Posted by: nestaquin | October 13, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy: First Test Day Four Stumps

In what was a tight, anxious and curious day’s cricket, India fought tooth and nail to claw back the initiative only to let it slip in the last hour allowing Australia to have full control of proceedings as we enter the final day.

In the morning session, the Indian tail managed to deny Australia for a further 18 overs, thanks mainly to unlikely top scorer Zaheer Khan, who finished unbeaten on 57 after a three hour spell at the crease spread over two days.

The Indian seamer, in perhaps his best overall performance for his country, then removed Matthew Hayden after lunch with a lovely shaped delivery that speared into the Queenslander’s pad.  It was an important breakthrough and set the ball rolling for the toughest session the Australians have encountered so far on tour.

With Kumble off the field for supposed treatment to his injured shoulder, under MS Dhoni’s leadership India appeared a different team. Gone were the deep defensive fields, slumped shoulders and hangdog expressions of the first innings and in its place was a vibrant, attacking unit that took the game to Australia aggressively and they were rewarded for the change in attitude.

With only three bowlers, Dhoni surprisingly attacked the Australian batsman from every angle with every over and his creative fields led to Ponting’s demise and Australia’s inability to score. The pressure was intense and the remarkable change in the Indian team shocked Australia into uncharacteristic acquiescence.

It gives me no pleasure to state that upon Kumble’s return India slowly reverted to type. Firstly, only attacking with Harbhajan and setting the fields back for Zaheer and Ishant, and then losing the initiative altogether after working so feverishly to gain the upperhand.

The most telling example of this can be seen in the subsequent overs after Michael Hussey’s demise to a misbehaving top spinner from Harbhajan.

India had Australia reeling at 128/5 after snaring Katich, Clarke and Hussey in the space of six overs and the game was India’s for the taking. Watson and Haddin were new to the crease, India’s bowlers were rhapsodic, the crowd was rabidly fervent and the Australian dressing room despondent and nervous.

The inexperienced batsman, each of them with only three Test matches behind them, in undoubtedly the toughest situation of their careers, apprehensively and probably unconsciously attacked and Kumble panicked within the space of seven balls.

He spread the field and started wasting time unnecessarily giving Australia the momentum back on a silver platter. Watson and Haddin could hardly believe their luck and with little pressure they steadied and took Australia to the close a commanding 263 runs ahead, more than has been scored in any previous day’s play,

On the evidence of earlier tactics I’ve little doubt that Dhoni would have kept his nerve and if Kumble had, he would have almost certainly snared a breakthrough, but he misunderstood the Australian psyche under pressure and appears to have little confidence in his team or himself.

Players in Australia are educated from a young age that when all seems lost the best defense is attack. To put it in the Antipodean vernacular, don’t die wondering! The Sydney political rock band Midnight Oil were more elegant in using the same sentiment borrowed I believe from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata; it’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Haddin and Watson did exactly that, scaring Kumble witless by hitting 14 off Harbhajan’s next over thereby taking the lead beyond 200. It was the turning point of the day and ruined all of India’s previous excellence and effort.

Kumble’s bowling was equally insipid and although it pains me to write this, he should retire and hand the reins over to the younger more confident MS Dhoni immediately.

One of the most pitiful aspects of sport is witnessing a champion playing on beyond his years and the selectors have a duty to tap him on the shoulder and move him on for his own sake. If they do, India’s fortunes in this series and beyond will improve markedly.

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Responses

  1. Wow. Loved your posts.

    Lots here that Cricinfo doesn’t talk about! :)

    Ciao!

  2. I didn’t see much of the play today, but my mind;s eye can see that momentum shift thanks to your writing. There’s so much more to winning a Test than merely executing the skills better.

    I, too, feel bad about calling for Kumble’s head, especially since he will hand over to MS Dhoni, a much inferior player, but an inspirational and imaginative captain. Unless Sehwag goes mad, Kumble will need two or three of his experienced bats to play well for the draw. He could step down with some honour, yielding his place to RP Singh for the Second Test.

    Very well played Haddin and Watson. I knew watson was a decent bat (though I’m very unconvinced by his bowling) but Haddin has impressed me from start to finish. Following Gilchrist is utterly thankless (mind you, so was following Healy) but the patient pro has done very well indeed.

  3. India seems fond of its long toothed heros. I wouldn’t bet on Kumble being moved on anytime soon. They’ll grind on for a while yet.

  4. I had predicted before this series that injuries, rather than selections, would bring about changes in India’s team composition. SRT’s elbow, Laxman’s ankle (he injured it in Sri Lanka) were on my mind. I hadn’t reckoned on Kumble’s shoulder. I’m not sure whats going to happen on that end.

    I did not see Dhoni captain yesterday but that field placing to get rid of Ponting was inspirational. Its a pity his batting has fallen off so much. Perhaps it’ll improve once he becomes test captain.


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