Tag Archives: VVS Laxman

Team India are poor travelers?

In the last few days, two very interesting victories have made cricket interesting once again. India won at Kingsmead, Durban and England clinched The Ashes with a famous victory at the MCG.

For sometime now, I have been maintaining a list of some of the most thrilling Indian Test Cricket victories in recent times. I have added to this list, India’s victory on 29 December 2010 at Kingsmead, Durban, South Africa. The addition of “Durban 2010 v South Africa” to this impressive list is because it was once again a come-from-behind victory after a terrible loss in the 1st Test of the series (at Super Sport Park). The Durban victory is an important victory for Team India because it goes a long way towards debunking a myth — yet again! — that India plays badly overseas.

Is it important for India to debunk myths about her ability to play overseas?

No. Not really.

I think it is enough if India plays well every time she takes the field — regardless of where it is. And that is exactly what Team India has been doing in the last decade.

There are trash-talkers who wish to talk with their mouths and then play, sometimes simultaneously and almost always, to their own detriment — as Graeme Smith found out quite rudely in the Durban Test match! Greame Smith can believe the myths he creates to make himself happy about his lot in life. These myths have a strange way of enveloping the myth-creators. When that happens, the inevitable outcome is a simple pin-prick that results in a painful deflation of the balloon of arrogance. The myth-creators are often blind-sided by the myths that they create!

In the last decade, India has won 22 and lost 20 of her 61 overseas Tests for a win/loss ratio of 1.1 and a draw/loss ratio of 0.95. In the same period, when compared with the performance of South Africa, Australia, England and Sri Lanka, the corresponding figures for Australia (for Wins, Losses, Total Overseas Tests, W/L and D/L) are clearly the best at 34, 16, 59, 2.12, 0.56. The figures for South Africa are: 21, 18, 56, 1.16, 0.95. The figures for England are 19, 23, 62, 0.82, 0.86 and those for Sri Lanka are 11, 19, 39, 0.57, 0.47.

Clearly, Australia has the best win-loss ratio, thanks to Australia’s stunning performances when Steve Waugh (and then Ricky Ponting) captained an excellent team with Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Waugh, Martyn, Waugh, Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath, Gillespie et al. India’s win-loss ratio in the same period compares favorably with that of South Africa and puts into shade, the win-loss performances of Sri Lanka and England.

The draw/loss ratio is not a metric that is often used in comparative analyses of this sort. It is, in my view, as important as the more obvious win-loss ratio that is used almost always. It is a pointer to a teams’ grit and resolve — especially when it plays in unfamiliar conditions. A draw might not be a pretty sight. But it is a pointer to a teams’ grit in tough situations. The above figures might show Australia in poor light as a team that has an inability to grit it out. But this might be more due to the rather refreshing “win at all costs” attitude Australia used to employ in the early part of this decade. But India has drawn almost as many Tests as she has lost in overseas Tests!

Team India has an impressive draw-loss ratio and an acceptable win-loss ratio that is constantly improving.

For example, if we take just the last 5 years, the win-loss and draw-loss ratios are 1.44 and 1.33 for India, 1.66 and 0.89 for Australia, 1.62 and 0.875 for South Africa, 0.6 and 0.86 for England, and, 0.7 and 0.6 for Sri Lanka.

Overall, apart from the impressive Australia team — and that too, in the first half of this decade gone by — India stacks up really well with other top teams in terms of her “overseas” performances. So, in my view, it is time we start debunking these myths about Team India being poor travelers.

To me, with the addition of the latest victory at Kingsmead, this big-list list of recent Indian Test victories reads: Kolkata 2001 (v Australia), Leeds 2002 (v England), Adelaide 2003 (v Australia), Multan 2004 (v Pakistan), Sabina Park 2006 (v West Indies), Johannesburg 2006 (v South Africa), Perth 2008 (v Australia), Mohali 2008 (v Australia), Chennai 2008 (v England), Colombo, P. Sara 2010 (v Sri Lanka), Kingsmead Durban 2010 (v South Africa).

It is fair to say that, with a few days to go to the end of the current decade, the period from 2001 to 2010 has represented an exciting decade for Indian cricket. We have seen some exciting talent explode onto the scene — MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, to name a few. We are seeing a few young turks itching to have a crack on the big stage — Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, M. Vijay, Pragyan Ojha and Ishant Sharma, to name a few. And this entire march has been presided over by the “Famous Five” or the “Fab Five”; five of the best gentlemen to grace Indian cricket together in the same team.

One of this quintet — The Famous Five — was responsible for this sensational victory in Durban. The smiling assassin, V. V. S. Laxman, carefully scripted this impressive victory. And with this victory, the world might start accepting that a green-top is as useful to India as it is to the host.

As Dileep Premachandran says, “If one picture could tell you the story of how Indian cricket’s fortunes have changed in three years, it would be that taken at Kingsmead at 9.58am on Wednesday. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who had tested his captain’s patience in the last game by taking an age to bowl his overs, pitched one just short of a length to Jacques Kallis. The ball spat up like an angry cobra and it said much about Kallis’s skill that he jackknifed and managed to get a glove to it before it rearranged his features. The ball lobbed up gently to Virender Sehwag at gully and four wickets down with another 180 to get, South Africa were out for the count. And, after years of their batsmen copping punishment from opposition quicks, an Indian pace bowler was dishing it out.”

That ball will become part of Indian cricket folklore. As Ayaz Memon said on his Twitter time-line (@cricketwallah), “Sreesanth’s snorter to dismiss Kallis will become as famous in cricket lore as Sandhu’s banana delivery that got Greenidge in 1983 World Cup.”

In conclusion, let us debunk two myths: One, that India are poor travelers. Two, that a lively pitch only assists the home team when Team India visits!

Ps:

While we are on the topic of green-tops, how is it ok for Graeme Smith or Dale Steyn to “request” for green-tops against India while a “request” for a spin-friendly wicket in India by an Indian captain or player is frowned upon when Australia or South Africa visit Indian shores?

I have never heard a visiting Indian captain whine about the state of pitches in Melbourne, Leeds or Durban? Isn’t it time that captains that visit the sub-continent lock their whine-vocal-chords at home before they board the plane?

PPs:

While I exist in this paranoid state, am I the only one to believe that if Ricky’s surname was not Ponting, but either Singh or Kumar or Khan, he would have been suspended for his totally over-the-top antics at the MCG? Had I been the umpire and had an on-field captain carried on like a pork chop the way Ricky Ponting did, I would have searched for a red card and thrown the man out of the park! The fact that Aleem Dar tolerated the Ponting “carry on” was a testament to the umpires’ patience. The fact that the match referee slapped a mere fine on Ponting means that, to me, the Match Referee’s office is, once again, shown up for the disgrace it is. The fact that Cricket Australia did not suspend Ricky Ponting immediately means that the “Spirt of Cricket” document that all Australian cricketers sign up when they get the Baggy Green needs to be torn up immediately and re-written in an environment of grace and humility.

— Mohan

Glimpses of the future…

The current Team India at the Twenty20 World Cup offers a glimpse of a possible future for Indian cricket sans the Fab Five — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman and Anil Kumble.

In the T20 World Cup, India has bowled well, fielded exceptionally well and played with self-belief and aggression. There are pointers to a potentially bright future. These are early days still, but I believe that this team is a good step in the right direction. This direction commenced with Rahul Dravid’s announcement that he, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly would make themselves unavailable for T20 selection.

This then commenced a shift in thinking at the top with the leadership reigns being handed over to M. S. Dhoni. As a leader, I think he is a good investment for the future. Gauging from his conduct on the field, he appears to have the backing of his young players. He is not a formula-captain. He reacts and changes somewhat instinctively. His decision to swap Harbhajan Singh’s end in the game against South Africa would have left him with no option but to bowl Harbhajan Singh in the last over. This could have had potentially disastrous effects. But he followed his instincts and went with it. After a costly 1st over, Harbhajan Singh proceeded to bowl 3 tight overs on the trot! Dhoni appears to have a level head on his shoulders and gauging from the post-match interviews, he is handling his appointment with aplomb… but these are still honeymoon-days!

It is quite an exciting future, in my view, particularly if we add to the mix players like S. Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Yo Mahesh, Praveen Kumar, Pankaj Singh, et al.

At 29 years and 247 days, Ajit Agarkar is the oldest player in Team India for the T20 World Cup.

Name | Age (years — rounded to nearest integer)
Ajit Agarkar | 30
Virender Sehwag | 29
Harbhajan Singh | 27
M. S. Dhoni | 26
Yuvraj Singh | 26
Gautam Gambhir | 26
Yusuf Pathan | 25
S. Sreesanth | 24
Joginder Sharma | 24
Irfan Pathan | 23
Robin Uthappa | 22
Dinesh Karthik | 22
R. P. Singh | 22
Rohit Sharma | 20
Piyush Chawla | 19

The average age of this side — even with Ajit Agarkar in it — is 24.33y, which is not a bad average at all!

Firstly, this team has shaved 3 years off the average age of Team India’s World Cup squad!

But more importantly, the drop in average age reflects on the fielding. With Irfan Pathan’s improvement as a fielder, there is really no one in this team that needs to be “hidden” on the field. With a proper long-term fielding-coach and a focus on fitness and intensity, the standards can only improve from here on in. All of this points to a potentially exciting future of Indian cricket. It has been most gratifying to see the self-belief in youngsters like Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth and R. P. Singh.

— Mohan

Dravid resigns!

In breaking news, Dravid resigns as captain of the Indian team. The rest of the year for Indian cricket is not going to be easy with tough tours of Pakistan and Australia ahead. A new coach and a new captain aren’t going to make things any easier.

So, lets look at the candidates most likely to replace Dravid –

Ganguly: There is no denying the fact that Ganguly is a great leader and India played some of its best cricket under his captaincy. Since his comeback he has also become an integral part of the team and with Greg Chappell out of the way, he will once again have supreme power over this team. But he only has one or two years left in his career and naming him captain would only be a short term thing.

Tendulkar: Tendulkar was made vice-captain for the Test team. This does not mean he is a captain in waiting. Tendulkar has in the past admitted that he did not enjoy the captaincy when he had it. Whether he has changed his mind about it in the final years of his career remains to be seen.

Laxman: Laxman would have actually made a good captain, but he still finds himself in and out of the team. If he is made captain, it will only be a short term solution like Ganguly and Tendulkar.

Dhoni: Dhoni has been made the one day captain and the selectors may decide to make him the test captain too. IMHO, this would be a bad move. Making a wicket keeper as a captain will only work as a stop gap arrangement – the burden of wicket keeping, batting and captaining would be too much to handle.

Yuvraj: Like Laxman, he still is not a regular member of the test team.

Sehwag: Until a year back, Sehwag would have been the most likely person to be the next captain. With lack of form, he has been dropped from the team. But, if he proves himself in the T20 tournament, there is still a very strong chance that he may not only find himself back in the team, but also as a candidate for a leadership position (vice-captain or even captain)

There is also the outside chance of naming someone like Kumble, but it is quite clear that India did not have a clear accession plan/vision with respect to captaincy or even if they had it just hasn’t worked out – In my opinion, naming Tendulkar as a deputy starting with the Bangladesh tour was actually a backward step. 

With not too many options open currently, the captaincy may just fall back to either Ganguly or Tendulkar and the selectors may choose eithe Dhoni or Sehwag as a vice-captain (and get him back in to the team). Not very good moves, but probably the only ones they can make in the current scenario.

Would be interesting to see if the selectors do get bold and name a completely new captain. We have a few interesting days ahead of us (and I am not referring to the Twenty20 matches).

-Mahesh-

Team India for ODI against Scotland and England Lions

India plays Scotland today (Thursday 16 August) in a ODI match at the Clydesdale Cricket Club grounds in Glasgow. Not surprisingly, it has been raining in Glasgow and a tinge of optimism is required to believe that this match will run its full course. If the weather does not have a say in curtailing the match duration, the Indian team might! Scotland are definitely not pushovers and since the World Cup, they have shown some improvement. But I can’t really see them offer the Indian team anything more than a pleasant sightseeing opportunity!

India follow this game with a ODI against England Lions at the County Ground, Northampton.

After that the 7-match circus commences on 21 August at The Rose Bowl (Southampton).

From the Team India contingent for the Test matches, Anil Kumble, Sree Santh, Wasim Jaffer, Ranadeb Bose, V. V. S. Laxman and Ishant Sharma have departed for India while Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel have joined the squad.

It is likely that all of the above will play in the game against Scotland and also in the game against England Lions on the 18th. It is also likely that the players with minimal work-rate in the Test series will also play both games — namely, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Ramesh Powar.

We could add to this list Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Karthik and Sourav Ganguly for the game against Scotland and Sachin Tendulkar, M. S. Dhoni and R. P. Singh for the game against the Lions.

So the likely teams for the games are:

Against Scotland:
Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Karthik, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel.

and

Against England Lions:
Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, M. S. Dhoni, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar, R. P. Singh and Munaf Patel

It is likely that Zaheer Khan will sit out both games.

— Mohan
— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 3 Day 5 — An overseas series win…

India pressed hard for a victory on day-5 of the 3rd Test match against England. But in the end, the England batsmen defended their way to the close of days’ play to leave India a few breaths short of victory.

Who knows what may have happened if India had another 15 or so overs? These, and other hypotheticals will surround the match, but the fact is that India won the series 1-0. It was an overseas series win to add to the win last year in the West Indies.

The day of “if only’s” commenced with an if-only off the very first ball. Sree Santh bowled a beauty to Alistair Cook that struck the batsman plumb in front. Umpire Ian Howell chose to not see it that way. During the day, Rahul Dravid dropped Michael Vaughan and M. S. Dhoni dropped Paul Collingwood. Both were difficult chances, but I’ve seen both Dravid and Dhoni take these. These missed catches added to the if-only ponderings.

However, in the end analysis, England had decided to pull down the shutters and play for a draw. The huge target put an England victory completely out of contention. But having decided that they would play for a draw, they proceeded down that path with aplomb. Instead of dour defence, they kept the scoreboard ticking — no doubt helped by the attacking fields that Dravid set at times. Pietersen was superb in his shot-selection as well as his innings-planning. He built the innings carefully and then played the gaps. He wouldn’t allow the bowlers to settle into a rhythm. Collingwood was a rock at one end as Pietersen scored freely at the other end.

The Indian bowlers toiled through the day and kept picking up wickets at regular intervals. But as in Sydney in 2004, India came close to winning the last Test in a marquee series, but not close enough.

Had India done the right thing by batting on? I think so — both in Sydney as well as at The Oval.

Had India delayed the declaration? I think so — both in Sydney as well as at The Oval, with the difference being that in Sydney, they played positive cricket in the second innings.

But all of that is irrelevant now. India has won the series here and that was mightily important to the team, its progress and her fans. The difference between a 1-0 series win and a 2-0 series win would have been (a) a few points on the ICC Championship Table, (b) the opportunity to be number 2 in the ICC table — level with England on 109 points — instead of number 3 — level with Sri Lanka on 107 points, (c) making winning a habit.

The team, through Dravid, sent a message that 1-0 was good enough and that is what we got.

England had battened down the hatches and saved the match, but lost the series. The series win was Dravid’s prime KPI and he, and his team, had delivered.

But more importantly, it was a good team effort. India went with an unchanged team in all three Test matches. The team played well together — without a coach — and came away with a fantastic win at Trent Bridge after being under the pump at Lord’s in the 1st Test. They had won a series in England after 21 years. They played smart cricket through the series.

Lets not take that away from this Indian team.

— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 3 Day 3 — Another good day in the office for India…

The pre lunch session was another India session, thanks to two late wickets by Anil Kumble. Team India looked a bit ragged in the field though in this session. A dropped catch, some wayward bowling and a slow over rate did not help India’s cause. It was a session in which India only bowled 25 overs!

Given the match situation, it was somewhat surprising that India’s over rate was as poor as it was. There seemed to be a sluggishness and languidness to the play when what may have been required was urgency and fervour. It was also surprising that Kumble got to bowl only 5 overs in this session. I am not sure why he wasn’t given more of a bowl!

But perhaps Dravid was having things in reserve. He swapped the bowlers around in short-sharp spells. Given the hot and humid conditions and against the backdrop of the knowledge that India may need to stay on the field for a long-long time to squeeze out a victory, it is likely that short-sharp spells was the plan.

The dropped catch did not help either. Again it was Karthik that dropped a simple catch at leg slip. Dravid had placed Karthik strategically at leg slip to snatch Alistair Cook’s uppish leg glance. The shot was played off Sree Santh and Karthik fluffed it. It was a somewhat shoddy display indeed. Following tight on the heels of a thorough and professional display on days 1 and 2 of this Test match, this was a somewhat sorry showing from India.

Nevertheless, this was a session that belonged to India. England scored 100 runs but lost the wickets of Anderson, Cook and Vaughan. This session was India’s and the session-by-session score reads 6-0 in favour of India!

Sree Santh, who was somewhat listless before lunch, bowled with fire after lunch. He had Pietersen in some trouble in one over — an over that incidentally contained 3 no balls and also contained a few out swingers, a few in swingers, a wide delivery, a bouncer, a slower ball and much much more! The young man wanted to exhaust his entire repertoire in the one over!

The post-lunch session was a rebuilding session for India and one would be forgiven for having visions of it being the first session that belonged exclusively to England. That was until the penultimate over before tea. Off Sachin Tendulkar’s first ball in the match, Pietersen had a brain explosion that resulted in him launching into an expansive drive the moment he saw the ball above his eye sockets. The premeditated launch defied the match-context and the result was almost predictable! That was a big wicket although I still think that that session belonged to England, its first in the match.

The pre lunch session did, however, contain yet another Howell gem! Off the second ball Collingwood faced, he was plumb in front to a beauty from Kumble. I received an immediate SMS from a friend that read, “If that ball won’t have hit the stumps, call me a banana“! As if to make up for that bad call — a really silly goof up at this level — Howell waved Collingwood away to the pavillion when the batsman appeared well set for a gritty century! He was declared out LBW to a ball that was sliding way down leg side! Howell should know that righting a wrong does not cut it at this level! He, like Matt Prior the England ‘keeper, has had a forgettable match!

Bell played positively but the bells were tolling for England and he too went to a good ball from Sree Santh. The second new ball had removed Collingwood and Bell and as with the other 4 innings of this series, the rest of the batsmen — sorry, we do have to call them something! — offered no resistance at all.

One could be forgiven for starting to wonder why Matt Prior is in the England team! Certainly it can’t be for his ‘keeping! On the evidence of this series, it can’t be for his batting? His puerile yapping then?

Dravid had handled his field and his bowlers well. He bowled them in short spells and rotated them around. He did not overbowl Kumble. He even gave Laxman a bowl!

The session-by-session score card reads 7-1. This too has become somewhat futile and almost irrelevant in this Test match! The only question that needs to be asked is whether or not India press the follow-on. India are 338 ahead. Under normal circumstances I’d have said no. I’d have thought India should bat for at least a session and a half, make a really quick 160 or so and then get England to bat 5 sessions to either make the 500 runs or implode. This would ensure that the bowlers get a bit of a break and come back fresh. This would also ensure that India had the last opportunity to use the wicket.

However, two things ride against this decision. There is a threat of rain in the air. Moreover, this is the last match of the series and the bowlers’ workload may not be that much of a large issue. The pitch is also not that much of a threat. So India may need all the time that she can get on this pitch. With this in mind, imposing the follow-on may be the way to go. Either way, we have a few good sessions of cricket left in this game.

— Mohan

England Vs India: Test 3 Day 2 — Team performance from Team India…

It was a magical day for Team India. Almost everything seemed to go according to plan. India ended her first innings on 664 and in reply, England are 24 for 1. England need a further 440 runs to make India bat again!

It was a day where India, in my calculations, won all 3 sessions. The session-by-session score card reads 5-0 in India’s favour and with 9 sessions left in the match, I strongly believe that India have helped eliminate one of the 3 possible results. I do not believe England can win from here. It will take something of heroic proportions for England to win this game; for that to happen, England would have to win all 9 remaining sessions and India will need to play remarkably badly. With a series win on the line, I can’t see India playing consistently badly for the remaining 9 session. While I am not that confident of an India win — thanks to the benign nature of the pitch — I believe that a thrilling draw may still be on the cards.

The one factor that could weigh in India’s favour is British pride. Peter Moores, the England coach said at the end of day-2, “Everyone’s motivated because it’s the last Test of the summer and we’re playing to try and save the series. All the batters are going out to get a score, for themselves and for the team, and one thing that’s in our favour is the speed you can score at. The outfield’s very quick and the wicket is very good. The batters are looking forward to having a go on it, so we’ll just see where we get to.

If England goes out in a positive frame of mind, and with a view to still winning from here, India could squeeze in for the kill. Kumble can afford to bowl with 3-4 around the bat. Dravid could look to choke the runs at one end and attack all-out from the other end. This will be a test of Dravid’s captaincy aggression. There is not much in the pitch, but the batsmen have delivered the runs on the board. The pace and the aggression was dictated by the captains’ pre-match sound-bytes as well as his purposefulness while batting. It is now upto the captain to set the same tone on the field. That, mixed with Britsh pride and aggression may well give India the game. The next 3 days will tell us which way this cookie is going to crumble!

It was a terrific team performance from India. Just as Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Dravid laid the foundations on day-1, the second day saw Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid build a strong foundation in the first session. Sachin Tendulkar was keen to ensure that he batted England out of the game. Laxman on the other hand, mixed caution with class. He had once again done the hard work and also enjoyed the benefit of a let-off — once again from Matt Prior behind the sticks. However, yet again, Laxman could not press on the advantage and departed after yet another classy 50!

Matt Prior, whose chat level has been greater than his skill level, had a forgettable match thus far. His collection has been ordinary. He dropped Tendulkar and Laxman and he has given away 33 byes — an embarassingly high number! No doubt this was assisted by some wayward bowling. However, Prior will be embarassed to see his name in the record books.

After Tendulkar departed to a terrific ball, understandably disappointed at not reaching a century, we saw some unbelievable pyrotechnics from M. S. Dhoni. He displayed a stunning array of strokes. He played the pace bowlers with panache and simply culled the spinners. It was all devastating stuff. At the other end, Anil Kumble played like a 1-down batsman. He leaned into his cover drives and knelt as his off-drove with skill. And suddenly, Kumble was on the verge of an unlikely century! If he had played a batsman’s innings right through, the shot that got him his century was classic-Kumble though! He somehow got his bat to a ball that was pitched way outside his off stump. The ball was somehow squeezed through between bat and ground and between Priors’ legs. Kumble, who had charged down the wicket to meet the ball, dived back desprately into his crease and was all arms and legs! And lest the umpire declare the resulting four runs as byes, Kumble raised his arms in acknowledgement of potential congratulations even before the ball was halfway to the boundary! Ah, classic Kumble stuff!

I said at the begining of the game that it would be foolish for the press to merely focus on farewelling the Fab Four. Anil Kumble also made his debut in England in the same match that Tendulkar made his first century at Old Trafford. To not include him in the farewell celebrations would be a folly. Well, with his sensational ton here, Anil Kumble has scripted himself firmly into the farewell party! And there may well be more to come from this indefatigable and admirable war-horse!

If India made one mistake, it was in not declaring the innings closed immediately at that point. Dravids’ rationale for batting out an additional 4-5 overs escaped me.

India are clearly ahead in this game and need to go for the jugular. An additional spinner would have helped India’s cause. But they have started the bowling well thanks to a mindless shot from Andrew Strauss. He hooked a Zaheer Khan ball irresponsibly down Sree Santh’s throat at fine leg. But that is what mental fatigue does to you. After nearly 170 overs in the hot sun, the brain does tend to get scrambled and the muscles get weary. Who knows? An additonal 4-5 overs of time may have got India another wicket or two. And I do believe that it is the mental game that will get India ahead on day-3. There is nothing much in the pitch although there were some indications that Kumble will make the ball bite and jump. A bit of aggression and a lot of chatter mixed with attacking close-in fields could deliver India this game.

India could well have had another wicket if Ian Howell had been awake. His shocking match continued when he refused to give James Anderson out. He was struck plumb in line by a wonderful Sree Santh delivery although there was bat-pad doubt. And this is where Howell’s inexperience came through. A bat-first-then-pad would have been normally squeezed square of the wicket. If it did travel straight down the wicket, a bat-first-then-pad shot would have minimal power in it. This ball, however, screamed to the deep mid-on boundary thereby clearly indicating that it was a pad-first-bat-next shot. Howell’s inexperience yielded the benefit of doubt to James Anderson when there was neither a need for benefit or doubt!

In 2003-4 in Sydney, India had put 705 on the board against Australia. There again, Sourav Ganguly had delayed the declaration by at least half an hour. Who knows what that extra half hour would have given him and the team in that match? In that match, India did have two spinners in Kumble and Murali Karthik. In this match, India only have Kumble. So the road ahead is potentially hard for India. But the saving grace is that it is incredibly hard for England. They have almost certainly lost this series. The question in my mind is whether the final scoreline will be 1-0 or 2-0.

It has been a terrific team-batting-performance by India who had as many as eight 50+ parterships — a first in cricket!

India must now hope for an all-round bowling performance as it searches for an outright victory in this game…

— Mohan