Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why the rush for the sixth wicket?

26-6.


39-6


I hope 60-6 doesn't get added to this list. Because if there is one thing an Indian fan should dread, it's Indian fast bowlers destroying the opposition batting on the first day of a test and taking six wickets before lunch. For in the strange parallel universe that the Indian team lives in that tends to mean a devastating loss a few days later.

From 60-6 to 279 all out is a Great Escape. No doubt, Ryder and Vettori batted well. Credit where its due. But a bowling team that has reduced a batting side to 60-6 should still be pretty darn ticked off it let them get away to 279. Did the pitch "ease up"? Sure, if you buy the premise that it was ever doing anything in the morning. It wasn't that different. The ball was newer and harder in the morning, but this attack is supposed to be one that can reverse the older ball. And it did. But there weren't enough catchers to plug those dreaded gaps in the slip cordon (I lost count of the number of times the ball went through there). And it was a curious sight to see Harbhajan bowling with a such a sparse close-in field. Why not crowd the batsman with a few chattering fielders in his face? Six wickets were down; why did India act like they were the ones under pressure? When Zaheer was bowling his impeccable off-stump line in the afternoon session what was Yuvraj doing patrolling the deep at square-leg? (Yuvraj, an ace catcher?)

Now, India face a score of 279. To put reasonable pressure on New Zealand, and save themselves from the Fourth Innings In An Away Test Match Syndrome, they are going to have to bat out of their skins (279 is about a 125 runs or so more than 150, I think). Hopefully, the pitch will remain "eased up".

I'm frequently skeptical on this blog about India's aspirations to Great Power status in test cricket. This first day's play reminds me such skepticism is not unwarranted. With 104 test centuries in his batting line-up, facing a pitch that looked perfectly reasonable for batting once the pre-lunch session with the new ball was negotiated, an Indian captain chose to bowl; and then, even when his gambit succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings, he couldn't believe he had a chance to close things out.

As for the Indian batting, as usual, its up to Sehwag tomorrow to get things on the right track (a surefire derailing will occur with his early loss and the Dravid-induced crawl that is almost sure to follow). And we'll get some interesting data points on how far Gambhir and Yuvraj have come in their test careers.

11 Comments:

Blogger straight point said...

go everywhere...and we hear similar sentiments...

its up to Sehwag tomorrow to get things on the right track...

from sachin to sehwag dependency is the progress india seems to have made all these years...

...and yes its really up to sehwag to force the issue... :)

8:23 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Cheer up Samir! We certainly squandered a good position but I have confidence we can rack up at least 400 on this pitch. I think we have a problem with ageing slip fielders. They were definitely too far back yesterday (many edges fell just short) but when they were close enough (as in the chance off Harbhajan), they couldn't react quickly enough. Both Dravid and Sachin have deteriorated of late.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Subash said...

Samir - I was feeling the same frustration while watching the game. There was a lack of "going for the proverbial jugular". However, I have to disagree with you on the fact that Sehwag has to force the issue. Yes, it provides a wonderful platform if Sehwag goes berserk (i.e. play his natural game for a session) and lets the others to play at a more sedate, watchful pace. I think the onus is actually on Gambhir - He needs to push Dravid to turn the strike over and not get muddled. With natural strokemakers at 4, 5, 6 and 7, we should be alright even if Sehwag were to get out cheap.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Subash said...

Regarding the rush for 6 examples you provided -- I don' think NZ have an Akram, Akhtar or Saqi in their ranks. And definitely Seddon park is not as green as the Karachi one was.. plus, they don't have an Asif to exploit any help from the surface. The sky is not falling, Chief Vitalstatistix.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Homer said...

I agree with Subash - the onus is no longer on Sehwag to get things on the right track - al he needs to do is not lose his wicket in the first hour of play - a back to old school opening, if you will.

There is really nothing in the wicket and with the Kookaburra not doing anything after about 15-20 overs, the match is there for India for the taking.

What Sehwag could do to screw things up is to fall within the first five overs and bring in Dravid.

And then, the law of unintended consequences takes over :)

Cheers,

12:36 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

agree with ur views. The good start to the series was squandered, yet 279 isnt a dangerous score.

key to the result would be the couple of sessions tomorrow...

1:04 PM  
Blogger samir said...

SP: The problem is the #3 position. If Laxman was batting there, I wouldn't say its all up to Sehwag. The problem is the becalming of the innings when Dravid walks in.

Tim: I think the slips are actually still in fine touch. There just weren't enough of them :)

Subhash: I agree tomorrow is a crucial test for Gambhir. All his test success last year came at home. And I don't think NZ need the kind of bowling attack you mentioned. They just need a diffident batting line-up. The rest takes care of itself.

Homer: Sure. The match is still there for the taking. As opposed to being the "in the bag" situation it could have been. Still, a score of 400 is doable, and should be the minimum on the team's mind.

Sam: As above, its even now. 279 isn't a dangerous score but neither is it one to be just sneezed at. And letting a team escape from 60-6 to that score can play with with people's minds if things go a little wrong. And yes, the opening session is going to be oh-so-crucial, just like the two that will follow :)

2:16 PM  
Blogger Homer said...

Samir,

279 all out on Day 1 of a Test match on a wicket that has no demons - I will take it anytime :)

Cheers,

4:08 PM  
Blogger samir said...

Homer: Here is the funny thing: had India bowled out New Zealand for 279, without causing that collapse and letting that fightback happen, I'd have been happier. Same score, yes, but we wouldn't have planted a seed of doubt in our minds and let two of their bats get tons. Sure, we caused a collapse and so on. But the rest of the batsmen would have taken a lot of heart from Ryder and Vettori and put down their failures as a one-off. Its the psychological aspect of the let-off that is more worrying - rather than the pure numbers on the scoreboard.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Homer said...

Samir,

On the flip side, given the ease with which Vettori and Ryder bat, and the effortless manner in which they made runs, will give the Indian batsmen heart.

And, from a NZ point of view, if run making is as easy as Vettori and Ryder made it out to be, I am not sure too many bowlers will be queuing up to bowl today.

Cheers,

4:55 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Homer: I think my original point is getting lost. When you let a team get away from 60-6 to 279 you let loose a little demon of doubt in your mind which bugs you everytime things go wrong ("if only we hadn't let them get away and kept them to 150"). That's all. Thats the psychological burden that a great escape places on you. Thats why a 279 which is a recovery from 60-6 is worse than a 279 all out where the wickets fell at regular intervals. It affects the mood of the team. Sure, strong teams will overcome it, but strong teams wouldn't have let the great escape happen either!

6:31 PM  

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