Tag Archives: Gilchrist

Anil Kumble: A legend of our times…

When Anil Kumble announced his retirement from all forms of cricket — that’s right, not just cricket, but from all forms of cricket — I was immediately reminded of Adam Gilchrist’s shock retirement during the Adelaide Test match against India. There was a parallel of sorts in the retirements of these two contemporary greats of modern cricket. Adam Gilchrist had, earlier, indicated that the tense Sydney Test was what prompted his retirement thoughts. Anil Kumble too indicated that the tour of Australia, and particularly the Sydney Test match, was what prompted him to think about the rigours of playing mentally and physically tough cricket constantly. Already, the fractious Sydney Test match had claimed its first victim in Andrew Symonds who was disenchanted with the circus that surrounded the game; the circus that emanated (in my view) from the actions that he must claim some responsibility for. Now, that Sydney Test had claimed its third victim in Anil Kumble!

However, it was that Sydney Test that defined for me one of the most dignified players of our generation. Through the morass of Sydney, he alone stood tall, with poise, empathy, alacrity, simplicity and integrity.

In the words of Harsha Bhogle: “In course of time, like with the legends, we will remember Kumble by his numbers. They are extraordinary but the picture they paint is beautiful and incomplete. They will not tell you of the dignity with which he played the game, of the integrity he stood for and of the extraordinary respect he carried in the cricketing world; as a bowler but even more so, as a man.”

In reality, although the Anil Kumble retirement was coming and one sensed that it was around the corner, I thought Kumble would continue till after the two-Test series against England in December 2008. However, Kumble had other plans and got out of the road of Amit Mishra’s progress the moment he acquired a crushing injury to the little finger of his left hand. Anil Kumble felt that his body had taken a beating after 18 years — and a few shoulder operations. Moreover, he felt comfortable that he was handing over the spinners’ baton as well as the captaincy mantle to able soldiers.

Indeed, Kumble is probably leaving Indian cricket in a better shape today than it was when he took over the reigns as captain.

When Kumble took over the captaincy reign in 2007, Rahul Dravid had suddenly resigned. The tour of England left Dravid with few friends in (and little support from) the establishment. Rahul Dravid, the captain was disenchanted and disgruntled. The team had no coach and had to make do with Chandu Borde as “coach” on the tour of England. While the establishment wanted the decks cleared in the shorter versions of the game, the clarion calls for the retirement of the “Fab Five” were getting shriller. What was needed was a stabilising force and a cool head. The establishment was unwilling to risk Dhoni as the Test captain. Sachin Tendulkar, after showing some initial interest, had turned down the job. To give the captaincy to Sourav Ganguly would be a retrogressive step. The selectors turned to Anil Kumble. We at i3j3Cricket predicted the choice of Kumble as captain. It was a wise move especially since there were two important tours against Pakistan and Australia coming up.

In walked Anil Kumble.

A year later, the team has a more stable look to it.

India has a coach who prefers the obscurity of the last seat of the bus rather than the one closest to both the steering wheel as well as any microphone!

Harbhajan Singh has stepped up and accepted his role as the senior spinner in the game. Without anyone quite realising it, he stands on the cusp of getting his 300th wicket in Test cricket! And in Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla, India has two reasonably good spinners. India also has Pragyan Ojha with his brand of left-arm spin. This time last year, there were a few question marks on India’s spin talent.

Although the fast bowling bench strength has sported a healthy look, it is only in the last year that we have seen the emergence of Ishant Sharma as an exciting talent on the world stage. Along with Zaheer Khan, the Indian fast bowling option sports a healthy look. It is quite likely that Ishant Sharma, with his flowing locks and exciting action, will be the most exciting pace bowler in the world today!

And with pace bowlers like Munaf Patel, R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan, Sree Santh, Praveen Kumar, Manpreet Gony, Pankaj Singh, Siddharth Trivedi, Ashok Dinda and Pradeep Sangwan, India can boast of a healthy look to its fast bowling stable.

Batting has always been India’s strength. But it looks like there are players that are able and willing to step into the large shoes of the batting ‘Fab Four’ when they leave the world stage. Gautam Gambhir has made enormous strides in the last year under Dhoni and Kumble. In the middle-order, there are players like S. Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Cheteshwar Pujara to look forward to a future when players like Sourav Ganguly (in five days’ time), Rahul Dravid (perhaps in a 9-months’ time from now), V. V. S. Laxman (perhaps in 18 months’ time from now) and Sachin Tendulkar (perhaps in 36 months from now) leave the arena.

And finally, we have a captain-in-waiting who is able, young, lively, energetic and hungry for success.

We are witnessing the start of the end of an era in Indian cricket. But there is a future that doesn’t quite look as bleak as it possibly did a year ago.

And Anil Kumble can claim some credit for this transformation. He is certainly leaving the place better than he found it.

It started with him developing a “vision” statement for Indian cricket. It is his blueprint that is being implemented today. He wanted to beat Australia in Australia and wanted to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. His efforts at beating Australia in Australia was achieved spectacularly at Perth with an against-all-odds victory. He may be successful in helping India regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy if India plays another five days of good cricket at Nagpur.

Before his first Test match as captain, he handed his “vision” document to his team. He had no coach like John Buchanan or Greg Chappell or Tom Moody or John Wright to craft it for him. It was his vision. It was simple and yet deep.

He wanted the his wards to “Play fearless cricket in a team where team goals come first.”

What’s more? He insisted that the BCCI percolate this “vision” to the Under-15 level.

Here was a cricketer who had the health and well-being of Indian cricket pumping in his every heart beat.

Who can ever forget his bowling spell in Antigua when he bowled 15 overs with a badly fractured jaw? Kumble had been struck on the jaw by Mervyn Dillon while batting. The jaw was splintered into position although a few teeth were moving!

Viv Richards, the West Indian batting legend, has surely seen many a brave deed on the cricket field. But that one event compelled Sir Viv Richards to say “It was one of the bravest things I have ever seen on a cricket field”! Kumble bowled his heart (and his jaw) out to strain for an Indian victory. It didn’t quite happen. He returned home to get the jaw fixed but not before saying, “At least I can now go home with the thought that I tried my best.”

And it was not just his cricket either.

He carried himself with dignity and humility. His words and actions after the Sydney Test match made the world sit up and take notice. He did not need to beat his chest. He did not need to thump tables. There were others that were doing enough of that. He got about his job quietly and impressively. He said what he had to with poise, alacrity and dignity. The world noticed and were dumbstruck by the severity as well as the simplicity of his message.

There is something about cricketers from Bangalore. Right from the times of the off-spinning gentle colossus Prasanna, who was once referred to by Ian Chappell as the best spinner he had ever faced, we have had players like Chandrashekar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid, Venkatesh Prasad, et al. The one word that captures all of these players is perhaps “dignity”. There is a certain lack of brashness and arrogance. There is a certain poise, humility and dignity about all of the players in that list. They are gentlemen first. Almost all of them are all well read. They are soft spoken (Robin Uthappa is a strange exception to this rule, I hasten to add). They go about their business in a quiet, compelling and committed manner. And yet, they leave their mark and their impact in a significant manner.

But in this of greats from Bangalore, none, in my view, will be greater than Anil Kumble. Like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble depended on 3 D’s: “Determination, discipline, dedication”.

These are the qualities that made the MCC recruit Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid into its World Cricket Committee. The committee includes, Mike Atherton, Mike Brearley, Geoffrey Boycott, Martin Crowe, Tony Dodemaide, Rahul Dravid, Andy Flower, Mike Gatting, Majid Khan, Barry Richards, David Shepherd, Alec Stewart, Courtney Walsh and Steve Waugh.

To put things into perspective:

  • Anil Kumble played 132 Test matches (bowled 40850 balls), gave 18355 runs for his 619 wickets (at an average of 29.65 and a strike rate of 65.9).
  • Bishen Bedi played 67 Tests (bowled 21364 balls), gave 7637 runs for his 266 wickets (at 28.71 and at a strike rate of 80.3).
  • Chandrashekar played 58 Tests (bowled 15963 balls), gave 7199 runs for his 242 wickets (at 29.74 and a strike rate of 65.9). Interesting to note that Chandra’s strike rate and Kumble’s strike rate are identical!
  • Prasanna played 49 Tests (bowled 14353 balls), gave 5742 runs for his 189 wickets (at 30.38 and a strike rate of 75.9).
  • Kapil Dev, generally regarded India’s best bowlerr ever, played one less Test match than Anil Kumble for his 434 wickets! Kapil Dev played 131 Tests (bowled 27740) balls, gave away 12867 runs for his 434 wickets (at an average of 29.64 and strike rate of 63.9)

In other words, Kumble has bowled 4/5ths of the total number of balls bowled by the Prasanna-Bedi-Chandra spin trinity who bowled a total of 51680 balls, giving away a total of 20578 runs for their 697 wickets (at an average of 29.52). In other words, Kumble has taken almost as many wickets as India’s spin-trinity. Surely, that is the work load for a warrior!

Suresh Menon writes, “[Kumble] bowled India to more victories than the entire spin quartet of the 1970s, yet he was condemned to being defined by negatives. The pundits told us he did not spin the ball, that he did not have the classic legspinner’s loop, that he did not bowl slowly enough to get the ball to bite. Kumble was described by what he did not do rather than by what he did.”

Dileep Premachandran called it best, I thought, when he write, “After all was said and done and the match called off, he came back out to be chaired around the ground, part of the way on the shoulders of the man who will succeed him as captain. For someone who scaled the greatest heights, it was one of the very few occasions during the 18 years when his feet actually left the ground.”

Towards the end of his career though, Kumble did show his irritation with the media in India. In the face of stinging criticism after the two defeats in Sri Lanka and amidst the growing shrillness of the tone in the Indian media over the continued inclusion of the “Fab Five” in the Test team, Kumble lashed out at the unjustified criticism and, more particularly, the unjustified and uncharitable comments . He deplored the trend for sensationalism in the Indian media that led to wild speculation around the existence of a voluntary retirement scheme that was offered to the ‘seniors’ by the BCCI!

However, in the end, Kumble left the game on his own terms. He arrived fighting for a credible spot in the team. There were many that questioned his ability, his uncharacteristic action, his studiousness as well as his desire. He fought all of that to become a quiet warrior and a dignified champion.

He left on his own terms too and that, to me, was a complete picture.

In his retirement, one hopes that he will continue to serve Indian cricket as he did when he was a player. Indian cricket needs players like him: Players who have Indian cricket’s hopes and fortunes in their every heart beat. Players who have achieved a lot in their playing time. Players who created an impact. Players who left the game better than they found it. And more importantly, players who played the game with integrity and with dignity.

— Mohan

Speculation and perception

Gilchrist targets Ganguly and Harbhajan

The above report lays stress on two important words – Speculation and Perception.

Dictionary.com throws up the first four results for ‘speculation’ as

1. the contemplation or consideration of some subject: to engage in speculation on humanity’s ultimate destiny.
2. a single instance or process of consideration.
3. a conclusion or opinion reached by such contemplation: These speculations are impossible to verify.
4. conjectural consideration of a matter; conjecture or surmise: a report based on speculation rather than facts.

The most interesting definition is no 4 where the example phrase used cleary says that there are no facts involved.

As for ‘perception’ here are the results from the same site

1. the act or faculty of apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding.
2. immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: an artist of rare perception.
3. the result or product of perceiving, as distinguished from the act of perceiving; percept.

Here again the meaning shows it is not based on any factual data.

The reason why I am posting the relevant meanings here is that whatever Gilchrist said has no factual basis first, based on the language that he has used. Secondly it gives us free rein to indulge in some ‘speculation and perception’ of our own. So here is a list of interesting conclusions of coursed based on ‘speculation and perception’

1. Gilchrist was asked by his publishers to wait and see if Australia was doing well in the series before coming out with his views on some of the Indians.

2. Gilchrist did not want to write about Sachin but was forced by his publishers, else he would not be paid his full advance for the book.

3. Gilchrist’s book was completely ghost written and he had no say in the things that were written there.

4. Gilchrist had some personal financial troubles because of the global meltdown, and he thought of including some sensational stuff to get a fat advance and boost the sales through the publicity it got.

Now that we have set the tone we can come with some other such conclusions on certain other issues using the same ‘speculation and perception’ method.

1. Andrew Symonds was asked by Cricket Australia to go on a fishing trip, so that they could drop him and avoid any embarassment if there was a repeat of ‘monkeygate’ in India.

2. Cameron White was included ahead of a specialist spinner because, Ponting felt that IPL players will get some mileage and help their value when transfers came up later.

3. Peter Siddle was included in the Second Test because a Test appearance in India will help his chances for a future IPL contract.

4. Michael Clarke did not play the IPL because he was warned by Cricket Australia that he may not be considered for captaincy after Ponting.

5. Ponting and Lee had decided to ‘act’ out a spat in public to deflect the attention from an impending Mohali loss just a bit.

My creative juices are just drying up but others are welcome to chip in with more including ones about why I posted this!

Sanjay

Tendulkar rubbishes Gilchrist’s “loose statements”

In an interview with a TV Channel, Sachin Tendulkar put Adam Gilchrist’s comments comments in the pale and said he had made “loose statements”, thereby implying that this was nothing more than a ploy by Gilchrist to peddle his upcoming book!

To be perfectly honest, I personally would have expected better from Gilchrist!

Not surprisingly, while Adam Gilchrist’s comments surrounding his soon-to-be-released biography were immediately picked up by the Malcolm Conns of the world, as is to be expected by such objective journalists, Tendulkar’s response has not rated on their Richter scale yet! They will, in all probability, be ignored — after all, that is what objective and balanced journalists do!

Last night, the greatest cricketer in India spoke quietly about his reactions to the Gilchrist allegations.

He said, “I was surprised. I didn’t know how to react. (What he alleged) is something that I can’t even think of in my wildest dreams. I love the game so much and those remarks came from someone who doesn’t know me enough. I think he made loose statements”

Tendulkar said he reminded Gilchrist in no uncertain terms of the spirit and manner in which the Indians took even the hard defeat in Sydney. He said, “So many times he mentioned that you and Harbhajan (Singh) are not traceable to shake hands. I reminded him that I was the first person to shake hands after the Sydney defeat. It was a tough game that we lost and it was difficult for us. But we all in the team would shake hands. We have that sportsman spirit. We won’t shy away from challenges.”

When asked about Gilchrist’s opinion on his honesty during the Harbhajan Singh Monkeygate trial, Tendulkar said, “That’s his opinion but as far as I am concerned the chapter is closed.”

And finally, he said, “I am the kind of person who would leave things behind.”

Gosh! Everyone is into leaving things behind these days. This must be the new leave-behind that’s the rage! Gilchrist left it behind too, apparently!

And for those that didn’t see this yet, wind to about 2.31 mins into this video to see Sachin Tendulkar standing in a queue of Indians after the Sydney loss.

— Mohan

Just shuddap and play

Is it just me or are others getting tired of the sledge-fest that is happening between India and Australia, too?

I have reached a point where I don’t care if  Harbhajan really called Symonds a monkey. Nor do I care if Symonds (who earlier said that a cricket field is no place to be friendly) gave Ishant a friendly compliment on his bowling when he got out. I am really tired of the Australian players’ comments about Indian players and I am also tired of the Indian players’ poor attempt at trying to out-sledge the Aussies.

Just get on with the game, will ya? And I mean both teams…

All this is just proving too much of a distraction – not just for the players – but to us Cricket fans too.What would you rather read about in the press – Gilchrist’s final innings in International Cricket or Gilchrist defending Hayden for his stupid comments? Would you rather watch a young Ishant Sharma troubling Ponting and Ponting picking up the challenge or watch Ishant Sharma giving Symonds a send off by pointing the way to the pavillion?

Well, frankly I’ve had enough.  There are just 2-3 games remaining in the tournament and I know it must be hard for players who earn millions to shut their mouth and just play cricket – but can you guys please do just that?

Thank you!

-Mahesh-

Series for the ‘keepers

We are past the half way mark of the CB Tri-series and one thing that has stood out is that fact that the 3 wicket keepers from the 3 teams have dominated the batting. For Sri Lanka, KC Sangakara has scored 260 runs at an average of 65 with one hundred and one fifty. He has been their best batsman on display so far and has scored close to twice the number of runs of their next best batsmen – his captain Mahela Jayawardene (134 runs).

For Australia, Adam Gilchrist has scored 212 runs at an average of 70.66, and although he hasn’t been his usual belligerent self, we have seen some clean hitting in the 118 and 61 he scored against Sri Lanka. Michael Clarke pips him by 4 runs for the top scorer spot in his team though.

India’s own captain, MS Dhoni has also top scored in the series with 260 runs at an average of 86.66. He has two fifties to his credit so far and has held the Indian innings together in almost every match.

I thought I’d just mention these facts in light of my earlier post titled – Should Dhoni give up his gloves? Gone are the days when the wicket keeper merely acted as a buffer between the batsmen and the tail…

-Mahesh-

What a win!!!

Nobody gave the Indians any chance of beating the Aussies at Perth. After the loss at Sydney, people were even asking if India were capable of beating them just about anywhere! But the Perth test ended in a dream result for India with India wrapping the game up in just 4 days!

Start of the day

At the beginning of the day, Australia needed around 350 to win, but had both Ponting and Hussey at the crease. Both were capable of a big score and a long presence at the crease and it was important that India got their wicket early to get ahead in the match. I found it rather surprising that Kumble started the proceedings – I thought the quicks should have been operating on both ends at the beginning of the day. Thankfully, he quickly rectified that and brought on Ishant Sharma for himself. Sharma’s bowling figures of 1 for 63 in 17 overs does not do any justice to the way he bowled this morning. Ponting, arguably the best batsmen in the World today was all at sea against him and had a few close calls, before he edged one to Dravid at first slip. If he continues to bowl this way, he has a great future ahead of him.

Australia went to lunch at 143 for 3. Although they had lost the wicket of Ponting, they had added 77 runs in 25 overs and had successfully negotiated the most important period of the game when the ball was still new and swinging. I am not sure how Mohan would have rated this session in his SBS scorecard, but I would have given .5 to both sides.

Post lunch session

The fourth over after lunch saw RP Singh get the all important wicket of Hussey. Hawk-eye showed the ball go over the stumps and Hussey can consider himself a tad unlucky – but similar decisions were also dished out to Tendulkar and Dhoni in the game. At least the umpires were being consistent.

The next wicket to go was Symonds, whose luck with umpiring decisions in the series finally ran out. After Symonds hit him for a six, Kumble bowled a flat and fast one to trap Symonds plumb before the wicket and Billy Bowden raised his crooked finger – the only problem was that replays showed an inside edge.

With Australia on 177/5 at that stage, India must have sensed a whiff of victory. But Gilchrist and Clarke weren’t done yet. They started putting on a partnership and were threatening to take the game away from India. Kumble then threw the ball to Sehwag and in his very first ball  to Gilchrist, bowled him around the legs – a wicket even Harbhajan Singh would have been proud of. What a huge wicket that was? And in the very next over, he had Brett Lee caught at silly point and Australia were reeling at 7/229. At Tea, Australia were 243/7 and the session clearly belonged to India. The SBS scorecard would have read Australia 4::India 7, but at this stage it didn’t matter who was winning the sessions – the post tea session would pretty much decide who won the game.

Post Tea session

India needed the wicket of Michael Clarke badly and that is what they got. In Kumble’s third over after Tea, he flighted one up to Clarke who came dancing down the pitch. He was beaten by turn and bounce and was smartly stumped by Dhoni. Australia were now 253/8 and needed another 160 runs to win, while all India had to do was take 2 wickets.

With nothing to lose, Johnson and Clarke started hitting out. The hits and mis-hits kept eluding the fielders and what looked like an annoying partnership suddenly grew into a nervous one for the Indians. The bowlers didn’t bowl well during this period either and there was one dropped catch and one “clean bowled” of a no ball. The new ball was soon taken, but the partnership had raced to 73 runs under 13 overs. Pathan eventually got the break through when he dismissed Clark for 32. Dravid then dropped a regulation catch at slip to prolong the match for a few more overs. RP Singh finally got the wicket of Tait to secure a 72 run victory. It also brings to end the 16 match winning streak of the Australians.

It is interesting to note that Australia hadn’t lost at Perth since the West Indian fast bowling attack beat them in the eighties and they haven’t been beaten in Australia since 2003 (when India beat them at Adelaide).

Australia now lead the series 2-1 and have already retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but the Indians would be playing to tie the series at Adelaide. It has been a great summer of cricket so far (in spite of the happenings in Sydney) and I really look forward to the Adelaide game.

-Mahesh-

Australia v India :: 3rd Test :: Both teams in an unfamiliar position…

At the end of day-2 of this fascinating Test match in this gripping series between Australia and India, both teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory!

It is not often that Australia is so far behind in a Test match with 3 days to go in a Test match. Conversely, it is not often that India is so far ahead in a Test match with 3 days to go!

It is a wonderful platform for India and needs a few people to stand up and be counted. From here on in, it is a question of whether India believes it can win. The moment India show nerves and self-doubt, in my view, this powerful Australian team still has the ability to climb all over it. So it is going to be a test of nerves, self-belief as well as ability from here.

There is little doubt in my mind, however, that India is on top in this game after 2 days have been completed.

Whichever course this match takes though, there is no doubt in my mind that after the sorry mess and the debacle of Sydney, India has re-grouped well and come out the stronger for it. India is playing with purpose, direction and energy. They are pumped up and want to win. A local news channel in India claimed that the Indians had a 45-minute closed-door session with Gary Kirsten after the end of the 1st days’ play. Much of it concentrated on the team playing with fire and with pride. On the other hand, Australia has looked somewhat listless and de-energised right through this game.

On a day when 297 runs fell for 15 wickets, India came out on top.

The day started with Australia cleaning up the India tail. Starting at 297 for 6, India started sensibly with M. S. Dhoni and Irfan Pathan batting sensibly. Then close to the finish of the hour, it ran away from India and they were down in a heap; all out 330.

One thought that that was about 120 runs short! They may have got there had Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman not given it away as they did!

Australia came out with purpose in their batting. They were, after all, batting in their home den! Most of their batsmen were used to the sting and bounce in the wicket. For all them, hitting on the up and through the line in Perth was as easy as spreading Vegemite on their daily toast!

Indian seam bowling stocks

What they did not account for was accurate, relentless and steady top-class seam bowling. One wished one could bottle the caliber of disciplined bowling that was on display by the Indian seam-bowlers! At the end of the days’ play R. P. Singh said that the bowlers had a meeting prior to the game in which each of them was assigned a task. R. P. Singh’s task was to use the bouncer frequently! Each bowler had “areas to bowl to” agreed to. Now, to plan these things is one thing. To actually go out there and execute these plans is quite something else. The Indian bowlers did that and came out the victors today.

Let us not forget also that this is not actually India’s first line pace attack! Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh and Munaf Patel are back in India, nursing injuries! Given the display of the 3 seam bowlers today and with Pankaj Singh, V. R. V. Singh, Ranadeb Bose and Praveen Kumar waiting in the wings, one might say that the pace bowling stocks aren’t exactly looking bad at the moment!

Pathan’s resurgence

One point that was hammered home forcibly today was Irfan Pathan’s resurgence. I’d like to see Pathan as part of the Indian team mix for a long time to come. He bowled brilliantly. Agreed, he bowled better to left-hand bats than he did to right handed bats. However, his pace was consistently in the high 130s and he had his swing going too; and this was late seing, by the way!

His batting abilities at #8 (in this match) means that India can often go with 4 other bowlers in the team; this is always a plus especially in India where 2 spinners have to play!

1st Session

Given that Australia wrapped up India’s innings close with just 33 added to the India overnight score of 297-6, one may have been tempted to call the 1st session as Australia’s. However, with some clever seam bowling, India managed to get two early wickets — admittedly one dodgy LBW decision when the ball appeared to be heading down leg-side — I’d be tempted to call this an even session. The SBS Score read Australia, 2.0 :: India 2.0 at this stage.

2nd Session

The second session belonged to India though. Australia were on the ropes at 61-5. Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist came up with a breathtaking display of counter-attacking batting. This was counter-punching of the highest caliber that produced a run-a-ball century partnership. However, the Indian bowlers stuck to their task, best displayed by R. P. Singh, in a terrific show of level-headedness in the post-tea session. He was spanked for 3 consecutive 4s by Gilchrist. However, he produced a lifter from just short of a good length. It caught Gilchrist unawares and the resulting edge was poached by Dhoni.

Despite the precarious 60-5 situation that Australia found herself in, the Symonds-Gilchrist fireworks show took Australia to a reasonably comfortable position of 148-5 at Tea. These runs had come off just 31 overs! I just couldn’t believe that this team was under the pump! Visions of Mumbai 2001 flashed in front of me where, from a position of 99-5 Gilchrist and Hayden rescued the team with a gritty and purposeful fight-back. In this session, India missed a catch off Symonds — Tendulkar dropped the edge at 1st slip. Had that catch been taken it would have been an even session.

The SBS Score read Australia, 2.5 :: India, 2.5 at this stage.

3rd Session

The 3rd session belonged totally to India. First India got Australia out for 212. In their response, India lost only 1 wicket — that of the hapless Wasim Jaffer who is having a nightmare series from hell!

Along the way, Anil Kumble got his 600th wicket. What an incredible servant of Indian cricket this amazing cricketer has been! He could come into his own in this Perth wicket which, amazingly, is taking some spin too!

Virender Sehwag was, well, Virender Sehwag. He played and missed several times. But still he scored at a rate that only Sehwag can. The Australians are wary of Sehwag. They want to get him out and see the back of him. In that itself India wins part of the battle. He is still there and that will be a big plus for the tourists as they come out to bat tomorrow.

The fact that Irfan Pathan is there at the crease as a night-watchman is also good for India. He can stick around and make life miserable for the Australians who will need to dislodge him in order to have a crack at the Big 4 to follow: Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman!

The SBS Score reads Australia, 2.5 :: India, 3.5 at this stage. India are ahead. It is an unusual position for this team. But one that India needs to capitalise on.

Strategy from here

Anil Kumble, in a post-match interview, said that the strategy would be one of playing time; the runs will come. I have some sympathy with this strategy. Firstly, we have just finished day-2. There is a lot of time left in this game! India should focus on playing out each session and slowly, batting Australia out of this Test match! India is 170 runs ahead at this stage. At the end of tomorrow, if India bats all three sessions, the team could well be 450 runs ahead! This will require some patience and a lot of determination.

In post-match interviews Adam Gilchrist did admit — as most people will — that India is in the drivers’ seat in this match. However, he did say that the Australian team relished the challenge and that they would dig deep to come after the Indians.

If Australia get India out cheaply, they could win from here too! But it would require a special effort from them and some clumsy batting from the Indians.

A match that is interestingly poised…

— Mohan

Australia v India :: Test 2 :: Day 3

At the outset, I would like to apologise for the number of pytos (typos!), bad formatting and ordinary grammar in my live comments and observations. I type out the notes on my handheld and upload it periodically.

The first session is going to be extremely important for India today. Thanks to a gritty and fighting, albeit ugly, knock from Rahul Dravid and a fluent, breath-taking innings from V. V. S. Laxman, the poet of the SCG, India are in a position from which they can kick on. There is still a long way to go for India in this match. If India lose 2-3 quick wickets, they could well be staring down the barrel! However, if India bat two good sessions, this match could get very very interesting. All told, this was going to be a very challenging and gripping day of Test match cricket.

Although my SBS score reads 3-3, I’d have Australia just slightly ahead at this stage — mainly because Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni are not in great nick. If Australia manage to get one or two wickets, things could get ugly for the Indians.

We at i3j3Cricket are thankful for the emails and the comments that we have been receiving, including those from cricket writers like Peter Lalor.

We do not claim to get it right. We just write it as we see it. I am sure that writers like Peter Lalor, Malcolm Conn, Robert Craddock, et al will also claim to “write it as they see it”. But then why is it that people, the world over, seem to accept (even hard hitting and critical) articles written by the likes of Peter Roebuck and Harsha Bhogle more readily than those written by Peter Lalor? Food for thought…

Posting at 11.00, AEST

India started the day at 216 for 3 off 62 overs. The first 20 minutes saw some steady bowling and careful batting. There were no alarms for either team. Sachin Tendulkar was quite content playing a waiting-watching game. Sourav Ganguly, on the other hand, seemed to be going for his strokes and managed to get a few balls through the in-field. These were good signs for India. A positive Ganguly and a careful-and-focused Tendulkar was perhaps what the team needed.

I was surprised that Australia started with its two fast bowlers, Brett Lee and Stuart Clark. With 18 overs to go to the new ball and with Brad Hogg bowling somewhat beautifully last night, I’d have thought that the order of the day should have been pace at one end and Brad Hogg at the other end! This was, in my view, yet another missed trick by Ricky Ponting. This was all the more galling because I don’t know if Ganguly was reading Brad Hogg all that well last night (or, for that matter, at the MCG). Moreover, Brad Hogg had got Ganguly out twice at the MCG!

The Australian bowlers started well though. They bowled steadily although there were no gremlins in either the pitch or the batters’ minds!

At 10.55, Brad Hogg came on to bowl after 5 overs had been bowled. This was about 5 overs late in my view, especially since the new ball was due in 13 overs! Brad Hogg’s first over was brilliant, in the sense that Tendulkar seemed intent on going after every ball — perhaps to put the bowler off his game! But Hogg kept coming in and flighting it. Tendulkar hit balls straight to fielders, who fielded well. Good cricket all around.

India had moved to 234 for 3 in the 6 overs that were bowled in the half hour of play! Yes, that is right… just 6 overs in half hour!

Posting at 11.30, AEST

The partnership between Tendulkar and Ganguly was soon worth 50 runs with Ganguly making 35 of those runs and Tendulkar making 13 of these!

It was interesting to note that Ganguly and Tendulkar were not going after Brad Hogg as they did at the MCG. They were playing him with more respect and were more circumspect in their approach to him. They were content on picking up the singles and the twos against the Australian Chinaman bowler.

Conditions were ideal for batting. In a sense, India had the best of the batting conditions. The first morning was difficult for batting and India extracted whatever advantage there was. The wicket then eased out and that allowed the Australian tail to get away with it. The good batting conditions continued to prevail for the Indian batsmen although, up until now, V. V. S. Laxman was perhaps the only Indian batsman to capitalise on it totally.

Already, with rain falling in Sydney overnight, weather was threatening to spoil this match. This was turning out to be too good a match for rain to intervene in proceedings.

One aspect of the Indian batting this morning was that there were plenty of singles. This was due to the fact that the Australian field was a bit more spread out, but also due to the intent of the batsmen. Clearly the Australian team did not want the Indians to get away with it. This was good cat-and-mouse cricket. One team did not want the other to get away. The other was cautiously trying to do just that with some positive hitting every now and then being sandwiched by careful/cautious play. Totally gripping stuff this…

India moved to 265 for 3 when Sourav Ganguly moved to his half-century off just 67 balls. Ganguly’s 50 included just 6 boundary hits. I say just because Ganguly normally scores more boundaries in his scores.

India had just avoided the follow-on — not that that would have mattered anyway! At the end of the 74th over, India had moved to 267 for 3, 196 runs short of the Australian total.

Michael Clarke came in to the attack for the last over before the drinks’ break. This was a smart, surprise, move by Ricky Ponting!

At drinks, India was 272 for 3 off 75 overs. The scoring rate was 3.61 — not entirely bad. India had made 62 runs in the first hour without losing a wicket. Early honours to India, I’d think!

At the end of the 1st hour of play, Australia had bowled just 13 overs! This was pathetic over rate from a top-drawer team! The over-rate was a pathetic 4.61 minutes per over! Of the 13 overs that Australia bowled, five were bowled by spinners! This was more than merely “tardy”. It was almost unprofessional.

Posting at 11.50, AEST

Ponting continued with Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke after the drinks’ break. Perhaps he wanted his pace bowlers with fresh legs when the new ball was due in about five overs! Ganguly played Michael Clarke quite well and even smashed a well-hit 6 in Clarke’s second over (the 77th of the innings).

In the 78th over of the innings, the partnership between Tendulkar and Ganguly reached a 100 runs. The 101 runs came off 23.2 overs (@ a run rate of 4.32). Of these, Tendulkar had made 28 and Ganguly had made 67. This was batting straight from the top drawer by these two Indian batters. The very next ball, Tendulkar clouted Brad Hogg for a 6!

Immediately after that moment, Ganguly hit a lose shot to be caught by Hussey for 67 at mid off. Ganguly was totally annoyed with himself. He had put in the hard yards, played attractive cricket and just when he looked set for a big one and just when the new ball was due, Ganguly danced down the wicket, did not quite reach the pitch of the ball and holed out. This was a key moment in the game and perhaps even the series! Hogg had Ganguly’s wicket for the 3rd time in 3 outings in this series!

This brought the under-pressure Yuvraj Singh to the crease, with the new ball just around the corner! The portents weren’t really that good in my view!

Posting at 12.30, AEST — Lunch Time Day-3

The new ball was due when India reached 297 for 4. India was still 166 runs adrift and had some distance to travel, especially since India had to bat last on this wicket!

Somewhat surprisingly, the new ball wasn’t taken by Ricky Ponting. More surprising was the fact that Michael Clarke continued to bowl — and indeed bowled the 81st over. I am not sure I’d agree that this a good move by Ponting. It is likely that the Australians may feel that Yuvraj Singh has a weakness against Brad Hogg. It is true that he wasn’t able to read Brad Hogg’s flipper in Melbourne. And indeed, Yuvraj Singh did not pick Hogg’s flipper — the last ball of the 82nd over (Hogg’s 19th over). With that in mind, and considering that Brad Hogg had pouched a wicket off the previous over (the 79th over of the innings), it may have made sense for Ponting to persist with the spin option of Brad Hogg — perhaps even spin at both ends! However, Michael Clarke at the other end wasn’t doing much at all. If Ponting did want to go with spin at both ends, Andrew Symonds’ off spin may have been a better option. This was, in my view, confused cricket from the sharpest captain going around these days!

In my view, Brett Lee should have been brought on the moment Yuvraj Singh strode out to bat. In not doing so, Ponting may have missed yet another trick!

Yuvraj Singh wasn’t batting with much conviction, especially against Brad Hogg. This was epitomised, somewhat, when Tendulkar ran a quick single off the last ball of a Michael Clarke over (the 83rd over) so that he could face Brad Hogg in the following over.

Brett Lee came on to bowl the 85th over, replacing Michael Clarke. The 2nd new ball was taken immediately. The score was 309 for 4 with Sachin Tendulkar on 49 and Yuvraj Singh on 3. This was an important 20 minutes coming up before lunch. I felt that if India negotiate these 20 minutes and a further 20 minutes after lunch, this match would be brilliantly set up. So far though, but for the Ganguly dismissal, India would have been pleased.

Tendulkar got his 50th run in the 85th over; he had his 50 off 96 balls with just 3 fours and 1 six! There were plenty of singles and controlled shots in this innings. This innings was different to either of his MCG innings — he was fluid in the 1st innings and reckless in the 2nd innings at the MCG. This was also totally different to his masterly 241 not out in the previous Test match that he played at the SCG in the 2003-04 series, where he was totally self-absorbed and over-cautious. Here at the SCG this time, he was controlled and measured. The score had moved to 315 for 4, with Yuvraj on 7 and Tendulkar on 50.

The Australians bowlers were peppering Yuvraj Singh with bouncers. Yuvraj Singh took a few on his body, shoulder and forearm. A fuller ball from Brett Lee then got to him fast and straight and got him out LBW. The delivery thudded into Yuvraj Singh’s pads and the young Indian was out on 12 off 22 balls with 3 minutes to go for lunch! Once again, the Australians had struck. The India score was 321 for 5! This dismissal brought to sharp focus the tactics of Ricky Ponting in delaying the new ball!

Yuvraj Singh had made 0, 5 and 12 in three innings in this series and his position in the team was looking shaky. Already, the commentators were talking of two changes for the Perth Test; Virender Sehwag for Wasim Jaffer and someone else — anyone else — for Yuvraj Singh!

M. S. Dhoni had a tricky passage of play to negotiate. India went to lunch on 322 for 5. India was 141 runs behind the Australians. India had made 106 runs in the pre-lunch session off 26 overs. The run rate was healthy, if not spectacular. The over rate was, at 4.61 minutes per over, quite pathetic and simply unprofessional. The fact that 11 of these overs were bowled by spinners only made the statistic look worse than it actually was!

Given that Australia had picked up those wickets, I would give this session to Australia, thereby marking the SBS Score at Australia, 4.0 :: India, 3.0.

India played that session well till about 8 overs prior to lunch when those two quick wickets turned a good session into an ordinary one for India.

Post-lunch comment

One aspect of the mornings’ play that missed me — mainly because the ABC Radio comms did not highlight it — was that Sachin Tendulkar had survived a close LBW appeal. I caught up on that at CricInfo! In the opinion of the CricInfo commentary team, Tendulkar was lucky to still be there!

Posting at 15.10, AEST — Tea Time

Immediately after lunch M. S. Dhoni and Anil Kumble went cheaply, both to Brett Lee. Agreed Lee was bowling well, but we were seeing some inept batting from the Indians. India had lost 4 wickets for 52 runs at that stage. India was in danger of folding cheaply and quickly. Sourav Ganguly’s dismissal, just prior to the new ball being taken, was begining to hurt India badly.

Harbhajan Singh came in to play and on a pitch like this, we were probably in for some excitement. In fact, that was what happened. Harbhajan Singh skied a few balls and threatened to land a few of these into someone’s throat! But he kept on with his method (or madness) and soon raced to 20 runs off not much. India moved to 373 for 7, just 90 runs behind!

Tendulkar was also starting to open up his shoulders just a bit! Tendulkar was converging on a century and needed Harbhajan Singh to stay with him — not just for his own century but so that India could move closer to Australia’s 1st innings score.

At drinks, India were 382 for 7, exactly 81 runs adrift of the Australian total. It was still a huge mountain to climb. To put things in perspective, India had to make as much as Tendulkar had already made up until that point! Harbhajan Singh had made 23 runs off 27 balls. Tendulkar was playing like a master while Harbhajan Singh, who was batting a foot outside his crease, was playing reasonably well, despite the occassional heart-in-the-mouth moment for the Indiaj fan!

At 392 for 7, Harbhajan Singh tried to hook a ball from Stuart Clark. The ball hit Harbhajan Singh on the glove and just bobbed uo and over Gilchrist. A more agile Gilchrist would have pouched it. But, today Gilchrist floored it. The score moved to 393-7 and Harbhajan Singh had moved to 30 off 34 balls. India moved to 70 short of the Australia total.

We were seeing Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark bowl. Again this was bad captaincy from Ponting. Brad Hogg should have been brought on earlier. I seriously believe that Hogg has been under-bowled and under-utilised by Ponting. Harbhajan Singh would have gone after Hogg and also gives the impression that he doesn’t read Hogg all that well. It was also quite strange that Ponting was willing to give Tendulkar an easy single, to allow Harbhajan Singh to take all the strike. I am not a great fan of this method of captaincy against tail-end batsmen and, once again, this was poor, defensive captaincy from Ponting.

Soon, the partnership was worth 50 off 64 balls and Brad Hogg was brought on to bowl. Ponting, though, was quite happy to give Tendulkar the singles though. Hogg was bowling mesmerisingly to Harbhajan Singh. One wondered what might have been, had he been bowling to a slightly less-than-well-set Harbhajan Singh!

Then Sachin Tendulkar made his 38th century (22 outside India). The whole of the SCG stood up and applauded this brilliant century for over a minute! This was a wonderful recognition and acknowledgement of a champion by a very generous crowd. Tendulkar celebrated by spreading his arms out wide and looked up at the skies; perhaps sharing a brief conversation with his dad, before Harbhajan Singh rushed to hug him.

Harbhajan Singh could also claim credit for this, for he stuck around to enable the champion to get to his century!

India moved to 413 for 7, 50 runs short of the Australian total.

In another surprise move, Ponting brought Michael Clarke on to bowl. Perhaps Ponting wanted to see if the batsmen would go after Clarke! I am not sure why Andrew Symonds’ off spin wasn’t being rated by Ponting. In Clarke’s first over, Tendulkar reached for a wide flighted delivery outside off and over-balanced. Gilchrist did not collect and affect the stumping. If he had, Tendulkar would have been out, as his back foot was in the air! Gilchrist continued his ordinary showing behind the sticks. Two balls later, ordinary fielding in the covers saw Harbhajan Singh convert a certain no-run into two runs! The Australians appeared ordinary in the field. Perhaps Peter Lalor could ring the BPOs around to see if the fielding (particularly the wicket-keeping) could be out-sourced to an Indian call center?

India went to tea on 424-7 off 112 overs.

Australia had bowled 51 overs in the two sesisons so far in the day. This was not merely tardy or pathetic or unprofessional. It was all of the above. But more so, this was below international standards and was a plain ragged display.

I give this session to India even though they lost two wickets. At the end of this, the 8th session of this Test, my SBS score reads 4-4.

Posting at 18:05, AEST — Close of play, day-3

India started after Tea with much positive intent. Although there was a bit of reverse swing the two batsmen were keen to put the ball away. India were inching to within striking distance of Australia’s score.

In the second over after Tea, Harbhajan Singh reached his third Test half century! The partnership was one shy of a 100! In the 3rd over after tea, the 100 partnership was reached. Harbhajan Singh continued to bat with a mixture of orthodox and unorthodox. This was entertaining batting by the Indian sardar. Even lethal Brett Lee yorkers were being kept out like he was a #3 batsman!

In the gap between the 3rd and the 4th over after tea, there was a bit of a side-show involving Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Harbhajan Singh. At the end of all this, umpire Mark Benson called Harbhajan Singh over and had a stern word with the Indian bowler (err! Batsman). Benson had his hand over his mouth as he talked to Harbhajan Singh and also motioned to Sachin Tendulkar that he wanted to have a one-on-one with Harbhajan. One would have thought that Benson did not cover his mouth because he suffers from bad breath! I suspect he did not want to be either lip-read or picked up by nearby mikes! It was all very interesting. I am sure Peter Lalor will have enough material, through this episode, to get stuck into another Indian player!

In the next over, we saw another lazy overthrow from the ragged Australians. They had started their petulant behavious and the sledges were flying thick and fast. This is exactly what we wanted to see. Australia had gone on the defensive. There was only 1 slip out there and nerves were frayed. Harbhajan Singh, never short of a fight if he sees boxing gloves approach him, was the best man for the job out there. He gets the Australians’ goat at the best of times! And here he was, with India just 6 runs short of the Australian total, staring at Australia in the face!

India had showed pluck, fight and courage to get to this point after having been totally down and out in Melbourne! The partnership was worth 114 with Harbhajan Singh having made 56 of these!

Brad Hogg came on for the 5th over after Tea! The 4 overs post-Tea had taken an improbable 23 minutes! This was a ragged display by the Aussies.

At the end of the Brad Hogg over, India was 465-7 and India led by 2 runs! It seemed so very improbable a few overs after lunch today, but as I had called it yesterday, I was confident that the batsmen would come to the party! They had!

Mitchell Johnson continued to bowl at the other end. I really didn’t know why! He was bowling utter dross from around the wicket. I also don’t know why he had this around-the-wicket strategy either! He wasn’t doing a Zaheer Khan or an R. P. Singh who could get the ball to move away from around the wicket!

The Indian batsmen were laughing their way through their innings and there is nothing more that can get under the skin of the Australians than two batsmen having a lot of fun and laughing off the on-field chat! These Indian players were playing perfect cricket against the Australians. They were now backing themselves and their abilities and weren’t afraid to hit the odd shot in the air. This was top cricket. Tendulkar continued to play a controlled knock.

In the next over, after a 129 run partnership, Harbhajan Singh was out. Mitchell Johnson switched to over the wicket and, off the very first ball, Harbhajan Singh jammed a catch to gully! He had played a terrific hand and his contribution to the partnership was 63 runs and the scoreboard read 474-8.

Harbhajan Singh had made 3 less than his top Test score of 66 against Zimbabwe.

R. P. Singh and Tendulkar moved the score along to 490-8. The fresh Singh at the crease (RP for Harbhajan) was playing with intent and aggression and the Indians continued to play attractive cricket. India soon reached 500-8. The Indians were almost 40 ahead and the partnership was worth almost 26.

Australia snared R. P. Singh soon after, caught behind by Gilchrist for 13 in a partnership of 27. (Tongue-in-cheek) It was quite surprising that Gilchrist managed to hold on to it! Such was the game he was having. Even Stuart Clark let out a sigh of relief. Adam Gilchrist, much like Rahul Dravid the previous day, mock-celebrated on taking the catch! (Tongue-in-cheek off). The score was 501-9.

One would have thought that Tendulkar would look for 2s and 4s with a last ball single. But off Mitchell Johnson’s next over, he took a single off the second ball! This was, in my view, strange batting by the champion Indian bat. In the next over, he took a single off the very first ball! Tendulkar was on 148 and perhaps wanted to maintain his impressive “not out” statistic at the SCG. The Little Master was placing way too much trust in his #10 and #11 bats!

Finally, Mitchell Johnson was off the attack. Notwithstanding the wicket that he took of Harbhajan Singh, I do not believe the left arm paceman had done anything to deserve such a long stint with the ball.

Off Brett Lee’s first ball, Tendulkar took a single to get to his 150! Ishant Sharma banged the next two balls for 4s and the lead was now 51! He played and missed the next ball which was outside off stump. He then played out the next two balls somewhat competently! Perhaps Tendulkar’s faith in his tail-end batsmen wasn’t misplaced after all?

This was a handy lead being built by the Indians.

I know I have been banging on about the over rates. And I dare say I will continue on with my line of comment till I get the Peter Lalors of the world to take notice of the fact that “their team” plays just as ordinarily in the over rate department as anyone else going around. The over rate wasn’t just bad. It wasn’t just unprofessional. It wasn’t just terrible. It was something that was extraordinary. The worst I have seen in international cricket. At 17.15, with 15 overs to go to the official end of days’ play, pAustralia had bowled just 135 overs! In other words, in 345 minutes of play, Australia had bowled a mere 73 overs at an over rate of 4.72 minutes per over! This was a mockery of the rules.

India had, meanwhile, moved to 531-9 with Tendulkar continuing his strange tactics of giving a lot of the strike to his last batsman! Ishant Sharma repaid faith, however, by banging a few 4s. The partnership was already worth 30, and India led by 68! Ishant Sharma kept the 4s and the entertainment going! Off almost every over, Tendulkar would take a single off the first ball! Perhaps Tendulkar wanted Sharma to get out so that India could have a crack at the Aussies in a nasty batting period?

When Brett Lee gives the #11 opposition bat a bit of a spray when the young lad played and missed, you know that the Australians are in trouble! And that’s what Lee did! The Australians were rattled. The time was perhaps right to put the Australians in for a nasty spell of batting?

At the scheduled close of days’ play, the Australians had bowled 76 overs in the day. In other words, they were 14 runs short of their quota. Even if the Australians had an extra hour of added time, they would not have been able to complete their bowling quota. That’s how bad it was. Will the Peter Lalors comment on this?

India was soon out for 532. Brett Lee had his 5 wickets. Ishant Sharma was out for a cracking 23! He wasn’t able to keep a bouncer from Brett Lee down and spponed a return catch to the bowler. Tendulkar was once again not out at the SCG. He remained 154 not out. India had a lead of 69 runs. But for Tendulkar’s strange tactics at the end, India probably would have had a healthier lead.

The Australians had a tricky 10 overs to negotiate, but with the playing rules being what they are (play has to be called off at 6pm so that Channel-9 could cut to its 6pm news!), it left the Australians only 12 or so minutes to negotiate. That meant that the days’ play would probably contain about 6-7 overs less than what it ought to have contained despite a half hour extension from 17.30 to 18.00! That was how terrible the Australian bowling rate was. This was poor cricket and perhaps even poor gamesmanship from the hosts.

I am not sure what Mike Proctor, the match referee, can do to reign in the hosts. He was quick to pull up Yuvraj Singh at the MCG. Here, in Sydney he hasn’t said anything about Pontings’ first innings dissent. Nor has anything been done about the Australian over-rate!

India had played well though. After the incompetence of the umpires floored the team on day-1, they have come back strongly in the game!

The 1st ball of the 2nd innings — bowled by R. P. Singh — was a close LBW shout! But the ball pitched slightly outside off and was also probably slightly high! Bucknor turned the appeal down and rightly so! The Australians were not quite used to batting 60-odd runs behind! This was unusual territory for them; Jaques in particular. It was going to be interesting to see how the Aussies would cope.

Both Ishant Sharma and R. P. Singh started reasonably well. They were generating some pace and bowled a decent line. R. P. Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma had all made runs. So they should bowl with confidence. One felt, though, that India needed a wicket tonight to keep up the pressure.

India were only able to bowl 5 overs to end the 3rd day which, in my view, was ruined by unprofessional bowling conduct by the Australians. The day ended with about 6 overs lost! This was utterly shoddy.

Harbhajan Singh bowled the 4th over and raced through it to enable Anil Kumble to bowl an over! Indeed, Kumble came on for the last over of the day (the 5th over of the innings).

Australia reached 13-0, still 56 runs behind.

There is still a lot of cricket left in this game, and thanks to some poor batting by Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni, Australia could still win this game. If Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni had chipped in, India’s lead could have been more than 69!

I give this last session of days’ play to India too. Although they lost their remaining wickets and got all out, they closed in on the Australian 1st innings score and even took a 69-run 1st innings lead. This despite some questionable tactics from Tendulkar. The tail-enders batted well and should take this confidence into their bowling. So, at the end of the days’ play, after 9 sessions had been completed in this game, my SBS score reads Australia, 4.0 :: India, 5.0

 

 

— Mohan

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Australia v India :: Test 2 :: Day 1

Australia-1, India-1, Umpires-1

Posting at 11.00am, AEST

India started the day badly on four counts: (a) They lost Zaheer Khan to an injury, (b) India selected Ishant Sharma for Zaheer Khan, (c) Anil Kumble lost the toss and Ricky Ponting chose to bat, thereby having last use of a pitch that would take spin, (d) India went in with an unchanged side (but for a change forced by injury).

There was no need to plunge into a full-scale panic after the thrashing that India received in the 1st Test against Australia at the MCG. However, I felt that there was a change or two that may have been needed. As it happened, the only change was a forced one! It was nice to hear Anil Kumble deflect the pressure off Rahul Dravid saying “He is too good a player to be worried by a poor performance in the 1st Test“, and stuff like that. However, I’d have thought that there were a few questions that needed to be asked of the batsmen; if nothing, the batting order. However, the only change that India made was a forced one! It was a blow to India that Zaheer Khan was ruled out, after a fitness test, with about 30 minutes to go to the start of play! In his absence, the right thing to do may have been to bolster the bowling (and obliquely, the batting) with both Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma. Ishant Sharma for Zaheer Khan was not a like-for-like replacement in my books, especially given the indifferent bowling form of R. P. Singh. An already weak bowling group suddenly looked even weaker. Having said that, I have no problem with the choice of Ishant Sharma — as I said in my 1st days’ report in the Boxing Day Test match, Ishant Sharma should have been part of the make up for the 1st Test itself!

It was nice to see Anil Kumble support his batting group. He seemed to say to the batsmen, “Same batsmen. Same batting order. Different batting“.

India started well in the bowling department. Both R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma started with maiden overs. The order of play was somewhat similar to proceedings at the MCG where the Australians batted cautiously and where the Indian bowlers beat the bat often.

Unlike the MCG though where the Australian opening batsmen played and missed for much of the first 45 minutes, local boy, Phil Jaques top-edged one from R. P. Singh to M. S. Dhoni in the 3rd over and Australia were 0 for 1 wicket. R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma had begun proceedings well. They were making the Australians play. Not much was left alone and there weren’t too many balls on the pads. There weren’t too many gimme balls either. This was good bowling by the Indians early on.

This bought Ricky Ponting to the crease. With all the pre-match talk from Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting, one almost expected Harbhajan Singh to bowl the 4th over of the match!

Harbhajan had joked at the MCG that he hadn’t seen enough of Ricky Ponting to have a plan for the Australian batsmen on this tour! Not many of the Australians liked this statement! They seemed to think that Harbhajan Singh gets constantly under the skin of the Aussies! To Ricky Pontings’ credit, he acknowledged that there was a serious problem. He said, “He’s got a great record in Tests against me. It was lean last week, I had almost as many catches as runs. But I had a good net, I’m coming off a couple of hundreds in the ODIs [against New Zealand] and I’m feeling good to go.

Ricky Ponting started positively though! He wasn’t ‘falling over’ as he tends to do early on in his innings. This was a good sign for Australia and not a good sign for India. Rickey Ponting, who has 5 hundreds in 12 Tests (1226 runs at an average of 81.73, with a highest score of 207), looked set for many more runs here!

At the time of posting, after 6 overs, Australia was 16/1.

Posting at 12.00, AEST

Things were going swimmingly for Australia despite the loss of Jaques. Australia were scoring somewhat freely and easily. They were taking the singles and the occassional boundary. Yuvraj Singh seemed to carry his ordinary fielding form from the MCG to the SCG.

Then, against the run of play, R. P. Singh brought one in to Matthew Hayden who proceeded to edge the ball to the slips cordon! This was a most unusual dismissal. One would have thought that a top-class batsman would not outside-edge a ball that was coming in to him! But that was exactly what happened. The catch travelled between M. S. Dhoni, the wicket-keeper, and Sachin Tendulkar, the 1st slip fielder. In normal circumstances, M. S. Dhoni would have caught it. However, given that the ball was dipping in to Matthew Hayden, Dhoni’s balance was towards his right. Sachin Tendulkar proceeded to take a smart catch to get Hayden out. Australia were 27 for 2 and Hayden was out for 13!

With Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting at the crease, scoring suddenly seemed to accelerate. Hussey seemed to be a man in a hurry! At the end of the 11th over, Australia were 42 for 2! Despite the loss of 2 wickets, Australia were still scoring at about 4 an over!

The 12th over saw Sourav Ganguly come on to bowl. Ganguly had bowled well against Pakistan in India and, with Zaheer Khan injured, he needed to bowl well.

In the 14th over of the match, all the Indians went up in a huge appeal off Ricky Ponting, who tickled a ball floating down the legside to the hands of M. S. Dhoni. The Indians were already celebrating before they noticed that the umpire had turned down the appeal.

TV replays showed that Ponting was indeed quite lucky to still be there. India could feel hard-done by. Australia would have been 45 for 3 if the decision had gone India’s way!

Ishant Sharma came back for a second spell. The long-haired Ishant Sharma — perhaps India’s answer to Jason Dizzy Gillespie — seemed to be growing in strength and was bowling a good line and length. However, the Australians kept the scoreboard busy and got to 59 for 2 off 18 overs.

Lunch: Posting at 12.30, AEST

The not-out decision against Ricky Ponting could cost India a lot in this game. Was the match result going to hinge on this one bad decision by umpire Mark Benson? I would be willing to bet that Benson would have given an Indian out. Not because he is biased, but most umpires tend to get swayed by the vociferousness of appeals by Australian teams. Ricky Ponting was on 17 at that time, and he was already making that reprieve count.

Signs from India were that the team was looking down after not getting that appeal in their favour. Ishant Sharma got taken to the cleaners in one over by Ricky Ponting and Ganguly looked ineffective after that over.

There was much excitement in the air when Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl the 20th over of the match. He did not get to bowl to Ricky Ponting in that over, but with all the pre-match talk, one couldn’t wait to see these two have a go at each other! In his second over, Harbhajan Singh did induce a false stroke from Ponting. The wily Indian offie bowled a flighted delivery down legside. Ponting missed it. The resulting stumping chance was not completed by M. S. Dhoni. And so, Ricky Ponting commenced his 3rd (virtual) innings in the same dig! This could be a very costly miss for India, who continued to look flat in the field after being turned down by the umpire.

It was upto the captain to pull things together for his team. Anil Kumble came on to bowl the last two overs prior to lunch. Not much happened and so, Australia went to lunch on 2 for 95 off 25 overs. If India had got that 3rd wicket I may have given that session to India. But given the rate at which the Australians scored, it should be scored as an even session.

India looked more alive on the field. Both the pacemen looked good and solid. It was nice to see R. P. Singh bowl with much more purpose and zeal. The Indian in-fielding looked good, if not sharp. Harbhajan Singh bowled more slowly and did give the ball more flight than he normally does. But the Australians batted with purpose and did not let the situation bog them down. All in all, this was an interesting session of Test match cricket.

Posting at 13:37, AEST

Proceedings after the lunch break commenced with R. P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh. They were bowling to a Micheal Hussey and Ricky Ponting who seemed intent on stealing every single possible. This was positive-intent batting at its best. The batsmen created pressure on the fielders with Dinesh Karthik (fielding substitute) and Yuvraj Singh — the two best fielders in the Indian lineup — respectively, over running the ball and approaching the ball lethargically. The odd ball was smashed for a boundary too.

The SCG outfield was much better for Test match cricket than the MCG outfield. The batsmen got maximum value for their power shots. This is how a Test match outfield should behave. The MCG outfield was, in my view, way below standard for Test match cricket.

Ponting raced to 50 off 66 balls; this was starting to get dangerous for India. The fielding was starting to look ragged at this stage. This was epitomised by a skied ball from Ricky Ponting to deep square-leg. This would have been a catch to a Dinesh Karthik or a Yuvraj Singh. Rahul Dravid was slow to get to it, missed the catch opportunity and the ball spun past him to the boundary for four! In that over, R. P. Singh bowled short and wide and non-sense. A few questions need to be asked. Why was R. P. Singh bowling short and wide to a set and positive batsman? Why was Rahul Dravid fielding at dee square leg?

Immediately after that, Harbhajan Singh got his man again! Ponting was out LBW to Harbhajan Singh for 55! Justice seemed to be served because Ricky Ponting had got an inside edge to that ball! He had been given out — when he was not out — 38 runs after he was out (but given not out, when he was on 17)! Harbhajan Singh bowled the doosra and got the Australian captain out — again! Australia was 119 for 3! Harbhajan Singh had backed up his pre-match smart-talk with some good work on the field. He had his ‘bunny’ again!

However, this certainly was an inside edge by Ricky Ponting who stood and glared at the umpire, Mark Benson on being declared out! I would be totally disappointed if umpire Mike Proctor does not pull the Australian captain for showing dissent/disbelief! Like Yuvraj Singh had done in Melbourne, I did not quite see Ponting glare at the umpire in a hostile manner when he was given not out on 17 when he had edged one to the ‘keeper! So, I did not see the reason for him to glare (and even say a few words) after he had made 38 bonus runs! As I said, it would certainly be interesting to see what Mike Proctor does at the end of the days’ play.

Suddenly 119 for 3 became 119 for 4 after Mike Hussey edged to Sachin Tendulkar in the slips cordon! Hussey played a one-day shot to that ball. He opened his bat-face to a ball that was marginally outside off stump to guide it to Sachin Tendulkar. At this stage, R. P. Singh was bowling defensively to a 7-2 off-side field!

After an ordinary post-lunch start, India had bounced back into the game by removing two well-set batsmen.

Posting at 13:45, AEST

119-4 became 121-5 when Micheal Clarke did not play a shot at an off beak from Harbhajan Singh. The Australians had the wobbles suddenly and the pressure was starting to tell. Michael Clarke too glared at umpire Mark Benson! Will he too need to introduce himself to Mike Proctor at the end of days’ play?

Either way, this was an extraordinarily bad shot from Michael Clarke, a batsman who had made a smart fifty in the previous innings! Harbhajan Singh is a bowler who normally takes a clutch of wickets when he takes one! He was bowling really well at this stage.

Posting at 13:56, AEST

R. P. Singh took his 4th wicket and Sachin Tendulkar took his 3rd catch of the innings when Adam Gilchrist edged to the slips cordon! I just couldn’t believe what was happening here. Australia seemed to be blowing its advantage here. They had won the toss and were not making it count. Australia were on the mat at 134 for 6. Australia had lost 4 wickets in 15 runs after lunch and the wobble was starting to look like a fall. Time would tell if this would become a free-fall.

The two Singhs — Harbhajan and R. P. — had got India back into the match in a huge manner.

Harbhajan Singh was bowling brilliantly. Harbhajan Singh was bowling as well as I have seen him bowl. There was guile in his bowling. He had loop, bounce and spin and was extracting whatever juice there was in the 1st day pitch.

R. P. Singh was bowling with maturity and temparament that defied his age. He had gone for a few, but he kept coming back — thanks also to some lose and listless batting from the Australians! R. P. Singh, as leader of the pace bowlers group, had put his hand up and was stepping up to the plate. His bowling figures at this stage read 12-2-50-4. Suddenly the Australians looked tentative. Where they may have taken two runs, they only took a single. There was cautious play with a lot more intent on innings-rebuilding.

What was heartening for India was that the best two bowlers in the 1st Test (Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan) had hardly had a bowl in this innings and Australia were already 6 wickets down with not much on the board!

Posting at 15:10, AEST –Tea Time

In the 47th over of the match, I saw what was the worst ever decision on a cricket pitch by an umpire. Andrew Symonds got a healthy edge after hanging his bat out to a ball from Ishant Sharma. The resulting healthy edge was taken by M. S. Dhoni. The Indian fielders converged after what was a regulation, lip-service appeal. Symonds immediately looked back at the wicket keeper to see if it was caught. He even took a half step forward to mark his walk to the pavillion! All ducks were pointing to a raised finger to uphold the appeal. Unfortunately, umpire Steve Bucknor did not lift his finger. I am not sure what he thought the ball hit? The ball was away from the forearm or shirt sleeve! The edge was healthy and the sound was obvious for everyone to hear! Bucknor was asleep on the job! For the second time in the day, the Indians were done in by the umpires!

This is where I feel that the “appeals process” must come into play. With umpires as incompetent as this, I am sure we will soon see technology take the place of umpires.

With some attractive and positive batting and with some help from the umpires, Australia had moved to 204 for 6 off 49 overs! Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds had put on 69 runs off 14.0 overs and were starting the rebuilding process with positive batting. In the previous passage of play, Ishant Sharma dropped a skied catch off Brad Hogg. Had that catch been taken and had the umpire been competent, India would have been well and truly on top here! But as it turned out, the game was running a bit away from India.

To make matters worse, Ishant Sharma disappeared into the pavillion. It seemed like he had injured his ankle, coming in to bowl to Andrew Symonds in anger after the caught behind appeal had been turned down! Youthful zest and immaturity perhaps from a 19-year-old!

But the proceedings were certainly wierd and that too for a team that had lost 6 wickets. Australia had made 213 for 6 off 52 overs at a run rate of 4.11! Australia had scored 119 runs in the session — a session in which they had lost 4 wickets! Hogg and Symonds had scored 80 runs in 17 overs at a run rate of 4.66 runs an over! Hogg was batting on an aggressive 48 off 56 balls and Symonds was on 39 off 64 (at a strike rate of 60.93)! In a strange twist, Hogg was the aggressor and Symonds provided the support role!

So, despite the loss of wickets, Australia was still batting in a positive and aggressive manner.

Despite the recovery, I give the Lunch-Tea session to India. India had taken four very important wickets — Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Gilchrist. Any team that takes those four wickets in one session deserves the session regardles of how many runs are scored! The Session By Session (SBS) score, in my view, was 1.5 to India and 0.5 to Australia.

Posting at 16:00, AEST –Tea Time

R. P. Singh and Anil Kumble commenced proceedings after Tea. Brad Hogg continued his positive batting with two fours off the first two balls after Tea! Hogg and Symonds were batting attacking and positive cricket. But there was good news for the Indian batsmen too. Clearly the pitch was easing and batsmen could get value for their shots. Hogg hit some across the line and some on the up too. So, the Indian batsmen could play well too.

Hogg and Symonds recorded a 100 partnership off just 19.0 overs at a run rate of 5.26. Brad Hogg had made 58 runs and Symonds made 42!This was top batting from the Australians.

At 238 for 6, Kumble bowled a slow flighted delivery to Andrew Symonds. Symonds stretched forward, reached for the ball and Dhoni whipped the bails. The resulting appeal went to the 3rd umpire. The Channel-9 commentary team ruled Symonds out! There was daylight — albeit, a very thin ray of light — between his raised foot and the crease when the bails were whipped off. Dhoni had committed a smart stumping to have his man, one thought, although I will be the first to admit that there was some doubt. Perhaps this was a line-ball decision, but it looked totally out to me! Symonds was ruled not-out by the 3rd umpire! Like Ricky Ponting earlier on in the day, Andrew Symonds was on his third innings in the same dig!

Posting at 16:45, AEST

Australia had moved to an imposing (and seemingly improbable) 294 for 6! This was thanks to some inspired batting, some really, really poor umpiring, some somewhat ordinary bowling and a pitch that was easing. The last factor is, to me, the most telling. The second is infuriating.

The Indian batsmen will take heart from the fact that the pitch was easing. However, what was most infuriating for me was the terrible quality of the umpiring. I would most certainly like to see an appeals process in play in Test cricket to nullify such incompetence. The most galling of these was the caught behind that Bucknor slept through!

Australia, thanks to a splendid batting effort were starting to look healthy at this stage! The partnership recorded 160 runs off 33.3 overs at an improbable run rate of 4.77 with Hogg on 77 and Symonds on 83. Just before the drinks break, Symonds hit a ball that seemed to bounce just before it hit the top of the boundary rope! This was ruled as a six! Now, if a batsman can get the benefit of doubt in lineball calls, I wonder why bowlers can’t get a benefit of doubt on line ball six and boundary calls when the third umpire gets called in? The two extra runs may not count in the end analysis. However, the imbalance struck me as odd!

Soon afterwards, Andrew Symonds notched up his century. He made 100 off 128 deliveries with 11 4s and 2 6s at a tremendous strike rate of 78.12. The two Australian allrounders were pulling things back for their country. Australia reached 307 for 6! Indian shoulders were drooping.

Posting at 17:00, AEST

Soon after I posted by last update, after having made 79 in a partnership worth 173 runs, Brad Hogg jabbed one from Anil Kumble to Rahul Dravid at slip. The specialist slipper caught it sharply. The ball spun, bit and bounced and Hogg just poked at it. Hogg had batted sensibly, with energy and with purpose. He always looked in control and what’s more, he looked to be enjoying himself thoroughly! From a terrible position of 134 for 6, these two warriors — well one (Western) Warrior and one (Queensland) Bull — got Australia to 307 for 7, a position of near strength!

Brett Lee was out first ball, in my view. He stretched forward fully and was wrapped on his legs, adjacent to the stumps! Why the umpire did not give it out, I would not know. This was yet another bad call from the umpires who were having a horror day! My only hope is that the umpires continue to wake up on the wrong side of their hotel beds on the remaining days of this match!

Sachin Tendulkar, who had caught 3 smart catches in the slips, was now bowling at the other end. Harbhajan Singh who started the day so brilliantly, had started to spear them in, thanks to the fact the Symonds and Hogg never really let him settle down! This had been a display of very aggressive batting from these two Australian allrounders.

In the very next over, Andrew Symonds started his 4th innings of the matrch — in my view! He stretched forward to a fastish Anil Kumble ball and was wrapped on the pads. If that ball wasn’t going to hit the stumps, I just don’t know what it would have hit! However, umpire Benson must have seen something that everyone else could not see!

Posting at 17:15, AEST

The Indian bowling rate was terribly slow, but improving. The first session saw 25 overs bowled. The second session saw 27 overs bowled. And, with 15 minutes to go, India had already bowled 27 overs in the final session. The Channel-9 commentry team was getting stuck into the slow Indian bowling rate. And yes, it was slow! I would have taken the Channel-9 commentary team seriously if they got similarly stuck in to Australian team on day-2 of the MCG Test. At 5.30pm, the scheduled close time, the Australians were a good 8 overs behind the bowling rate on the second day of the 1st Test match. It is this one-eyed behaviour from the Channel-9 commentary team that makes me want to switch off.

The Indian team was starting to flag in the field and they needed something inspirational — a good fielding effort or a good catch. Sachin Tendulkar was bowling well and so was Anil Kumble. They just had to remove the remaining batsmen with not much more damage. The tactic seemed to be to give Symonds the easy single and then to attack Brett Lee. I am never a fan of this strategy at the best of times. On an easing pitch –like this one at the SCG — this strategy may come to haunt the Indian team!

At 17:15, India still had 10 overs to bowl in 15 minutes of play! They weren’t going to get there before the end of the days’ play, but they sure as hell bowled as fast (in terms of over rates), if not faster than the Australians did at the MCG!

Brett Lee was starting to settle in as well. And there were danger signs for India here! He was playing well and hitting the odd 4 too. He had moved on to 9 runs!Andrew Symonds, at the other end, was on 116 off 154 balls! The score was 7 for 337.

The run rate was a mind-boggling and situation-defying 4.2 runs per over!

The second new ball was now due!

Posting at 18:02, AEST — Close of days’ Play

R. P. Singh came on to bowl the 81st over of the day. Every indication was that Anil Kumble would take the new ball. But the batting indication was that they would go after the bowling. The first ball was cracked for a 4 through the covers and the new ball was taken immediately!

The first over with the new ball went for 3 fours — well, 2 fours with the new ball and 1 with the old ball. This wasn’t the kind of start India needed. But then, R. P. Singh was bowling to a well-set and positive batsman who was on his 4th innings!

Brett Lee smashed the 1st ball that he faced from Ishant Sharma for a 4 through point, indicating the dangers that lay ahead! A quick 50 runs off the remaining 10 overs could well demoralise the Indians. The partnership was already worth 47 runs off 62 balls with Lee making 18 off 34 balls! The run rate for the day was already 4.33! It seemed likely , at this stage, that Australia might make 400 in the days’ play!

There were 4s raining everywhere with some due to good batting and some due to poor fielding. Yuvraj Singh, on the mid wicket boundary, converted an easy single to a four as he let one through his legs.

It was unbelievable that, after being on the mat at 135-6, Australia would end the day on almost 400, scoring at a rate of nearly 4.5 runs an over! This was phenomenal cricket from this champion team.

R. P. Singh was bowling from around the wicket to Brett Lee. Only he will know why! He was bowling at Lee’s pads and all the bowler had to do was tuck it away. It would make sense if R. P. Singh took the ball away or got it to straighten. None of that was happening either!

Yuvraj Singh, meanwhile, was having a tough time in the outfield. He looked ragged and haggard. His dives were not going anywhere and he let a couple go through his legs!

Ishant Sharma was also having terrible problems with his run up. He was bowling into the end from which the wind was blowing in. He had 4 attempts to bowl the 4th ball of that over. The cause was probably the tunnel-effect that was as a result of the Doug Walters stand reconstruction. The redevelopment was causing a gusty wind to bowl through the park and straight in the path of the young Ishant Sharma. The unruly and jingoistic Sydney crowd gave Ishant Sharma the slow clap and the howl but the young lad somehow completed his over!

Sourav Ganguly came on for the next over and bowled a steady over. Harbhajan Singh bowled the 89th over of the match and was able to get good drift when he tossed it up. The Doug Waters stand reconstruction was certainly causing some problems for the bowlers as well as the batsmen! Sourav Ganguly finished off proceedings for the day with a steady over that went for not much!

The match finished at 18.02, 32 minutes past the scheduled close time! It will be interesting to see the Australian bowling rates as this match progresses.

I’d score the last session to Australia, thereby giving a SBS score of 1.5 to India and 1.5 to Australia. This is perhaps not a true reflection and if I were to look at the day as a whole, I’d probably give it to Australia for the amazing recovery that they made from being on the mat! But given that I was scoring the sessions as the game progressed, I will stick with calling it an even day!

India could look at an easing pitch. Traditionally, day-2 is the easiest for batting at the SCG. If they can get the remaining three Australian batsmen for not much, they can look to bat long and put on a decent score here.

Australia ended the day at a strong 376 for 7 at a scoring rate of 4.22 per over! Phenomenal, considering where they were at one stage. The Indians finished the day looking ragged and out of sorts. But they can take heart from the fact that they had the champion team on the mat. They cantake heart from the knoweledge that the pitch will ease. They have to pray that the umpires contine to remain as incompetent as they were today!

Ultimately for me though, this day was marked by terrific batting from Symonds and Hogg but it was thorughly ruined by the utter incompetence of the umpires. The last thing that a team needs when facing up to a champion team is to be up against the umpires too. But unfortunately, that is exactly what happened and the result was that an excellent day was turned into an ordinary day for the Indians. I can’t wait for the day when the ICC will implement an appeals process whereby captains can appeal two decisions per session in much the same way as tennis players can appeal two rulings per set. Bring it on, I say, to keep incompetence at bay!

— Mohan

Australia v India :: Boxing Day Test :: Day-4

Australia maul India…

As I had said in my blog post yesterday, at the end of day-3 of the Boxing Day Test, the Indian batsmen needed to show some courage, grit, pride and purpose in this, the 4th day of play in the Boxing Day Test match. Thanks to terrible, we-only-smell-money, planning by the BCCI and also to some strange selection decisions, coupled with an almost inevitable insipid 1st innings batting display, India found herself in a terrible position on this day. The fight back from here was going to call on all the reserves of the batsmen. Either way, this was going to be a day of reckoning for Indian cricket.

India started well. They batted with some purpose and commitment. Brad Hogg commenced proceedings to enable Stuart Clark and Brett Lee to change ends. Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid started positively, rotating the strike and middling the ball. This seemed to suggest that the 1st innings cobwebs in Dravid’s mind had disappeared. The batsmen were middling the ball well and stealing the occassional single. But for the brilliant Australian fielding, the score may well have sported a healthier look.

Just when hopes were raised of a smart opening stand, Wasim Jaffer received a brute of a delivery which he appeared to nick to Adam Gilchrist; later, replays suggested that it went off his shoulder. It would not have mattered as this was off a no-ball. One hoped that Jaffer would make best use of this “reprieve”. However, instead of capitalising on it — as Andrew Symonds had the day before — two balls later, Jaffer attempted a lazy waft at a ball outside off stump, to be caught by Gilchrist behind the stumps.

This brought V. V. S. Laxman to the crease and what we saw was the slow crawl from both Dravid as well as Laxman. This just enabled Ricky Ponting to choke the batsmen. Three slips went down to two and then to one! There were fielders in front of the batsmen at short cover, at short mid-wicket, short square-leg and short mid-on. Good fielding, along with a lack of urgency meant that India had sunk back into their 1st innings habits! Every run was being applauded by the sparse Saturday crowd.

And this was fine by me. The batsmen seemed to suggest that they were settling in for the long haul. They seemed to be passing on a message to the Australians that read “Mates we are here to stay on this hot and humid day. We are not here to win. If you want to win, get us out“. I have no problems with this strategy, but one needs tremendous mental resolve to pull it off. One needs to be strong — mentally and physically. I personally do not subscribe to the Channel-9-commentary-team-philosophy that suggests that the only way you can show positive aggression is by trying to tonk each ball. In my books, even stolid defence is a form of aggression and together, Dravid and Laxman was following that plan!

In the 29th over of the innings (the 21st of the day) bowled by Andrew Symonds, a cracking boundary to long-on was followed by a splendid cover drive hit on the up! Two things stood out in these shots. In the straight-driven four, despite the slow outfield, Laxman just ran a single and watched and waited at the non-strikers’ end as the ball trickled over the fence. His message was that runs were unimportant. He and Dravid were there to deny the Australians victory. They were not interested in victory as an option. This was a brave strategy, especially with Brad Hogg in operation. Two balls later, Laxman hit a ball on the up in a spectacular off drive. This said to me that he had a measure of the pitch.

Soon after, Rahul Dravid reached his personal 100! A hundred balls that is! He had made 16 runs off these 100 balls.

In the next over off Symonds, we saw a spectacular back hand attempt from Ricky Ponting. He was standing at short mid off and the straight drive travelled like a rocket to him. He snapped up the ball and back handed the ball; he broke the non-strikers’ stumps, without even looking at the stumps! This was certainly a fielding champion on the park.

The very next ball, Laxman hit a ball slightly to the right of Ponting, who dived over it in an attempt to stop it. His attempt was in vain. Just a few yards behind him, Brad Hogg dived over the ball too and the result was a few runs to Laxman.

I guess if we were as irresponsible as Peter Lalor, we would have said, “If Ponting and Brad Hogg could, they would have sub-contracted the fielding to a back-office operation in India, because he would not be able to find servants to do his dirty work in Australia“!

But then, I’d like to think that we at i3j3Cricket are a bit more responsible! We call it as we see it. We have no hidden agendas!

In the 35th over of the innings, Laxman did not pick a Brad Hogg googly. The ball spun, took the edge and the resulting hard chance was dropped by Hayden at first slip. Perhaps he needed to sub-contract his fielding too? 🙂

In the very next over, the last over before lunch, Andrew Symonds was called on to bowl off spin. Up until then, he had been bowling his seam-up stuff! One assumed that he was bowling off-spin mainly so that the Australians could squeeze in another over before lunch! The time was 12:26 then! He spun one sharply into Dravid. The ball kept low and trapped Dravid in front. Dravid had made 16 off 114 and just as he was looking set to go to lunch undefeated, he got out! Even in the 1st innings, he got out just before lunch after putting in the hard yards in the lead up to the luncheon break!

If Dravid hadn’t got out, I may have been tempted to call it an even session or even perhaps a session to India. But with that wicket, I’d give the session to Australia, thus making the session score 5-2 in favour of Australia.

Australia started their post-lunch proceedings with Brett Lee from the Southern Stand End and Andrew Symonds from the Members’ Stand End.

Sachin Tendulkar was perhaps listening to the Channel-9 commentary a bit too much. Instead of grinding it out, he tried to smash every ball out of the park. Although I didn’t see the game on TV, I heard that the Channel-9 comms were getting stuck into the Indians for their slow approach. While I completely disagreed with Rahul Dravid’s go-slow approach in the 1st innings, a block approach (or “dokku” approach) in the second innings seemed to make sense. As I said earlier, this was as much a form of aggression as is a “bang every ball for a four” approach, provided one has the skill and the mental fortitude to carry it off! Especially when you consider that the Indians had 6 sessions to bat out, “to grind it out” was a totally valid strategy — especially on a very Indian pitch! It seemed to me that Sachin Tendulkar had come out with a wrong mental framework. A quickfire 50 or a 100 studded with 20 fours would not have mattered a toss if the series scoreboard still read 1-0 at the end of the match!

I don’t believe I have ever criticised Sachin Tendulkar during his career. However, on this occassion, I felt that he let his personal ambition (to dominate the bowling) ahead of the teams’ need (occupation of the crease).

After making a few attractive runs, Sachin Tendulkar was back in the hut. The team and the situation had demanded much more from him and he hadn’t delivered.

Sourav Ganguly came on and suffered an immediate sledge from Brett Lee. Soon after there was a spectacular fielding effort. Ganguly hit the ball to long on and charged off for 3 runs. Bradd Hogg slid at the ropes and threw down the non-strikers’ wicket from about 100 yards out. Ganguly appeared to be in the crease — he had just reached the crease. Brett Lee the bowler grabbed hold of the rebound and in one action, threw down the stumps at the other end! Both batsmen were in, but one couldn’t help admire the clinical efficiency of the Australian fielding outfit. It seemed like a well-oiled military operation!

When the score had crossed 100, Ganguly smashed the ball to deep point and sauntered off for a non-existant single. Andrew Symonds grabbed hold of the ball and threw it back to the stumps when there was no need. Ganguly was inside his crease anyway! The resulting overthrow went for 3 runs.

Again, Peter Lalor might have said that Symonds needed to go to get a servant from India — there are none here, I presume — or something derogatory like that. But to do that I’d need to hate Symonds and Australia and since I don’t either, I will desist!

India were soon 118 for 4 when Laxman drove a slower ball from Stuart Clark straight to Michael Clarke at cover. Again, this was a silly positive shot when it just wasn’t necessary. Laxman had once again promised much to not deliver in the end. He was out for a well made 42.

And when Yuvraj Singh was out LBW to a faster flipper from Brad Hogg, without giving the scorers too much of a headache, it appeared as though the innings would fold even before tea on day-4! Once again, even after he had just been reprieved by Match Referee Mike Proctor the previous night (for showing dissent in the 1st innings), Yuvraj Singh hung around for a while, seeming to suggest that that ball was speared down the leg side. Indeed, replays did suggest that the ball was heading down legside. For the second time in the match Yuvraj Singh had received a rough call, but he needs to understand that he should just cop it on the chin and walk.

The batting was turning out to be a disappointment once again. The on-paper champions were on the mat and the Australians — the true champions — had their legs pressed on the throats of the paper tigers. It was a mind game at this stage. The Aussies knew that they had a mountain of runs behind them and could keep attacking. The Indians had no answers.

The second session clearly belonged to the Aussies.

Post-tea proceedings commenced with Stuart Clark (Southern Stand End) and Brad Hogg (Members Stand End). Batting was still looking easy. There were no demons in the pitch. Dhoni, who was unable to read Hogg’s googly effectively off the hand, seemed to have enough time to play it off the pitch! The demons were all in the Indian batsmens’ heads!

And this resulted in a total collapse after tea time. The wheels fell right off the Indian bus. Dhoni was out flashing at a ball wide of off stump. Kumble was caught poking at a ball on the offside from Mitchell Johnson. Harbhajan Singh was called for a run and then sent back by Sourav Ganguly. Harbhajan Singh could not get back to the crease in time. Ganguly was struck on the pads as he stretched well forward. Umpire Benson lifted his finger to send him packing even before the appeal commenced — perhaps he too wanted to escape to the cool confines of the dressing room! One saw many such LBW appeals being denied the Indians on day-3. But then none of that would have mattered anyway, as a much superior opposition was in the process of crushing out a capable, but under-cooked opposition.

Soon, it was all over and Australia had won its 15th Test match without losing a game!

India were under-cooked and under-prepared. It did not help that they had the wrong team on the park! And they were made to pay for all of these silly goof ups by a champion team.

In just 3 days’ time, it starts again in Sydney. India need to lift themselves off the floor, dust themselves off and move on to the challenges ahead. And along the way, some hard decisions need to be taken — more of that in a later post!

— Mohan