All fall down

The very best of Virender Sehwag was on view today. So was the very worst.

[That sense of schizophrenia did not apply to the rest of the side – with the honorable exception of Badrinath, who celebrated his long awaited call up with a level-headed half century before triggering the post-tea slide, what we got from the rest was their unalloyed worst].

While the other batsmen, lulled by a two year diet of largely batsman-friendly tracks and the kind of “pace” provided by teams such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh et al, seemed completely overawed by the speed and fire of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, Sehwag motored along at a health one day rate, taking 34 off 38 Steyn deliveries and 21 off 38 from Morkel.

More than the runs scored, what stood out was the application Sehwag brought to his task. While Gambhir, Vijay and Tendulkar collapsed around him, Sehwag batted in his own zone, defending when it seemed to be called for and counter-punching whenever the bowler lapsed even marginally in line and length.

As his innings developed the Proteas, despite being well in control, seemed to be feeling the heat – the bowlers resorted to defensive lines, the fielders dropped back a few yards, and debutant Badrinath was able to find his feet under the senior batsman’s shelter.

And then, shortly after he had gotten to his hundred and the water cooler conversation had turned to his penchant for scoring big once past the century mark, Sehwag threw it away with a flashy shot he had no business playing.

With Sehwag and Badri looking assured against the quick guns, Smith had been forced to turn to his second, and even third, string bowlers. Wayne Parnell, who Sehwag had taken for 24 runs off 17 deliveries faced, resorted to bowling as wide of off stump as he could, under the more lenient Test norms, get away with. Sehwag could have let them go all day, but after four successive deliveries wide of off, the batsman chased at the fifth, sliced it to the cover fielder standing back on his haunches, and walked off shaking his head.

If he was as disappointed as he looked at having given it up, his team mates gave him a chance to get over it – a spectacular post tea collapse against the extreme pace and reverse swing of Steyn, that saw India lose six wickets in 46 deliveries for 12 runs, gave Sehwag a second chance.

He came out swinging – through the slips, over cover, whatever, in a display as ugly as it was unexpected. Steyn made one climb outside off; Sehwag let it go, chastised himself for his leniency and mimed the upper cut that he, at least by his lights, should have been playing. Before you had the time to say ‘bad idea, dude’, he went for the next ball, fuller outside off, got the edge, and found a delighted Smith at first slip.

The best of Sehwag, the worst of Sehwag, all in one day that saw India get a long delayed comeuppance against genuine pace. Much was made of the reverse swing the Indian bowlers had tried, and failed, to find when the Proteas were batting. In a devastating day long display, Morkel and Steyn showed that even on relatively harmless tracks, sheer pace through the air can smash past the defenses of good batsmen [Gambhir, Vijay, Tendulkar in the first innings before Sehwag and Badri steadied the ship] and that a quick bowler operating with the older ball, bowling the full length at extreme pace, can harness reverse to lethal effect [Steyn, whose post tea spell read 3.5-2-1-5].

During the euphoric period when India under MS Dhoni were unbeaten in Tests, there was always the nagging thought that somewhere, some time, the “law of averages” was going to kick in. More accurately, there was the thought that one of these days we would find ourselves against opposition that didn’t have names stretching 140 characters.

Ironically, India found such opposition only because the BCCI, seduced by the team’s statistical feat of climbing to the top of the Test charts, saw the sponsorship opportunity inherent in a “World Championship” Test series, and managed to shoe-horn one into the calendar.

It may not seem like it at the time, but this series is already proving to be a blessing – we can finally put our sense of notional superiority aside and find out exactly where we stand in terms of being a high quality Test side, and start work on building the sort of team that doesn’t require a buffet of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to climb ranking ladders.

It could be a process that involves some considerable short-term pain, but it could also be the start of a team building exercise in the real sense.

35 thoughts on “All fall down

  1. Pingback: Mathematical Proof Of India’s Test Success « Ducking Beamers: A Cricket Blog

  2. Finally, the BCCI in a press release apologized to the Number 8 fans in the world of the Number 1 Test team in the world : We, the Board, apologize for assuming that after the Indian team achieved the Number 1 ranking in Tests, our fans would also automatically become the Number 1 fans in the world. We have since realized our mistake and sincerely apologize for it. An objective survey has established that while the Indian team is the Number 1 in the world, our Indian fans are actually ranked Number 8 in the world, behind Bangladesh and West Indies and just above Zimbabwe. While our team has won many narrow victories and avoided defeat on other occasions through hard work and fighting spirit, our fans consistently last only 3 days, and many actually don’t even last the first full day. In the current Nagpur test, 38.7% of the fans were already predicting defeat and finding blame to go around by the 3rd session of the first day. For the good of Indian Cricket it is not enough that the team should be Number 1 as long as the fans retain their Number 8 mindset and admit defeat faster than the fucking French. The BCCI will immediately extend its proven and tested strategy of awarding cash prices for ranking improvements to our fans. For each ranking improvement achieved by our fans, the BCCI will reward each and every fan with Rs. 5 Lakhs cash. For example, if our fans could just stop moaning like bitches and blaming the players, the selectors, the board, the captain, the coash, the tactics and the grounds at every defeat, we will be better than the whining and complaining Number 7 ranked West Indies fans. This will result in Rs 5 Lakhs to each and every fan. The board sincerely hopes that the fans will respond positively to the economic incentive and begin working towards better ranking right away.

  3. Some late breaking news. In response to the humiliating innings defeat suffered by India against South Africa in the Nagpur test, the BCCI has taken the following actions with immediate effect –

    – A high-powered committee has been established to look into the ground and facilities at the Nagpur stadium. This committee will work to establish blame for this loss, and the committee members have already checked into a 5-star hotel in the city for their investigation.

    – A strategy panel has been looking into the mysterious decline of young Indian bowlers at the age of 20. A board official explained off the record that repeatedly over the past few years we have had young fast bowlers come up in domestic cricket who bowled consistently at 140 or there abouts, but as soon as they hit the age of 20-21, their pace declined to 120+ on a good day. The strategy panel found that the increase in age was responsible for this decline, just as suspected by the Board. Further, the panel has recommended that selection in future should be confined to only players under 19. The promising bowlers over 20 who have lost their pace will be encouraged to take up spin bowling. This will help mitigate the current unprecedented shortage of Spin bowlers in Indian cricket.

    – A high powered investigation team has begun to look into the workings of the selection panel before the Nagpur test. This team will examine everything from the selectors’ diet to the models and usage of their mobile phones during selection meetings to ascertain how such a shit team was selected in the first place, when we had Manish Pandey and Abhishek Nair who had scored runs against this same attack less than a week ago. The omission of Pandey and Virat Kohli specially has raised many eyebrows because the board felt that being team members of Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis in the IPL, the respective Saffers would have been reluctant to dismiss cheaply the two batsmen mentioned. A board member, speaking on condition of anonymity told this correspondent that the Indian team had already been weakened in this respect by Dravid’s unavailability due to injury, and the exclusion of Pandey and Kohli only served to anger Steyn and Kallis more, which was one of the reasons why India lost.

  4. With this bowling ‘attack’, we are going to be creamed by any top team in the world. Zaheer seems to be the only one in some sort of form, but does not receive adequate support from Ishant, who is a shadow of the player he started out as..We had a depleted middle order, but the bowling is what did us in.. I feel that ojha may do a better job than singh at this stage. Mithun should have been given a chance, considering the woeful rut Ishant is in

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