Did the Indian team take a beating in Sydney? Hell, yeah! Will India square the series? Most likely not. Is the Indian team as bad as the media and former players make it sound? I don’t think so. But it is not as bad as it looks…
I’ve been going to the MCG for every Test match India has played there since I moved to Australia in 1998 and in most of these cases, very well knowing India would lose. Yet, I went there, waved the Indian flag, took some abuse at Bay 13 and cheered for my team. There is no shame in losing to a better team – all we fans ask is for our team to try its best and play with pride.
The test played this year was probably different because I honestly believed the teams were matched evenly and India had a chance of winning. In fact, one could argue that the end result of the match doesn’t truly reflect how close the game was. India was in with a chance even at the end of Day 3. The fourth day performance cost them the game.
At Sydney, we took a solid beating – there was probably not one session that India dominated, and even when we did fight back with the bat to get to 400, it was just too late. But again, India lost the match because of their performance on one day of the match – Day 1. If India had lost the toss and if Australia had batted (or if we had put them in), things could have been very different – the pitch did flatten out by end of the day, and Australia were presented with one of the best surfaces to bat on. I am not taking anything away from Australia – they truly were the better team and deserved to win, and personally think India should have fought harder but the fans shouldn’t totally write the team off or think of it as the end of the road for this team. I think we can still fight back.
What do we do?
Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the basics. Here is what I think India need to focus on:
- Get through the early 20 overs without losing a wicket: I know it sounds like common sense, but we just aren’t doing it. We need to be 45 – 50 for no loss at the end of those 20 overs, and see the new ball through. Once the new ball bowlers have all bowled their first spell, they are less likely to be big threat. With Sehwag batting, it is likely the score could be a lot higher than 50 at the end of 20 overs, but I’d rather have no wickets fall in the first period than have a flurry of runs. The main job of the openers would be to see the new ball through. Just stick to it.
- Think partnerships: At Sydney, India had only one 50-run partnership, and that too the 7th wicket. We did a lot better in the second innings with one 100-run partnership and three 50 run partnerships. At Melbourne, we had one 100-run and one 50-run partnership in the 1st innings, and none in the second! We’ve got to start working on these things. I’d say that to get to a 300+ score, we need a few good partnerships – at least one 100+ partnership and two 50+ partnerships.
- Play session by session: A session is roughly about 30 overs. India needs to stop worrying about the over all game and play session by session. If they are batting, they’ve got to think about getting through that session without losing too many wickets. If the main batsmen are playing, we have to think about losing not more than 2 wickets in one session. So, if we lose 6 wickets in one day, but have scored about 260-280 all up, I’ll take that in Perth. If we are bowling, our target should be pretty much the same – 2 wickets/session if the top 6 are playing and try and get the rest out in one session. Having said that, we shouldn’t get bogged down if a session doesn’t go according to plan – the next session is a new session; plan and play accordingly.
- Australia effectively are playing with 3 bowlers: Pattinson/Harris , Siddle, and Hilfenhaus. Lyon is not a threat – I repeat, not a threat. He has not troubled our batsmen one bit – but the thing is that India are already in trouble before he comes in to bowl! Between Harris, Siddle and Hiflenhaus, they can probably bowl 60-65 overs in a day. Of that only about 30 are with the new ball. We also need to play these bowlers spell by spell. If Siddle has a good spell, see him through the next 5-6 overs; he will have to be replaced. The batsmen just need to keep this in mind. Also, Hilfenhaus is a lot more dangerous with the new ball than with the old one – we just need to keep these things in mind.
- Tactical changes: Sometimes plans just don’t work. And if they don’t, there is no point in persisting with it. The first thing is to recognise that something isn’t working – we seem to be in denial mode and keep plugging away with the same plans. For instance, if the batting isn’t clicking as a unit, we need to do something about it. Perhaps open with Dravid and Sehwag, get Laxman to come in at #3, and get Gambhir to bat down the order. Maybe we need to try something different with the bowling too. I may not have the right suggestions, but I do know that if something isn’t working, we need to change it.
- Take inspiration from the Perth win from the last tour: I do not have anything more to say on that. Green top. Steep bounce. Whatever. If it is going to trouble the Indian batsmen, it will trouble the Aussie batsmen too. Keep that in mind.
- Shut out the negative comments/vibes: Gavaskar thinks X, Akram says Y and Chappel chirps in with Z. “The Indian team’s body language is bad”. “There is tension with-in the team”. “Blah, Blah, blah”. The Indian team just needs to ignore what everyone else thinks and just go out there and play the best cricket they possibly can. They may still lose, but I can forgive them for that….as long as they give their best.
It ain’t over till its over
The series isn’t over yet. We took a beating in England and we’ve taken a beating in the first two tests. But the team isn’t as bad as it is being made out to be.
We have an awesome, aggressive opener in Sehwag and a great fighter in Gambhir to open the batting. We have one of the best middle orders in the world (aging or not). And a great captain and WK to boot. We also have the best bowling attack that we’ve taken to Australia in recent times. Just concentrate on the positives.
C’mon Team India. Let us see some fight! And on that note, I leave you with this song for inspiration…