Report Card on India’s debacle

Young, energetic and a true revelation Umesh Yadav

By Dilip Mahanty

The First Test between India and Australia in Melbourne which offered so much hope to Indian fans, was dashed to pieces through inept Indian batsmenship. Having put Australia under pressure for most of the match, the abject surrender of the batsmen when they were required to put up their hands and play sensibly was nauseating. Indian bowlers, from whom not much was expected at the start of the series, bowled fantastically and proved their critics wrong. But they were let down by strange fielding tactics of Dhoni and by the wimpishness of many of their batsmen. Here then is a report card on individual performances.

 

1. Sehwag (4/10):  Sehwag knows that he can be a scourge to any bowler once he gets into his groove. He scores massive centuries and destroys bowlers’ confidence to make it easier for batsmen to follow. Even if he takes his time to settle down, he has the strokes to accelerate at anytime. Inspite of this knowledge he prefers to play to the gallery, despite the team situation, and chances his arm. He had 3 lives in the Ist innings of the Test and yet he was reluctant to capitalise on these gifts and make Australia pay dearly. He went about playing careless strokes and ended up edging one to the slips. In the second innings, with lunch around the corner, he tried an airy-fairy cut to a ball he could have easily left alone and perished in the gully. If he was not aware of the need to establish a good opening platform to overtake the Australian score then one has to question his mindset especially after his tall claims that India could chase any score under 300! He is old and experienced enough to know what the team needed from him. His careless and indifferent attitude to team’s need of the hour is shocking to say the least.

2. Gambhir (1/10): On fast bouncy wickets Gambhir’s shortcomings are horribly exposed. He plays away from his body with an angled bat and literally guides the balls into the hands of the slip cordon. That he does it again and again is a matter of concern. Surfeit of ODIs and T-20s may have formed this habit and these glaring errors are not apparent on low slow subcontinent wickets. He has to take time off after the Australian series and work on correcting his technique. He will find it hard to score runs in Australia as every man and his dog knows his weakness and will exploit it. India has got a big problem building opening partnerships with a whimsical opener not inclined to take responsibility and a batsman with serious technical defects! Because there is no back up support for openers (Rahane has not established himself) India is left with no other alternative!

3. Dravid (5/10): The once impregnable defence of Dravid is being breached too often these days. His bete noire has been the sharp incoming ball which finds repeated gaps in his defence and bowls him! Siddle bowled him  in the 1st innings but fortuitously it was a no ball and he was reprieved. Hilfenhous bowled a similar delivery the nest morning and again he was clean bowled. The second innings was a repeat of the first and Siddle got him with a late dating inswinger! Earlier in his career, Dravid used to allow the ball to come to him and played late. These days he seems to reach out to  balls and leave gaps in his defence. It is difficult to lay a hand on the reasons for this. It could be anxiety; it could be slowing of reflexes; it could be lack of concentration, it could be a combination of the above but whatever it is Dravid has to address this problem quickly or the pace men will continue to test his vulnerability in the series.

4. Tendulkar (8/10):  In both the innings in the Test, Tendulkar looked head and shoulder above the rest. He was a class apart with beautiful firm strokes and a highly organised defence. When he was on a song or in the zone, he was on a different playing field. The one criticism one has of Tendulkar is that once he gets into a groove and is rotating strikes regularly he continues to dominate. But if something breaks this rhythm- either a break or on field treatment to his partner or frequent fall of wickets at the other end-his concentration lapses and he invariably becomes hesitant and unsure.  In the first innings of this Test he was playing like a dream till Dravid’s injury treatment and subsequent lack of mobility between wickets had  an  impact on his concentration. Instead of exhibiting the water tight defence he is capable of he reached out half forward to the incoming delivery of Siddle and allowed the ball to breach his defence  just 3 balls from ‘stumps”! In the second innings too, he got into his scoring groove quickly playing some lovely drives. The quick fall of wickets at other end dampened his enthusiasm and clouded his instinctive judgement. He did not know if he was required to continue playing as he was or drop anchor to steadily advance towards the goal of achieving the 292 required for victory. When Dhoni started chancing his arm, Tendulkar must have felt that he could not depend on Dhoni and others to offer a meaningful partnership. He started reaching out to deliveries outside his stumps and edged one to the slips!

5. Laxman (2/10): Laxman has always been a slow starter and takes time to get his eye in . Once he is set, he has a rhythmic flow to his batting and plays shots others can only dream of. Of late he has been extremely vulnerable at the start. His feet are rooted to the crease and he waves his bat airily more in hope than any purpose to deliveries outside his off stump. Earlier his superlative hand-eye coordination allowed him to take liberties he can no longer afford with slowing of reflexes. In both innings of this Test he looked anything but confident. In the first he lazily edged one to the slips when there was no need to play that delivery and in the second knock he obligingly turned a non threatening delivery into the hands of a close in fielder on the legside by not making any effort to keep the ball down. If he had played a straight defensive shot instead of trying to flick it uppishly he would have been spared this grief. Whatever it is, he needs to jolt out of it in a hurry or both his own and his team’s future will be in disarray!

6. Kohli (2/10): Kohli is a fighter but certain situations are beyond his capability despite his sincere effort. On slow low wickets he can be a champion but on hard bouncy wickets his lack of technique is exposed (like Gambhir’s). In the first innings he was lucky that he got a start  because the slow bowlers were operating prior to the arrival of the second new ball. Once the pace men returned he was found wanting and he edged one to the slip cordon instinctively. In the second knock instead of playing a straight defensive shot to the first ball he received he tried to angle it away to the leg and paid the penalty of being plumb LBW.

7. Dhoni  (4/10): disappointed both as a captain and as a batsman especially at a time when his team needed his leadership in both. As a captain he was defensive when he should have been aggressive. He did not put any pressure on the tailenders after getting rid of the top order cheaply in both innings. He placed a defensive field to the tail and allowed the batsmen to get easy singles at a time when he could have brought in the field and made it difficult to rotate the strike without taking risks. The bowlers must have felt let down by these tactics as they would have formulated certain plans to bring about their downfall and needed them to stay at the crease to execute these plans. To see their quarry run to the other end every time they bowled must have been very frustrating for the bowlers. Again he could have asked his slip fielders to stand slightly apart instead of almost being in handshaking distance. The gap between second and third slip was large most of the time and many snicks went safely through this gap. When he saw that the slips were standing too far back to accept half chances he could have moved a step forward himself and instructed the slip cordon to step up too.

His batting did not inspire confidence either. In the first innings he was hesitant and dutifully edged one to the slips and in the second he tried to be more aggressive but failed after sometime. Dhoni in his early days was a very aggressive batsman and sought to dominate the bowlers. Now he is hesitant and unsure. He does not have the classical defence to fall to. So by pushing and prodding at balls he does not radiate any sense of security. He is much better off attacking from the very start. His keeping however was sound and here there were no complaints.

8. Ashwin (6/10):  On an unresponsive to spinners pitch, Ashwin bowled with lot of guile. But every now and then he bowled short and gave away easy runs. His fielding was pedestrian as was his running between wickets. He has to sharpen up in both these areas. His batting has been a revelation. He got a Test century against the WI recently and in both innings of this Test he showed a calm and assured presence lacking in some of his more illustrious colleagues. In both knocks he displayed showed maturity beyond his years by adapting to situations quickly..

9. Ishant Sharma (6/10):  Though he was not rewarded adequately for his lion hearted bowling he was a constant threat to the opposition with his steepling bounce and speed exceeding 150 kmh. He had all the batsmen ducking and weaving uncomfortably. As a batsman he showed an application which the more vaunted batsmen in his team could have adopted. He knew where his off stump was and he avoided any delivery outside the off stump. He also had the courage to put his body right behind the line of the ball and not flinch. His was a salutary effort with both the bat and the ball.

10. Zaheer (6/10): There were many critics of Zaheer who thought he was unfit for the role he was given of spearheading the attack and that he had become slow and ineffective. The Australian critics were the harshest. Zaheer ignored the slights and the innuendos and gradually warmed up to his task of prising out key wickets with intelligent use of pace, swing, and angles. He out thought the batsmen and gradually brought about their downfall . He is still a quite a wily customer and a master of his craft. He is a danger on any surface to any batsman. He however should apply himself more while batting.

11. Umesh Yadav (7/10): Umesh was a true revelation. He bowled fast. He swung late and never seemed tired. He got rid of the top order in both innings and put the rest under pressure. For a young inexperienced bowler he was a great success and deserves the highest accolades. Even his batting improved and he emerged out of this Test with his head and shoulders high. Hope he continues from strength to strength.

 

Some changes are drastically needed for the second Test if India wants to avoid another whitewash. The bench strength in batting is inadequate. Rahane has not been truly tested as an opener and cannot be used as one in place of Gambhir. Rohit Sharma needs to replace Kohli as he is better equipped technically to deal with pace. Dravid can be asked to open and Gambhir should bat lower down when the ball is not doing too much. The bowling takes care of itself and does not need any changes. Laxman should go in at no 3 as he has succeeded at this position in the past. Dhoni has to be more aggressive in field setting and batting!        

 

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Posted by on Jan 2 2012. Filed under Featured, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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