Monday, February 08, 2010

A pack of pretty strong cards

Barring miracles, India will lose this first test match against South Africa by an innings on the fourth day or by a similarly large margin on the fifth (odds are on the former).

What if anything, have we learned from yesterday's collapse? Not that much. Indian batting line-ups (like lots of batting line-ups the world over) are susceptible to high-quality pace and swing. And this line-up was weakened by the absence of Dravid and Laxman (we had collapses even with those gentlemen present). Indian tails are still notoriously fragile, so its no surprise to see the bottom bit of the line-up buckle and fold. Perhaps the sole bright light for India yesterday was Badrinath, who when he looks back at this debut, will thank his stars that he was given such a searching examination. It will stand him in good stead as he goes forward. And he still has a chance to get out there and play a long innings. He has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. All those years of waiting, and now finally, a moment in which he can redeem himself.

If there is pressure anywhere in the line-up, I suggest it rests on one man: Gautam Gambhir. He has racked up approximately a quintillion tons in the past year or so, and drawn comparisons with Bradman. The sneaky sensation that he hasn't really been tested had never gone away and now in his first exposure to a class pace attack in a while, he has come up short. He is going to want Eden Gardens to turn out differently - for himself and for the team.

India's problems began much earlier, of course, when South African racked up 558-6 after being 6-2. But those sorts of performances are commonplace frankly. Many is the time that I have gone to bed on the East Coast (at least in the last seven years since I returned to the US) and woken up to find a gigantic partnership flourishing. India's bowling attack, whether its because they are dealing with dead pitches at home, or the lack of penetration after early breakthroughs, still remains alarmingly susceptible to this sort of smack-around-the-park.

All is not lost. I expect the Indian team to do better in the second test. The batting line-up will be stronger. Folks will be suitably mortified. Perhaps Mishra will get an edge or two. Maybe Harbhajan will get his act in gear. Perhaps Sharma will.

This current Indian team is by far, the most accomplished, and perhaps most consistent, outfit that has taken the field in a while. They are deservedly ranked #1 in the world. But given all that, they still remain a team with distinct patches of weakness that has the tendency to go off the boil a bit too quickly. Some of this is because old, classical weaknesses remain.

In a cricket world where no one team dominates, this is par for the course. Let us not forget that South Africa just lost at home to England by an innings. Inconsistency of this sorts seems to be commonplace. The world of cricket awaits a true dominator. Till then, lets enjoy this sort of back-n-forthing.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The world of cricket does have a true dominator, Australia in the 50 over game. Eventually, their outstanding achievements in that form of the game will crossover to the longer form.

Saying that, Test wins in India will still be few and far between.

India will be better in the second match only because it was a shock to come up against South Africa after playing Bangladesh and Sri Lanka these last few months. It's a different level of cricket and takes some getting used to.

The Proteas preparation of a hard Test series against an under-rated England was far better preparation.

Also, I didn't like seeing Zaheer and Mishra backing away to square leg when facing Steyn. The very least they could do is get their bodies in line and try and defend.

It was insipid batting, even from tailenders and India won't stay No1 for long unless they show a bit more application.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Tony.T said...

"Indian batting line-ups (like lots of batting line-ups the world over) are susceptible to high-quality pace and swing."

Samir, I wish you could stand on a very large pulpit and scream that to the ignorant Australian critics who continually drone on about Australia's so-called weakness against swing bowling.

The fact is, every Test team is susceptible to good swing bowling.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Nesta: Thanks for the comment. I'm inclined to agree about the 50 over bit. As for test cricket, I'd say things are perhaps a bit even now, but Australia could go back to being #1 if they fix some problems that weren't highlighted so much against the Pakistanis and the West Indies (well, some of the batting problems did show up but still).

And yes, I also agree that India were playing opposition in a different league.

The less said about the tailenders' batting, the better. I thought it had shown some improvement recently but it still hasn't lost that propensity for slides.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Tony: I remember Sunny Gavaskar once saying that if batsmen didn't have a "weakness against the moving ball on or around the off-stump" then all bowlers would pack up and go home!

Really, I'm amazed at some of the crap commentators (some of them experienced players) sprout.

11:13 PM  

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