Posted by: nestaquin | April 6, 2008

An Indian Dilemma

Whenever a Test nation is defeated by an innings in under three days on home soil hard questions need to be asked. Players need to be put on notice. New strategies need to be adopted. To dismiss such a result as an aberration would be negligent.

This evening, the unimaginatively titled Team India succumbed to the hard working but hardly world beating South Africans by an innings and 90 runs. To put it mildly they were thrashed by a more motivated, better disciplined team. On reputation the Indians appear a superior outfit but as they cruelly discovered, reputation counts for very little when up against a strong willed opponent.

South Africa didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. They methodically played solid cricket and stuck to the basics. The bowlers had plans for each batsman, the fielding, Ntini excepted, was vibrant and the batsman put a high price on their wicket and occupied the crease. WIthout these simple fundamentals cricket becomes a difficult game.

Declaring overnight 417 runs ahead with an innings up their sleeve South Africa set attacking fields throughout the scorching hot day. To judge the Indian performance on runs scored would be impractical, much better to look at the manner of dismissal and the time spent at the crease.

If we use these parameters, of the batsman only Ganguly, who battled hard, and Pathan, unbeaten in both innings, can hold their heads up after the embarrassing defeat.

Sehwag, emboldened by his triple century in the last Test played too freely in the situation and was exposed as a one-dimensional opener. If his aggressive approach clicks it can be devastating but there are times, like today, when stoicism is the appropriate attitude.

Jaffer was denuded in Australia by Brett Lee’s pace and bounce. He struggles against quality express bowling and Steyn will be licking his lips if he is included in the third Test. For an international opener he has serious technical flaws on the back foot and after the tour Downunder it is now public knowledge.

Dhoni fell in both innings to wild shots and if he has aspirations to lead the Test side he will need to be more responsible and curb his natural instincts and apply himself to the situation. He can do this for a time but eventually he gets a rush of blood and spoils all his previous good work. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been wiser if the level-headed Pathan batted ahead of him.

Dravid and Laxman were both disappointing in this match although there were glimpses of brilliance. Dravid must be approaching the end of an outstanding career and India will soon have to blood some younger players to fill both his and Tendulkar’s positions.

The seamers RP SIngh and Sreesanth lacked the energy and guile that the African quicks displayed and it was glaringly obvious that Irfant Sharma is sorely missed. Harbarjhan displayed his warrior spirit throughout and he should be the first spinner picked in every Test match.

Kumble had a forgettable match from the coin toss onwards and perhaps he is nearing the end of his tenure as stand-in captain. He is not the best spinner and not the best leader. He is an impressive gentleman and deserves respect but his time is nigh.

The captaincy issue is a sore point in Indian cricket with Dravid and Tendulkar refusing the post and the best leader, Ganguly, as far as I know, not considered for it. For India to succeed long term this is one situation that needs immediate attention. If Dhoni is waiting in the wings for his chance perhaps it is time to annoint him. It will be a delicate and controversial selection manoeuvre for Kumble has served his country with distinction but action needs to be taken. If India fail in the Third Test beginning Friday in Kanpur the decision will be made all the more easily.



  1. You are right, Dravid’s retirement is imminent.

  2. Right on every point except the last one I feel. Dhoni’s workload is already too much for one man, despite his very encouraging start in the One Day arena.

    Candidates are few so I really would take the plunge and give it to Pathan. Some might say his place is uncertain, but Jaffer has to go, Dravid soon and, alas, VVS too, so experience is needed. Pathan has it in him to bat at 6, bowling a couple of spells per day (or more when the ball really goes for him). I had punted Yuvraj before, but I he doesn’t look like he can handle Test cricket’s pressure cooker atmosphere.

    Dead right with the Saffers. Did what was required, efficiently and ruthlessly.

  3. The problem with dravid think is not his form but his ‘concentration’ level…which used to be his forte…

    somehow he is spending all his energies on survival…if only he needs to free his mind and we will see same old dravid…i still feel couple years of test cricket still left in him…

    i would give kumble benefit of doubt coz under normal circustances perhaps he would not have played…but as sachin too was out so he allowed himself…and for the reason that dhoni still seems undercooked and to me is not yet a certainty in test so i will keep him on…

    your point about sehwag was excellent…sometimes you have to adjust your play according to the demands of team and circumstances…but he still is in ‘300’mode…

    we bounced back in perth and there is no reason why we can not…

    and yea…perth reminds me of the discussion we had on your previous post…

    going by your logic of ‘live test’ should the series be called off once team attain unassailable lead…

    like, if team take like 2-0 lead in 4 test series…then following your logic…rest two match become ‘dead’ …and should not be played at all??

    just a thought…

  4. I’ve always considered a Test as an event in itself and therefore worthy of playing and winning. But there is such a thing as a dead rubber which I read as one played once a series (not a trophy) is decided.

    For me, there were no dead rubbers in the Aus vs Ind series as 2-2 was a possibility going into the last Test. But I have no problem with Nesta’s interpretation of retaining the trophy rendering the remaining rubbers dead.

  5. All Tests are fantastic events however some Tests have more significant than others. That I would have thought was obvious.

    To clear up any more misgivings and misunderstandings, India played well in Perth and were deserving winners. Although, no matter what spin is put on it, it does not alter the fact that Australia had already retained the Border/Gavaskar trophy. Nor does it alter the fact that Australia holds every trophy it can possibly win in Test cricket. We may never see such dominance for the rest of our lives.

    It is a remarkable achievement earned over many seasons and that India won one Test, lost the series and then presumes champion status is ridiculous in the extreme.

  6. you have successfully and brilliantly avoided the qaetion i asked…

  7. how brilliantly you have avoided the question i asked…

  8. However brilliant my evasive skills may appear it was more negligence than avoidance, Straight Point.

    So to succintly answer your sententious vexation.


  9. Here’s an excellent piece on the same issue.

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