Posted by: nestaquin | October 22, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy Second Test Indian Player Review

It requires a burning passion to rise before the dawn, in the fog and frost of five consecutive autumnal mornings beside the Thames to watch a Test match half a world away when your team is on an all expenses paid holiday in the Caribbean, yet that is what The Tooting Trumpet has done, not for money, not for prestige but for the love of cricket.

It appears that his perfervidity even extends to lunchtime for he has relinquished the urge to pop down to the Elephant and Castle for his customary cold pork pie and warm pint and instead has produced a review of the Indian performances in Mohali for your reading pleasure and respectful criticism.

Virender Sehwag – A match aggregate of 125 runs off 158 balls shows that Viru is as positive as ever at the top of the order. The daunting prospect for the Australians must be their nagging doubt that he hasn’t really fired yet and might prove to be the loudest firework at Delhi’s Diwali Test.

Gautam Gambhir – Assessed the match situation and pitch perfectly, delivering two model opening innings, in stark contrast to his opposite numbers. An unlikely candidate to be the first of the young guns to establish himself amongst the old stars of the Indian order, but that is what he has done. The future looks very bright for the stylish left-hander.

Rahul Dravid – Amidst some stellar performances, this was a quiet match for the crumbling Wall. Dhoni showed his authority by usurping him from the Number Three slot in the second innings dash to declaration. After a glittering career, the end looks very close now. His best friends should be urging him to leave with Ganguly at Nagpur, mirroring their joint debuts at Lord’s in 1996 (a day witnessed by The Trumpet).

Sachin Tendulkar – Wrested the initiative back to India when wobbling at 163/4 in the first dig, then uncharacteristically gave it away late in the day. During the innings, Sachin passed BC Lara’s Test aggregate runs record topping 12000 in his long, distinguished career. It was fitting that the individual glory should come within a glorious team performance.

VVS Laxman – So often a key man in wins over Australia, he scratched around in the first innings and wasn’t required in the second. Needs to discover a bit of his old fluency in the last two Tests to be completely sure of his place against England, but the muse may return at any time.

Sourav Ganguly – With two Tests of his thirteen year career left, he is in the form of his life, almost radiating bonhomie and confidence. I can hardly believe I’m writing this, but he seems to revel in taking a back seat to MS Dhoni’s captaincy and batting. Had he not capitalised on the first innings umpiring error (which should have seen him stumped), the match might have taken a different course.

MS Dhoni – A sensational performance from India’s darling. After meeting fire with fire (and taking more chances than he should have) his first innings settled into a perfect wicketkeeper’s attack, as was his second innings bludgeoning. But this Test will be remembered as a masterpiece of controlled, aggressive captaincy, inspiring his two young and two experienced bowlers and as dynamic a fielding display as India have delivered in years. In a match in which India outplayed their opponents in all elements of the game, the biggest gulf was between the captain in his second match and the captain in his forty-sixth.

Harbhajan Singh – If not quite at his best, he bowled some lovely stuff showing confidence in going through his variations. Unlike under previous captains, seemed much more concentrated on the matter at hand, no doubt helped by the astonishing debutant turning it both ways at the other end.

Zaheer Khan – At the peak of his considerable powers, he bowled without luck in the first innings, but got wickets in the second, as he assured that there would be no Aussie fightback with three superb deliveries in his first two overs of the fifth day. His mastery of reverse swing on an unresponsive pitch was a captain’s dream.

Amit Mishra – A slightly tubby little man of whom few non-Indians had heard,  was unlikely to have occupied the Australian planning meetings for long – rest assured, he will in the future. Showed a marriage of technique honed over an already long career in domestic Indian first class cricket, with the savvy picked up in the IPL, in troubling all batsmen with a potent mix of leg-breaks and wrong-‘uns, all flighted, tossed up from over and round the wicket. His dismissal of Michael Clarke to the last ball of the second day with a perfectly pitched, round the wicket wrong’un, might not have been a ball of the century, but it may well be the ball of the year. Australia went from struggling to broken in one ball.

Ishant Sharma – Is there a better pace bowler in world cricket? Not on current form. He was a constant threat with his hostile reverse swing, pitched on an attacking full length and holding an immaculate line. Cut the heart out of the Australian resistance twice in dismissing the captain, whom he has snared five times now in as many matches. Not so long ago, he was one for the future – now he’s very much one for the present.

Tomorrow: A scathing player review of the Australians involved in the 320 run loss at Mohali.


  1. There is no hour too early to rise for good cricket.

    On a serious point, I’ve seen 33 years of cricket that I can remember clearly. I will count myself extremely fortunate to see another 33 years. Cricket, and this Test is a perfect example, has given me more and more with the passing of each of those years. I hate missing the chance to watch and discuss the grand game in company such as this, for I know I have less time left than I have already been privileged to use.

  2. If I have a nit to pick, and I am hesitant to disagree with the Trumpet, it is the statement that Zaheer Khan is at the peak of his powers.

    Scary as it might be for batsmen around the world, I would suggest that Zaheer has higher peaks to climb. Good now, but greatness beckons.

    Totally agree however with the summation of Instant Karma. Some months ago when I saw him at the MCG I knew I was watching something special. Very very special indeed.

    He also has the most gorgeous smile which he bestows freely on his fans.

  3. Well written mate.
    I couldnt agree more.

    But oping that the wall grows a bit stronger atleast for one last over seas tour.

    Aussies find themselves in alien territory.
    I wonder if Indians can win it three nil.

    If that happens I see a lot of heads rolling.

  4. Mimi – re Zaheer, you may be right, but he’s thirty now and unlikely to get any quicker. He might spend the next five years or so as a crafty Chaminda Vaas type – the delivery that bowled Lee in the second innings was only 78mph, but would have bowled Bradman on 120. Many more of those, and he’ll play 100 Tests. Having the kid at the other end helps too.

  5. Cheers Tarun.

    I don’t see 3-0 as I’m expecting Punter to bat like a madman in the next Test and get 150+. But if India keep their heads, 1-0 or 2-0 is on as the Aus attack will need a lot of help from the Indian batsmen to take twenty wickets, even with Stu Clark nagging away.

  6. This is my point, Toots, Zaheer will only get better with experience. And he’s not exactly old and creaking yet.

    And if Punter bats like a madman, then it will just be fun fun fun!!

  7. Just to be provincial, I’m so happy three Delhi boys (Sehwag, Gambhir, Sharma) did so well. We are the national champions after all!

  8. But more seriously, one can only hope the captaincy problem is solved quickly as is the business of the future batting lineup. And then of course, there is always the worry about injuries for the quicks. Plenty for India to celebrate about but complacency is dangerous.

  9. What’s wrong with being provincial? Eh? The boys done well. I’m specially pleased with Instant and Gambir as they are in my fantasy team. And I’m playing a nine man team and stll, well, not doing too badly!

    And please don’t think I am being rude about Ishant. There is a long-standing joke with some Aussies (not Nesta) about Instant Karma.

  10. The amazing thing is that I bagged Ishant non-stop on my blog before he made his debut!

  11. So what’s the prediction for the third test. Are the Aussies capable of a comeback?

  12. I don’t think the Aussies have the bowling talent to win a test in India this series. But cricket does it’s best to confound any predictions.

  13. What’s been apparent since the departure of Warne, McGrath and now Gilchrist has been the dependence of the Aussies on Hayden. He contributes fielding excellence, intimidation at the top of the order that those further down feed from, and sets a certain tone for proceedings that opponents don’t find very comfortable (that’s putting it as delicately as I can).

    It was notable that the Aussies lost the Perth Test when Haydos was injured, and while they brushed aside the Windies 2-0 without him, you could argue that the Aussies intimidation factor was somewhat muted. Now he’s back but either not in form, or his mind is writing cheques his body can no longer cash (i.e. too old), or is taking a long time to get back in the groove after a prolonged absence. And … look at what has happened to the team during this time.

    I’ve always believed that Hayden desperately wants to play in the next Ashes to avenge his humiliation and near-termination of his career in 2005, but the question is … has any Test batsman ever rescued themselves from a hole while aged 36 or older? If he can’t turn it around this summer – and his injury issues are getting more numerous by the season – then the selectors might decide that 2 out of Jaques/Katich/M Hussey/D Hussey might the new opening pair. All have scored heavily in England after all.

  14. A very fine contribution to 99.94 Ophuph and thanks for dropping by and taking the time to enlighten us all with as sound an analysis of Hayden’s role, ambitions and problems as you would read anywhere.

    Perhaps Shaun Marsh could be added to the list of probable replacements however I am aware that his experience is limited opening the innings in the red ball game.

    Also, I’m more than impressed with your grasp of phonetics in regard to your moniker.

    Mem Fox would be proud of you!

  15. The Tooting Trumpet and Mouth of the Mersey – did not realise that you both are one and the same :-)

    When you find some time, please enlighten on the choice of the handles.

    Nice analysis of the Indian team here.

    I only hope they don’t get carried away now, and become a little complacent.

    I agree- Viru has not really fired with a 150+ score yet.He will be doing India a great service if he can do that in the Diwali test.

    Random thoughts:

    VVS covets the No.3 spot, especially when India plays Australia.Sachin won’t budge from his No.4 position and Dravid is better off playing down the order for now.

    If India wins this series, and England manages to bring Steve Harmison on tour, it will be fascinating to watch Zaheer/Ishant vs. Harmison/Flintoff.

    Can Pup or White or Kreza learn the ‘carrom ball’ in 7 days? If they can (plenty of videos available on youtube) do that, they may surprise the Indian batsmen :-)

    Just read some where that the curator at Feroze Shah Kotla intends the pitch as a ‘present’ for Kumble.If I were Rick(y), I would ask both Clarke and Katich to practice a lot in the nets.

    Whether Australia improves or India gets complacent, I suspect it is going to be a very close fight in Delhi.And contrary to what many people are saying, India has more pressure now. The only solace I have as an Indian fan is that if things go bad, the Fab Four can down the shutters and play out a draw.

    End of ramble.

  16. Oh btw, I mean Clarke and Katich (and Kreza) to practice bowling spin in the nets ! Delhi dustbowls start misbehaving from day one !

  17. Thank you nestaquin – my moniker harks back to my biking days and a cartoon character called Fred Gassit – always good for a laugh in the back page of Australian Motorcyle News.

    Do take the time to sample my site HowzStat, hopefully you will find a more profound contribution to cricket knowledge than my half-baked ramblings about the state of the game!

  18. Kumar – Thanks for your kind words.

    It’s rather a prosaic answer re The Tooting Trumpet and Mouth of the Mersey: one was my log in from home; the other from work.

    Over time I have come to use TTT here and previously at The Googly, since I write as TTT solely about cricket. MotM I use at The Guardian and as I write more widely about football, cycling etc as well as cricket.

    I’m grateful to be given the space to write by Nesta and for visitors to 99.94 paying me the honour of reading my words and, sometimes, commenting too.

  19. Thanks for the response, TTT. If I am allowed to share an observation, is it just my feeling or do you tend to be more witty as MoTM?


    It is such a relief to find a place like 99.94.Was tired of the (majority) jingoistic commentors on Cricinfo blogs, and longed to read insightful stuff from people who love the sport, and not just their team.

  20. Thank You Kumar,

    I am equally pleased that I can be of service.

    I think India have little to be worried about especially if the curator in Delhi is handing out birthday presents for Anil.

    With that in mind, should a batsman be dropped (Laxman) so Mishra can compete. It would be an aggressive move by India, one that would signal their intention to win the Border Gavaskar Trophy without delay, and definitely a move that would send shivers up the Australian team’s spine.

  21. I hope the Indian team does not get too far ahead of itself and take the Delhi test for granted. We must not forget that no one had given India a chance for the Perth test.

    I hope we do not have a dust bowl for the Kotla test. it would be real shame to have another Mumbai 2004. And for all we know, another Michael Clarke special may be Australia’s best chance to get twenty wickets in an innings. Left armers are often the most dangerous kind to face on square turners – Iqbal Qasim, Venkatpathy Raju, Murali Karthik – they all made hay on minefields of past.

    Moreover, the new revamped Kotla pitch provided a (relatively more) pace and swing to quick bowlers in the Ranji Trophy last season. I would be really surprised if we see a square turner straight out of Azharuddin-Wadekar era.

  22. You are right Saurabh,

    India would do best, considering it leads the series, to produce a pitch that is easy for batsmen. India have far more chance than Australia to get 20 wickets or draw on a hard flat surface.

    If it does turn square and play tricks anything could happen and the match may resemble a lottery.

    So much pressure on Kumble that in a way it takes some of the focus off Ponting and his men who will be undoubtedly determined to produce a fierce performance.

    Much can happen in a week so we must be patient but I suspect that the toss will be very very important.

  23. Kumar – I’d be pleased to be witty under any name!

    Had India not won in Mohali, the temptation to drop laxman and play three spinners would have been strong, but with a series lead to protect, India need their full hand of batsmen. I would love to see a VVS ton (but I’ll be saying that vs England too!)

  24. I would love to see a VVS ton too :-)

    An India Vs. Aus series would seem incomplete without a VVS special.

  25. MoTM – have always been reading your comments on Guardian with attention. A pleasure to read, you are.
    This blog is an oasis in the internet, in the midst of vast deserts of jingoistic nut-cases. A couple of things I would like to seek your views on:
    1. MS Dhoni and captaincy – whats the role of a Vice-Captain in the team? Should a person behave differently when he is VC, than when he is Captain? How then can MS Dhoni bring in ‘cheer nad optimism” in Mohali when he was a sorry picture in Bangalore. I remember Rahul Dravid as Vice-Captain used to run to Saurav Ganguly to suggest tactics, ideas and counsel. All the Ian Chappels berating Kumble and the old-guard while trying to project Dhoni as someone who has infused “life into the Indian team”, can they stop and ponder for a second? What sort of team-man is a man who will only start participating in team-running only when he is sure he will credit viz when he is captain? Who is a better team-man and a greater cricketer? Rahul Dravid or MS Dhoni? Is it not selfish on the part of Dhoni?
    What stops him from “infusing life into the Indian team” when he is Vice-Captain? Let’s say Kumble is unreceptive to suggestions. What stops you from motivating and spreading cheer to the rest of the team?
    Suggestion to Amit Mishra to go round the wicket: isnt this the job of all wicketkeepers, captain or not? Why didnt he do this in Bangalore – coming out with suggestions to bowlers? Should he be made captain for him to do that? Was that out of respect for Kumble? Yet, we are told that Dhoni is a new age Indian with ruthlesness and little care for hierarchy?

    Actually, the man’s alright – it is the naked stupidity of the press and people like Ian Chappel (who probably personally doesnt like Kumble or wants to sound like a unsentimental, rational analyst) which wants to paint him as a messiah thats nauseating.

  26. 2. Promoting a hard-hitter in second innings with a view to early declaration = great captaincy? Isn’t that routine in Second innings with a declaration at stake. I bet my ass that Kapil Dev, Azharuddin, Ganguly, Tendulkar and even Dravid/Gavaskar have done this before. I’d bet my neighbour’s ass, too, that Anil Kumble might have done the same.

    I can understand Indian Television channels trying to elevate Dhoni to God status – who knows, they are probably paid by the Cola companies and Dhoni’s other sponsors so it is win-win for them. But why isnt nobody touching the above points in ANY media?

  27. Raj – Firstly, thank you for the kind words.

    Re Dhoni, we’re a bit distant from the hype in the UK, so we only see Dhoni the cricketer, and he’s mighty impressive.

    Of course, he should support Kumble as skipper, but he’s already a winning T20 captain and captain-elect, so it’s not an easy hand to play – too much advice, and everyone will say it’s Dhoni pulling the strings; too little, and he appears to be working for his own ambition. What’s irrefutable is that India are collectively more aggressive, more confident and more successful with him at the helm, despite Kumble’s admirable qualities as a cricketer and man.

  28. Raj,

    So many salient points to contemplate. Thank you for your contribution.

    The mainstream cricket media in Australia are mostly sycophants with their arse firmly planted on the gravy train. Therefore, like India, we receive no real analysis except the dross that gets trotted out at carefully prepared press conferences.

    If anyone dares to rock the boat and inform the public of what is truly happening inside the minds of the players and staff they’ll be banned from all access and consequently lose their employment.

    Dhoni obviously has ambitions and he’ll fulfill them without too much effort but they’ll come more quickly if he does very little to help Anil Kumble.

    Tendilkar wrote that he has spent something like 17 years playing with Anil and that they have never had a conversation about anything other than cricket. he admits to hardly knowing the man.

    This suggests that Kumble is a guarded, quiet perhaps even shy individual and maybe because of his aloofness the players respond differently to him than they do under Dhoni.

    On the other hand, perhaps Dhoni has so much respect for his captain that he doesn’t try to influence proceedings in case he may embarrass him.

    We must always ask when we are reading newspapers or watching television, why did they write/show that and not the alternative. I pray that people will soon demand a media that has the common sense to show as many sides of a story as possible and not just preach their view.

    An old fable teaches that whomever pays the piper calls the tune and that is just as true today as it was when it was first conceived.

  29. TTT and NQ, thanks for the views. Lot of sense in what you say. Ironically, media is so wired now that I can read Sydney Morning Herald sitting in Mumbai. But I guess we have lost quality in the process. Well, atleast we have blogs like this for reasoned analysys. Thank God for small (Mouth of the) Merseys!

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