Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Kiwi is a dangerous bird

No shit Sherlock.

And so it has come to pass, that India are struggling for survival against a team that they were supposed to have crushed 3-0. Now, I don't suppose anyone in the team (or even the media) really believed that margin would be the correct one. Indian pitches aren't very result-friendly; the Indian bowling, all too often, goes on a holiday (as does the batting); and the New Zealanders, somehow, always manage to punch above their weight.

But at 296-1 on the first day, with Sehwag at 173*, one might have been pardoned for thinking that things were going according to plan. India would get 600, and win by an innings (or perhaps 300 runs if they had to bat again). All would be well. Instead, the first hint of what was to come was India's subsequent "slide" to 487, a sub-par score given their start (especially when one considers that it took a 69 by a No. 8 to get them there).

When the Kiwis batted, 27-2, and 137-4 might have been intimations of the match's supposed pre-written script. But a debutant centurion, and a prodigal son (one who must thank his stars that his country plays test cricket against India) had other ideas. When the New Zealand innings ended, Indian spectators were in the curious position of having been exposed to the third consecutive test on home soil this season that has followed the "dead-heat with high scores in the first innings" template.

Part of this template unfortunately includes a batting collapse by the team batting first. In the series against Australia, it had been the Aussies going in first. Now, it was India, and the collapse duly followed.

The template has been preserved to an uncanny degree: VVS Laxman is still there, heading into yet another fifth day and fourth innings, with the tail to keep him company. Harbhajan has the chance to make up for his undistinguished bowling with yet another scrappy performance with the bat. India will have to consume at least 45 overs tomorrow if they are to survive, and even that might not be enough, given that in McCullum, Taylor and Ryder, New Zealand have three dangerous batsmen, capable of stepping up the pace if needed for a victory chase.

No matter what happens tomorrow, this will have been a very good test. It will teach self-styled pundits some modesty (hopefully); calling draws too early is never a good idea, and neither is writing off a team. Well done New Zealand.

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Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

It's an old habit of the media. Build up a story (in this case how a 3-0 win is a formality) and then turn around and look shocked when it doesn't come to pass. It wont be long before the word "overconfident" is bandied about even though not a single Indian player made a McGrathesque 3-0 prediction. To a man, they all said they respected the opposition.

The players know that they have the habit of waiting for things to happen. Most Test players these days lack the nous to bat or bowl for long periods of time. The Indian team is blessed to have quite a few who do which papers over the cracks for the most part.

Also, just because the ODI team lost 4-0 to Bangladesh does not mean much about the Test series. They are two different ballgames. Compare the line-up of the Kiwis in the ODIs and the Test team. The batting order is different, the bowlers are different, and most importantly, there is no 300-ball artificial deadline to decide a match.

Yes, this Indian team wins matches but not because they blaze through the opposition. Instead they do by building bricks of pressure until the weaker opposition has a bad session and that proves to be the difference. Sort of like how it has happened to them in this Test.

Getting to a winning position and actually winning from there are two different things. The Kiwis better take the remaining 4 wickets before lunch. Otherwise every run scored will take the game just a little further away from them.

If India loses, expect the very same media to talk about heads rolling, Pujara replacing Dravid, worrying about ZAK's health (he has gone from being an opening swing bowler to a later overs reverse swing bowler much like Bhajji has gone from an attacking off-spinner to a restrictive doosra-dependent bowler), blah, blah, blah.

The reality is that the Kiwis collectively worked very hard and refused to budge. Their ground fielding has been nothing short of spectacular and makes me wish the Indian team were like that in the field. *sigh* Their batting was very patient. KW has a certain "look" about himself. And Vettori needs to open the batting and then he would have solved all of NZ's problems, having taken are of the opening bowler's slot, too, in this inning.

Damn! I wish I had done a running blog of this Test. So much more interesting than those stupid run-fests.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

JQ: Agreement all around. The funny bit will come when folks will accuse the Indians of "arrogance".

And yet again, we have proof that a couple of sessions are all it takes to turn a "dead draw" into an "exciting finish". Tomorrow's play will be fascinating. I'll stay up and watch the pre-lunch session.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Golandaaz said...

3-0 to India was clearly a sound prediction. Based on things going according to form. No one was saying there will be no upsets. What is unfolding in Ahmedabad is simply an upset. Unless some JQ you are saying NZ winning at Ahmedabad was somehow on the cards.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:47 AM  
Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

G, no, I wasn't suggesting anything underhand at all. I was just being pragmatic that a 3-0 sweep was not as much a given as folks (including you) were making it out to be. Even the 2-0 "whitewash" of the Ausies was a hanging-by-the-fingernails kind.

Think back to the last couple of years. Do you recall a single Test where India clinically demolished the opponent the way a bulldozer does a shack? No. Instead this team has relied on carefully piling on the runs, and playing the waiting game once the initial burst of wickets has fallen and letting the pressure gut the opposition. I'd do a more comprehensive statistical analysis to support my contention but it's almost 1am and Laxman is batting so I have to go and concentrate.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Golandaaz said...

JQ, Having watched in horror John Bracewell carve out a win in Bombay in 1988, I was actually one of the few who did not sign up for the 3-0 white wash.

But the majority of those who did were justified and had good sound reasons. Most test matches these days end in a result and it was hard to see how NZ could win one.

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Amazing Hat-trick said...

Yes if Harbajan is not played hundred India definitely lost the match.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous monurohila said...

"The Kiwi is a dangerous bird" you have said right but we can't forget that we tigers(indian team) are also much dangerous than Kiwi....
so enjoy cricket world cup 2011

4:30 AM  
Anonymous bevan said...

yaaa, nz is the underdog of this world cupThe players know they have the habit of expecting things to happen.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous bevan said...

G, no, I was not suggesting anything at all abuses. I was just being pragmatic than a 3-0 sweep was not so much a proposal as people (including you) were doing it to be. Even the 2-0 "whitewash" of a kind Ausias was hanging by the nails.

10:41 PM  

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