Thursday, March 26, 2009

Napier thoughts

Yesterday's play at Napier was a ghastly reminder to the Indian team of how badly things can go when a catch gets dropped. 351/4 is a long way from 23/3. The runs came at a healthy clip, edges flew, and everything that could go wrong, did. (As it usually does on a day when the score advances like that). Honestly, I'm glad Kumble wasn't playing; watching him combust in rage and frustration would not have been a pretty sight. There used to be a time when India's slip cordon was a real shambles; good Lord, I remember Srinath fielding in the slips when India toured New Zealand in 1999! Then Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar turned it into a very competent one (indeed, I consider Laxman and Dravid to be outstanding slippers though Dravid has slipped (er, no pun intended) recently). And now, we've lost Sachin in there and had it cost us dearly. Everyone talks about replacing the Fab Four in the batting order; what about replacing the Tremendous Three in the slips? Especially as India cultivates a pace bowling attack thats going to send lots of edges that way?

Speaking of edges, Karthik, who I'm a big fan of, looked distinctly uncomfortable. I wonder what has happened to the young man, who in my opinion, is a better batsman, and was a better keeper than MSD? Indeed, I'd have put him down as a future India captain. But now he looks to have the jitters, and seems to not act as if he is a part of things. Its a real pity; I consider his batting during the 2007 series in England a real contribution to the win that year. Hopefully, he'll get his head and his skills together, and make the contributions he's capable of making.

Full credit to Ryder and Taylor. Jessie looks increasingly solid, and this could be the test series transforms him into a serious test batsman (the Indian team has done that for many batsmen over the years). Taylor lived dangerously initially (and perhaps even later into his innings) but he rode his luck and hit enough shots to knock the bowlers off their mental planes.

While there might some inclination to treat this score as an indication of the track being a batting beauty, thats not entirely accurate. It is a batting beauty only insofar as it is true with consistent bounce. There is plenty of bounce and carry, and plenty there for quicks to not get discouraged. So I'm not inclined to think this test is done and dusted as a draw. It might still end up that way, but I don't think it will be because the pitch is unresponsive. Careless batting will result in edges flying (and carrying); they still need to be caught though. And bowlers who are good at swinging the ball (like Khan and Ishant are supposed to be), could still do well. Collapses aren't out of the question on this pitch. Indeed, Harbhajan should be happy that there is as much bounce as there is. India should come back tomorrow morning hoping to get an early wicket and trigger another slide.


Blogger Tim said...

I see that you've seen the light regarding our ageing slip fielders. The problem, as you pointed out, lies in a lack of replacements. Where does Gambhir field in Ranji matches? It's amazing how much fielding in an irregular position compromises normally decent fielders. I still have a vivid image of our last tour to England in which Karthik dropped a dolly that looped to him so slowly that he had time to blink, perform a little half jump, and then thrust his hands forward only to have the ball leisurely break through his fingers, knock off his cap, and then fall to the ground. It remains one of the most embarrassing drops I have witnessed.

2:28 PM  
Blogger cricketanalysisdotcom said...

Yeah, Karthik is a real disaster behind the stumps. He was just as bad in the Sri Lanka series. I think he actually does have a lot of talent and probably dominates domestic cricket, but maybe he is just the type that chokes on the big stage.
India looked listless yesterday. This is a team that depends on Dhoni a lot.

8:35 PM  
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6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was big fan of Karthik ever since he made his debut. All that started slipping through ever since Sri Lanka tour. I dont think he feels as much at home when he replaces Dhoni or feels he is keeping seat warm for Dhoni. Who knows, may be Sri Lanka was a blip and he had very short prep time for this test match.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Tim: I've always felt the cordon, but needing replacements eventually. BTW, I remember that drop by Karthik, at Lords, I think! He's gone downhill, it seems. He started off pretty good so it can't just be nervousness about the big stage. Maybe he needs a longer run to settle in.

Anonymous: I tend to agree with that analysis.

4:46 PM  

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