Series a lot closer than result suggests

A 2-0 whitewash of Australia may seem to indicate that India dominated the two test series – far from it, it was a closely fought series and India happened to win the key moments of both games.

In the first test, an LBW decision against Ojha or the Steve Smith run out in the last few minutes of the game would have meant an Indian loss. And even though one team held a slight advantage over the other at the end of each of the five days, the result could have gone either way.

The second test was no different – Even when Australia went in on the fifth day morning with a lead of close to 200 and 2 wickets in hand, the game could have gone either way. Full credit to the Aussies for providing a wonderful contest. One couldn’t help but wonder why they played a 2-Test series – this just doesn’t do India-Australia tests any justice.

Indian positives

  • The batting line up showed a glimpse of the future. There were 3 relative new comers in the batting line up in the last test – Vijay, Pujara and Raina.
  • At the beginning of the series, I mentioned how important it was for Vijay to score a century if he has to establish himself in the team and he did just that. It couldn’t have come at a better time with India chasing 478 in the first innings.
  • Over 3 and half years ago, we pimped Pujara as a prospect for India, and yesterday he finally arrived on the scene with a confident fourth innings 72 on debut. It is a pity that both Vijay and Pujara will have to vacate their places when Gambhir and Laxman make their way back in to the team.
  • Zaheer Khan was India’s best bowler on display and he also ended up taking the most wickets in the series. Ishant bowled one good spell in the second innings (which as it turned out was vital in the scheme of things), and Sreesant showed why he should he part of the South African tour later this year. If all three are fit and bowling to their potential, the Proteas better watch out Smile
  • The biggest positive for India was of course Sachin Tendulkar. Laxman may have won us the match in Mohali, but it was Sachin who won us the series with his 400+ runs in a two match series. Sachin also regained the ICC #1 ranking during the course of the second test.
  • Attitude – Under Dhoni’s leadership, there is a kind of mental toughness in this team. This was clearly evident on the last day of both matches.

Scope for improvement

  • I thought Harbhajan Singh could have performed better (although he was #2 on the wickets list in this series). Ojha, IMO bowled better than Harbhajan Singh in this series.
  • The number of no balls bowled by some of the Indian bowlers is a concern – particularly when 3 of these no balls resulted in wickets in the series!
  • Dravid succumbed to a left arm seamer three times in this series edging the ball on all three occasions (in fact Ponting missed a trick, when Dravid came out to bat – I was surprised to see Hilfenhaus replace Johnson even before Dravid had a faced a single ball of him!) – I am sure he will work on it (TV footage showed him practicing just that in the nets).
  • The short ball is another worry. I think the likes of Raina haven’t done enough to prove that they are comfortable against the shorter ball (and the Proteas are taking note)
  • Barring Ishant Sharma, the rest of the tail succumbed way too quickly to offer any comfort.
  • Gambir’s injuries. Although Vijay has stepped in for him, we need a fit Gambhir at the top of the order.

The Aussie view

  • Somehow the Aussies see this tour more of an opening act and that the main act is the Ashes this year.  They had hoped they would have found the answers they were looking for, but there are more unanswered questions than there were before they started the tour
  • Ponting came to India as a captain who hasn’t won a single test match here and he went back with that dubious record intact. Some of his moves were brilliant and some of them were pretty ordinary. In the end, when it it mattered the most, his captaincy was just not up to scratch.
  • The batting is heavily reliant on the top 3 in the batting order – Katich, Watson and Ponting. The middle order has just not fired. North may have saved his place in the team with a hundred in the 2nd test, but I am not convinced he is the best choice for the spot he is occupying. Hussey and Clarke are another worry – they just didn’t fire.
  • Indians play spin well, but that is no excuse for Hauritz. His bowling just looked ordinary. England may be a different kettle of fish.
  • Paine was just brilliant – it is a pity, he will have to sit out when Haddin comes back in to the team.
  • George may not be amongst the wickets, but I think he is definitely a good find and someone for the future.


6 responses to “Series a lot closer than result suggests

  1. A most exciting and satisfying series Mahesh…really enjoyed it. Laxman, Tendulkar, and…Pujara…lovely to watch! Vijay’s first century…Ishant’s fired up spell…and doggedness with the bat…India looked good. Zaheer swinging it…Sreesanth disappointing till the last morning…was not totally impressed with Dhoni’s field placings, but he made some instinctive calls that came off…

    Australia? Ponting played the best he ever played in India methinks…and he conducted himself admirably…a far cry from Sydney 2008 don’t you think? Hilfenhaus was the best bowler, Bollinger was sorely needed, George really reminds me of McGrath without the lethalness…and Johnson…still has uncanny luck in getting wickets! The luckiest bowler alive…how does he do it??? Hauritz…well…enjoy the controversy with Warney/Ponting/Lawson etc etc etc having a tilt at it.
    Watson? Excellent. North? Throw of the dice. Clarke…bad trot. Hussey…admirable cricketer as he is, could be nearing the end…

    The Ashes are going to be fascinating! Close fought and Oz under serious psychological pressure with fissures within and without.

    Cheers mate!

  2. Forgot one thing…Ponting revealed himself as a hopeless tactician yet again. Pity, he is finally turning the corner as a sport…wish he had some nous to go along with it.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, Ranjiv. Great Test series.
    I still don’t know how Johnson does it – but when someone consistently takes wickets, it has more to do than just luck. I also like watching him bat (although not against India :))

    The Aussies have also been on their best behaviour this series. The only stand out incident was instigated by Zaheer. Full credit to the aussies (Funny thing though is whenever the Aussies are in their best behaviour, the killer punch seems to be missing – wonder if they are some how related)

  4. I think both teams were equally good irrespective of ranking. The difference was the captaincy! He is no where in the class of Border or Taylor. If Ponting had to captain any of the subcontinent teams with the same talent like McGrath/Warne, his results would differ.Cricket Australia gives a very good hand to its captain in keeping egos in check unlike BCCI or PCB.
    But I have to give him credit for an exceptionally well-behaved team this time, wonder IPL has anything to do with it.

  5. You are correct about the killer punch being missing when they are on their best behaviour…but you may have the correlation inversed. I think when the Aussie team were clearly superior to their opposition, they knew it well and attendant to that is a sense of entitlement to victory and things going their way…hence, if it didn’t, you saw the nasty side.

    Now that the belief of superiority is not there, for obvious reasons, the sense of entitlement is gone and the behaviour has improved. That’s my take on it. What do you think?

    As for Johnson, he’s probably successful because the batsmen are pretty much like us…they don’t know how he does it! 🙂

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