On Matters That Matter

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

Having fallen today can India rise tomorrow?

with 2 comments

What a day of Test cricket. It was all Dale Steyn; he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house apart. On a wicket where playing a fast bowler was not impossible, it was on the slower side and without extravagant bounce, Steyn breathed fire. He barged in through the gates, destroying any attempt of resistance from India, during two hostile and fatal spells separated by a middle session where Sehwag and Badrinath raised hopes of some kind of a resurrection.

The straight-talking Sehwag said, “We are very angry with the way we batted.” Sehwag was more critical of the fact that they did not last long enough to tire the opposition and stitch meaningful partnerships apart from the one he had with Badrinath. “It was not a pitch where you could get out so easily. If there were a couple of more partnerships their bowlers might have got tired. But you have to give the credit to the bowlers led by Steyn.”

Steyn gave some credit to the ball change before tea as the seam of the earlier one had come apart; but losing six wickets for 12 runs in eight overs after tea is a combination of some great bowling and some gormless batting. India did not have the batting to survive good spells and to have the reserve keeper Saha making a debut as a specialist batsman shows how the bench was planned. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh were out of the squad much in advance and Laxman was iffy before the start of the match. So what were the choices for Dhoni when Rohit Sharma got injured on the morning when his big valuable chance was about to be served to him in a platter?

With a flimsy batting line-up that had very little experience the three early wickets took the cream away with Morkel taking Gambhir and Steyn getting rid of Murali Vijay and Sachin Tendulkar. In the boiling cauldron at Nagpur today India was desperately missing what you call seasoned campaigners; the players who can bat in the heat of a furnace. One of them is still at the crease in the second essay and these days when he gets going he is a much more wiser, battle-hardened and tough customer than he was in his resplendent days of yore.

Sehwag on his day just requires someone to stay with him and he has shown that he has both application and amazing stroke-play to get near a triple hundred on his own. Today he fell into a trap; India was not even two hundred when after having reached a hundred he chased a wide one shortly before tea. His was the fourth Indian wicket to fall and his tea would have barely finished when he was back opening the second innings for India.

Sehwag was back in the hut in the second innings but he was not short of the belief that is needed after a day like this. “He refused to accept that India stood on the brink of disaster, saying the hosts had the firepower to stage a fight back. ‘They need to play their own shots but they need to exercise patience,’” he was quoted in a Cricinfo story.

A target of 150 plus on a fifth day wicket with Harbhajan and Mishra could be a tricky one for South Africa; but in order to get there India would have to play a different ball game than the one they played today.

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2 Responses

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  1. Am not sure why so much is being written about Saha’s forced selection. Home teams, especially in India, prefer to go in with an extra batsman and we’ve almost always had a batting captain. Even when we’ve had bowling captains, they preferred four bowlers as the fifth bowler was almost always under-utilised and those in the XI like the idea of having taken three or four wkts, irrespective of the fate of the match.

    Madhu

    February 10, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    • It is perhaps because Saha was not someone who could have made it to the team as a specialist batsman; he may give 30 or 40 runs but a proper batsman is someone who can, on his day, carry the side alone. I agree with the four bowlers thing as the fifth is as you said almost always under-utilised. The problem becomes acute when you lose the toss and the wicket gives no assistance to the spinners on day 1 and 2. That is when India gets hammered or is rescued by the batting might of all seven established players which did not happen in Nagpur; now it is as Smith jokingly said ‘are they out with a rake?’

      Deepan Joshi

      February 11, 2010 at 10:58 am


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