Saturday, August 04, 2007

Trend at TrentBridge

Indian win at TrentBridge, Nottingham was a watershed moment in Indian Cricket. Indian Cricket celebrated its platinum jubilee just about a month back. In all those 75 years, 14 tours and 45 matches in England, India had won just 4 tests in England. 28 out of 200 Tests abroad, quarter of them in Zimbabwe (3) and Bangladesh (4). If we consider the figure before 2001 (The golden era of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Kumble), the number gets even lesser. So, Indians historically are poor travelers. All these factors add to the significance of this victory.

Factors responsible for this win
– Rahul Dravid normally an unlucky captain with the coin won a crucial toss. He promptly elected to field first. Pitch and outfield was damp owing to heavy rains. Bowlers made good use of the conditions and bowled out England for less than 200. But when India came on to bat on the 2nd day, sun was shining brightly. So conditions were favorable to Indians always be it while bowling or batting. Many batsmen might have posted 50 plus scores but each one of them had balls just passing outside edges and catches falling short of fielders. On any other day they would have been wickets. On 4th evening just when the match was slipping away, Vaughan was dismissed in most uncharacteristic fashion and that was the turning point of the match and England couldn’t recover from there at all. To tell it the other way, India made the best use of luck available to them. Put the unlucky dismissals of Tendulkar and Ganguly behind them.
Fast Bowling – Fast bowling has been a revelation in this tour. We managed to take all 40 wickets in 2 tests, with only 4 bowlers, Kumble not firing, each time without letting England go on a run-feast. Tail-enders has usually been a problem but they didn’t let them loose this time. Earlier the equation used to be simple for home teams, prepare a seaming track and have 4 fast bowlers. Now with the quality of fast bowlers we have and the batsmen, that could be threat to home team too. Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh are more than competent swing bowlers.
Opening Batting – This was supposed to be the weakest link in star-studded Indian batting line-up. We have not found a solid opener since Sunil Gavaskar. I personally believe in having Sehwag the team. Whatever reasons he is failing now was the reason for his success earlier. He has given us blistering starts against toughest of bowling attacks. Any way we now have Jaffer and Karthik. Jaffer is solid in technique, strong on his pads, matured now and scored a hundred in each of previous 4 series. Karthik is one hell of a character, perfect team man, young and energetic, can assume any role in the team. I best remember him for his 90 in second innings partnership with Dravid in Kolkata Test against Pakistan. Both of them have now scored 2 50s each so far in this series. Their start was instrumental in India putting up a big-score.
I have deliberately omitted the middle order batting because they are expected to perform with a combined experience of 400 plus tests. I thought Ganguly’s batting was the best I have seen from him since his 144 at Brisbane. Dravid has massively underperformed considering the standards he sets him-selves in away wins.
Opposition Experience – Only one player has an experience of playing more than 50 Tests and that is that is their captain. Their most experienced bowler is Monty Panesar who made his Debut last year. While in Indian Team we have 5 players with 90 plus test experience.

We might have won but that doesn’t mean we don’t have weaknesses. Laxman and Sreesanth were our weakest links. Laxman might have scored 54 but he came to the crease when India had already built substantial lead. His job then would have been to score runs quickly and bat England out of the game. Scoring quickly is not asking too much from him, he is a natural stroke maker, silky gifted beautiful player. The things that I didn’t like about that innings were. One he took 150 balls to score them, way too slow. Two he didn’t protect the tail well enough by scoring singles in the first ball of the over or playing out maidens. Sreesanth was involved more in scoring a few brownie points over the opposition by shouting, pushing and bowling beamers. He did all that in Johannesburg also but he also took 8 wickets and hit a six to Andre Nel.

Where does this win rank itself?
India has proved that it is unfair to call them as poor travelers in this new millennium. With 16 wins at Adelaide, Multan, Rawalpindi, Nottingham, Leeds, Port of Spain, Jamica, Johannesburg, Harare, Bulawayo(twice), Dhaka (thrice), Chittagong and Kandy. Each one of them was extremely important barring those in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. To me it doesn’t quite match with other 8 wins mainly considering the luck we had and the experience of opposition players.

Win one loose very next one
Winning a Test in a series is not new to us and that is exactly what we have done in the n test. But finishing the series on a winning note is. We have lost the very next Test on 6 out of 8 times we won. The win-lose pairs are Adelaide-Melbourne, Multan-Lahore, Port-of-Spain – Barbados, Johannesburg-Durban, Bulawayo-Harare, Kandy-Colombo. We didn’t loose 2 times because they were the last test of the series that we went on to win. So what this suggests is that we work hard towards a win and get complacent after winning. The opposition on the other hand pull-up their socks. Win should ideally enable us to build confidence and belief to win next one.

Hope we don’t go flat at Oval
My prediction at the beginning of the series has already gone wrong. It is already 1-0 when I was expecting a 0-2. Good, very good. Can my prediction go exactly opposite by India winning 2-0? It is possible but India must overcome complacency. Oval should be a good batting track. It should help the spinners later on. We got to be wary of Monty, use Kumble well. We got to play to win this match too, instead of playing for a draw and securing the series. In this regard, I would like to drop slow scoring Laxman and bring in additional bowler in Ramesh Powar. He is not afraid to flight the ball. We will be spending a lot of time bowling and extra bowler could come very handy. Message to batsmen would be to attack, score at more than 3.5 runs per over. I repeat “Please don’t play for a draw”.