was the captain and, in my view, the main culprit who engineered the draw! Similarly, on a dusty 5th day pitch at Bengaluru against Pakistan, India defended and protected a 1-0 lead and declared too late on day-5 to force a result! Seven wickets fell in a hurry, but there wasn’t enough time to force a result then! Anil Kumble was captain in that Test.

M. S. Dhoni is cut from a different cloth though! He is aggressive and will want to crawl all over Australia if he has half a chance.

Humpty Dumpty

Rahul Dravid, to me, is India’s greatest worry. He has been known as ‘The Wall’ all through his career. He has been India’s Mr Dependable. In the last year or so he has been less dependable, more edgy, has looked more and more unsure of himself and his place in the team.

There is no doubt in my mind that Rahul Dravid’s problems are all Rahul Dravid. He needs to shake himself, perhaps have a long hard chat with his good friend and ally, Anil Kumble and produce a big one. Already, there are jokes going around to suggest that the “wall is crumbling”. Rahul Dravid will not want to learn that Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, had a great fall and other glib statement from the braying mediocrity of Indian cricket (its media).

Rahul Dravid needs to produce a big one and the time for that is now, at Nagpur. I certainly would like to see the Rahul Dravid that ruled Sabina Park in 2006. That was an innings of character, determination and panache. That is what is required here at Nagpur.

Dileep Premachandran writes eloquently about this very issue in CricInfo.

Ponting thumbs his nose at the ICC:

In 2008 alone, two senior judges have heard appeals involving Indian players who were severely instigated by Australian players. In both cases, the independent judges appointed by the ICC have rapped the Australians for uncouth and unbecoming behaviour on the field. Yet, instead of admitting that there is a serious behaviour issue, the Australian captain went into denial-overdrive. Now if that is not thumbing his nose at the ICC, what is?

In the words of Malcolm Conn, “Despite the latest furore, the second this year involving India, Ponting denied it was time for his players to take a quieter approach.”

I would, if I read the reports of Sachs and Hansen!

Now, before anyone points out — like Conn repeatedly does — that Indians have the worst track record and ergo, must be “worst behaved” team, I just shake my head and say “Simple man. Simpler analysis.”

All that statistic proves to me is that the Indians are worst at remaining under the radar!

The damning evidence for me on on-field behaviour is in the reports of Hansen and Sachs! Australia needs to wake up to that and not dig its collective head in the sand. Ponting is in denial and the sooner he rips that “Spirit of Cricket” document and uses it for toilet paper, the better it will be for the trees as well as cricket! He needs to, as leader of this proud cricketing nation, author a more meaningful “Spirt of Ciricket” document; one that has teeth.

Currently, Ponting — like the BCCI — is thumbing his nose at the establishment.

What must the BCCI do?

The BCCI must hire appoint a “Sledge Coach” and announce it to the ICC today. It should be seen as the first team in the world to officially recognise that it intends to seek sledging coaching. It needs to seek to legitimise sledging as an intrinsic and inescapable form of the game. This would include the recruitment of soccer players and Bollywood actors. It needs to do this as a proactive step to ensure that all forms of sledging are stamped out from cricket.

Often the BCCI plays catch up to cricket events around the world. It then thumps tables and flexes muscles. If the BCCI really wishes to do good for cricket around the world, it is time to take some really proactive steps.

That is my view.

— Mohan