Posted by: nestaquin | October 23, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy Second Test Australian Player Review

Matthew Hayden – Cleaned up by Zaheer for the third time in succession for a first innings duck and dismissed in the last over before tea in the second. His decision to assault the bowling instead of assuaging it was demonstrative of his and the team’s panic when under extreme pressure. Probably should spend less time with his imaginary mate who resides in the heavens and plant his mind in the hard reality of terra firma.

Simon Katich – Attempted to rebuild the innings after Hayden and Ponting’s first innings failures but was undone by debutant Mishra for 33. When needed most he reversed his usual sound defensive strategy in the second innings and was unforgivably caught swishing at a ball well wide of off stump from the last delivery before the tea interval. His schizophrenic performance was akin to an unhinged Michael Slater before he was prescribed medication.

Ricky Ponting – Lost his way like a German backpacker in the South West Wilderness in the field and performed miserably with the bat. He decided to humiliate Brett Lee publicly or failed to communicate his intentions proficiently. Either way, it was poor leadership. He must find a way to counter Ishant Sharma for the young fast bowler has detected an imperfection in his defensive technique that few others can see. Some say he was humble in defeat but a more accurate description would be that he was humbled by the assertive cricket of his opponents.

Michael Hussey -In the context of the match situation, a solid yet deficient half century in the first innings and the worst shot of the series led to his downfall in the second. His dismissal to Harbhajan immediately after tea on the fourth afternoon was so out of character that I am at a loss to describe what actually happened. If I was to have a guess, I’d say he was the victim of mental disintegration and the irony of it has not eluded me.

Michael Clarke – Only bowled eight overs which suggests the 38 he bowled in the previous Test may have aggravated his chronic lower back complaint. After battling hard and getting a start in the first innings he was deceived by the most elegant moment of the match when plumb LBW to Mishra’s celebrated round the wicket wrong’un in the last over before stumps. It was the fourth time in his Test career that Pup has been dismissed in the final over of the day and while some may say it is a coincidence, it is more likely due to nerves and uncertainty under pressure. His second innings was an assured performance that mattered little to the result and it would be comforting to see him produce a knock of import before the series ends.

Shane Watson – Probably Australia’s best player over five days, delaying Australia’s embarrassment by producing his best Test performance with the bat in the first innings and although wicketless, he was the team’s most consistent and economical bowler. The top order failed to give him any protection in his second innings with the bat and he consequently fell to a snorter from a rampaging Ishant Sharma.

Brad Haddin – Again, another tidy performance from the New South Wales gloveman but his inability to assert himself on the opposition, in the field or with the bat, is troubling. Failed to get to the pitch of the ball in the first innings and was bowled cheaply by Harbhajan and while doing well to bat out the fourth day with Clarke, his dismissal first over of the fifth morning sealed Australia’s fate. Australia’s successful teams of the past have had wicketkeepers that can turn a match, with an aggressive innings or a miracle piece of work behind the stumps, men like Marsh, Healy and Gilchrist, and at this stage Haddin has yet to provide either.

Cameron White – Took three cheap wickets from slogs, Ganguly and Gambhir after reaching centuries and Harbhajan trying to hit one into his backyard in Chandigarh. With the bat failed in both innings when Australia needed someone to stand up. He was an experimental selection and by any standards it would appear that the gamble has failed. If common sense prevails he will be replaced by Jason Krezja in Delhi for the young Tasmanain couldn’t possibly do much worse with bat or ball.

Brett Lee – Wasted the new ball with wild inaccurate spells in both innings doing his best work supporting Watson with the bat in the middle session of the third day. Sulked like a scolded schoolboy when not given a bowl by Ponting on the fifth morning and was out bowled consistently by debutant Peter Siddle. Needs to find a strategy to contain and apply pressure to the Indian batsmen or Australia can kiss the Border Gavaskar Trophy goodbye.

Mitchell Johnson – Considering it was only his eleventh Test, he bowled reasonably well and was instrumental in Australia’s only successful period in the match when he removed Gambhir and Laxman in consecutive overs in the second session on Day One. He takes his wickets in clusters and Ponting has failed to date to use him effectively. He troubles both Sehwag and Tendulkar and is the only Australian bowler to move the ball in the air and off the pitch with some consistency. Why he was denied the new ball in both innings is a mystery.

Peter Siddle – Aged 23 he played his heart out in his first Test and took the most number of wickets by any Australian bowler. Undoubtedly he will be dropped if Stuart Clark is fit in Delhi but showed the selectors that he has the goods to replace Brett Lee if his form and attitude doesn’t improve. All in all, a very encouraging display.

Tomorrow: Andrew Symonds: Mug or Martyr.

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Responses

  1. Very nice commentary. Not having a TV, after reading that it seems more likely to me the performance was one that is unlikely to be repeated.
    I take issue with the comment about Ponting: “Some say he was humble in defeat but a more accurate description would be that he was humbled by the assertive cricket of his opponents.” He and his team may well have been humbled by the performance, but that’s not the same as being humble in defeat. I think he was both. I just point it out because while not an unwavering loyal supporter of him, he seems to get alot of undue criticism.
    Otherwise, if your analysis is correct, it seem’s like there’s nothing broke that can’t be fixed, except White, (too early to say for Haddin).

  2. Fred,

    The humble comment, while containing some truth and a get out clause, was a writer’s play on words.

    Australia, as always, were gracious in defeat. I am a supporter of Punter but he had a shocker in every aspect and all we can hope for is that he finds a way to get the team playing to potential. If not, the overstocked trophy cabinet at Cricket Australia will have an empty space in it.

  3. There you go, I’m so used to him being criticised for the way he scratches his nose, I misread a play on words! He’s got the get the team playing to potential, but not much of that is actually in his hands. Individuals have to do the job. Interesting times.

  4. Having read your comments below the line, I was expecting to comment here in defence of some Aussies, but no. Your summary is both harsh and fair, which is not as easy to do as it sounds.

    My only quibble concerns Haddin, who must have the hardest job in cricket, possibly in sport, in following Gilchrist, since there is only one keeper. Healy, in later years a superb keeper, and Marsh, a superb counter-attacking batsman, between them batted 332 times in Tests passing fifty just 45 times. Gilchrist, absurdly really, batted nearly 200 times fewer (195 to be precise), but passed fifty only two times fewer (and had a ridiculous 17 centuries!).

    Despite Andy Flower’s and Kumar Sangakkara’s numbers, if I live to see a keeper get anywhere near Gilchrist’s contribution to a team, I’ll be amazed!

  5. Nestaquin,

    And I used to think only us Indians are brutal on our team!

    Cheers,

  6. Wow, this is pretty scathing. But at least as far as assessment of players performances go, a fair one. I must say, I’m the most taken aback by Hayden’s batting in the second innings. While aggression is fine, he seemed to be hyperventilating or something. And the fact that he had cracked was shown by the fact that he decided to react to a sendoff.

  7. Nesta, how does a keeper assert himself on the opposition when in the field?

  8. A professional wicketkeeper needs to be more than a talented backstop and lower-order batsman. He needs to be a leader. It is not by accident that Marsh, Healy and Gilchrist were vice captains.

    It is his job to set the fielding standard and when the team become tired or disinterested he must inspire his team mates, with word or deed, so that the pressure on the opposition, regardless of the situation, is relentless.

    Admittedly, the skills required to assert some authority are often intangible but Australian ‘keepers of the past, although differing in style, have had charisma in bucketloads and by the force of their personalities they have inspired their team mates to better performance especially when faced with an uphill battle.

    Haddin needs to take more responsibility in the field, support his bowlers in appeals (even when he doesn’t think it is out) and let his team know in no uncertain terms that throws must be over the bails every time without exception.

    By demanding excellence in the field and by showing some leadership, the wicketkeeper not only puts extra pressure on the opposition but also garners respect from within and outside his team.

    I’ve seen Haddin do this for NSW and it is time he found the confidence to do the same for Australia.

  9. Nestaquin,

    I agree with others that its a slightly harsh, but fair critique.

    Katich – I think he did reasonably so far in the series except for the rush of blood in the 2nd innings at Mohali. Even there, he fell to an exceptionally good catch by Tendulkar.

    Haddin – Isn’t it too early to compare Haddin to Gilly, or even Healy? He has not done too badly till now, and all he needs is a pair of accurate fast bowlers, who can induce edges from the batsmen.Marsh had Lilly and Thommo, Healy had McDermoot, followed by McGrath and Warne, and Gilly had McGrath, Gillespie and Warne. Haddin needs to establish a similar partnership with Lee and Johnson.Of course, if he does well with the bat, it could give him more confidence behind the stumps as well.
    ___________

    I some how feel it is probably a case of a reasonable strategy (to counter attack) backfiring completely due to Hayden’s lack of patience.If he had played out Harbhajan for just the 1 over, things could have been different after the break.

    As Clarke and Haddin showed later, it was still a good batting track.Sadly from Australia’s PoV, by the time they started Plan B (play out a draw), they lost 2 wickets too many.

    Unless India repeats or improves on their extraordinary team performance, it is highly unlikely that Australia would collapse again like this, in this series.

    India can take Australia lightly only at their peril.And I am worried sick they may do that :-) The Fab Four need not win us any more test matches.They just need to draw the remaining two. Yes, I am defensive here, but I’d rather have a 1-0 series win, than be aggressive and square the series 1-1.

  10. “His dismissal to Harbhajan immediately after tea on the fourth afternoon was so out of character that I am at a loss to describe what actually happened.”

    You are right! Something happened in that dressing room during the change of innings and tea. Hussey came out after tea and his body language was not good. He did not wish to be out there – he seemed as angry as Hayden and Katich looked before tea. It seemed like he did not care if he lost his wicket.

    I am sure they will fix this collectively – but this is the most worrisome aspect than anything else. They have enough proven class to remain very competitive the rest of this series. Equally, India’s record at consistency and ruthlessness is spotty at best. India can and quite likely will revert to type and play at the level of their opposition – be it Australia or Bangladesh. However, the Aussies are doomed if they lose their cool.

  11. A 1-1 series for Australia would be considered a win for they would still retain the trophy so you are wise to be circumspect, Kumar.

    No-one is expecting Haddin to be Gilchrist. However, he is not a rookie and has toured with the team on several occasions dating back to 2001 and has played for NSW for nearly a decade.

    What he needs to do is motivate the troops in the field so Ponting can concentrate on the tactical aspects of the game. Ricky can’t do it all and without the talismanic Symonds geeing up his team mates, and Clarke seemingly ineffective in the role, the team is losing focus as each session progresses.

  12. MP

    I think it’s about time some TV executive demanded that they have cameras mounted in the dressing rooms like they have during football matches in Australia.

    Something happened in the rooms and Nielsen’s excuse of chasing down 516 doesn’t sound feasible unless he is seriously nutty.

  13. Nesta – Good point on the role of the keeper in the field.

    At the end of his career, Jack Russell did this for Gloucestershire in one day games, standing up to all the bowlers. Such was his presence that I and others started watching him and not the batsman. The fielding was tremendously aggressive and Gloucestershire won plenty.

  14. I only saw Jack Russell play sporadically but I met him at Bellerive about 6 years ago when he was commissioned to do a painting of the ground.

    He perched himself with easel and oils on the concourse and created a masterpiece while happily talking to anybody who felt like a chinwag. You’d be hard pressed to find a more congenial fellow.

    On the wicketkeepers role within the team dynamic, a good example is the role Paul Nixon played during the one day series on the last Ashes tour.

    He joined a team beaten black and blue and demanded by the force of his somewhat gruff personality that they not lie down under any circumstances.

    He was just as boisterous towards his team mates when they slackened in the field as he was to the Aussie batsmen and he gave the team a psychological lift when they needed it most.

    When they won the series the players to a man ran to him and hugged him and then he led several of them over to the Barmy Army to continue the celebrations. It was great theatre.

    It was always going to be a short term fix but despite the jokes he won plenty of respect from Australian crowds.

    He is currently playing in the ICL and I watched half a game last week where he was Man of the Match and his enthusiasm and self belief was still as infectious as ever.

  15. I saw Nixon last month at The Oval and he was the same there. He’ll still be the same at 60 playing for Tooting Bec 4th XI.

  16. nesta> I completely agree with you on the issue with the Keeper, take Kumar for instance, before he came on the scene, Kalu was just loved for his batting as much as for his height.

    But he leads that team on the field. He needles the batsmen and also, in Sinhalese and English, ups the tempo and morale of the whole team. Especially when they are down.

    Hadding is a good keeper, better than good even. His batting is solid if not pleasing.

    But he lacks that lil bit doesnt he. That panache and Gilly and Healy had. That presence behind the stumps.

    It must be hard to follow in those big shoes.

    But its a trait he must pick up soon if he is to be taken seriously!

  17. Damith – I love the way Mahela’s gentle, but steely competitiveness complements Sangakkara’s lightening and cutting wit. I hope Gilly and Kumar share a commentary box one day.

  18. Fred Said: I’m so used to him [Ponting] being criticised for the way he scratches his nose

    I don’t see that much wrong with it…

  19. On an unrelated note, with the nose-scratching and spitting on the hands, it is no wonder that Sachin wasnt available for a handshake when Gilly came calling to the dressing room :-)
    I mean, to react exactly like an Aussie cricketer (i.e) turn on the cultural superiority snobbishness and “our culture is so great we do this , I cant understand why in their cultue they dont do this”, you know it is frowned upon to scratch nose and spit on the hands in public in India you know.
    Offering one’s hand for a shake after doing this is considered impolite. I suppose in ‘their(oz) culture, all this goes. yada yad a(fillin with the usual noises made by frog-in-the-well Aussie cricketers about other cultures)


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