Monday, December 15, 2008

Chennai Test - India vs England 2008

At the end of third day's play with England leading by 247 runs having lost only 3 wickets in 2nd innings, I was looking forward to the 2nd test at Mohali for India to win the match and save the series. But Indian Coach Gary Kirsten believed India can chase any target. And now India did actually pull off an incredible win chasing a record 387 runs to win in the 4th innings.
Test cricket is still relevant even in India
In the first day England were scoring at 2.5 runs per over and lost only one wicket till tea. It was so sleep inducing and everybody questioned the relevance of Test cricket in India. But at the end of 4th day many people would have spent a sleepless night. Rajesh Jain has written in his blog wrote "A T20 or a one-day international doesn’t lend itself to analysis on the possibilities the way a Test Match does". A Test cricket lover beautifully summed up in a mail to cricinfo saying, "Test Cricket has survived 2 World wars, One day cricket and now T20 cricket over last 133 years and will continue to do so".
History didn't repeat but was created
When India started its run chase, the statisticians would have said India doesn't have any chance of winning the match. As the highest successful 4th innings chase in India was 276-5 by West Indies and in Chennai it was 155-8. (Chase of 347 is not considered successful as it was in a Tied Test) Thankfully Sehwag and Co. doesn't believe in history or even know it. He creates history for others to know.
It is all in the mind
To chase runs of that proportion batting last on a wearing pitch, one needs to believe that it is possible and then work on it. Win it in the mind first, then on the field. Captains of earlier generation like Kumble or Dravid would have said "Let’s try and keep wickets in hand, ensure safety and then look for victory if possible". The first test between the same 2 teams in the previous series at Nagpur in 2006 followed the same pattern. The same negativity was evident in Oval and Bangalore too and we drew the match that should have been won. This generation of captains like Dhoni and Sehwag (Vice-Captian) realise that in the process of safety first approach, the batsmen can get bogged down allowing bowlers to attack and create more chances of getting out. That was the reason for some of the 4th innings collapses in Mumbai, Bangalore, Sydney, Durban and so on.
What this victory means to India and run chase means to Cricket
Laxman's sublime 281 at Calcutta in 2001 to help India win after following on has made the concept of enforcing follow-on outdated. Very few captains in world cricket have enforced follow-on even after having a lead of 300 since that time. It also helped India believe that they can come back from any situation. India was all but dead and buried, trailing 0-1 in a 3 match series and trailing by 274 in the first innings then and went on to win the match and series 2-1. With this 4th highest run chase in history that too losing only 4 wickets, captains will always be jittery to set a target of less than 400 runs. And this victory reinforces the Indian belief of winning from any situation.
Sehwag - Man of the Match
I think it was a very sensible decision to give man of the match to Sehwag, though there were 4 centuries from others in the match. He didn't do anything with the ball or in the 1st innings. Statistics measure only the centuries and the number of runs scored, but never the impact it has had on the game. England the team that dominated the Test scored 2 boundaries between lunch and tea on 4th day, Sehwag scored 5 of them in his 15 balls. He used the hardness of new ball well and changed the course of the game in a very short span of time i.e. 68 balls in a test match of 2416 balls.
Sachin, does he have anything left to achieve?
It was a perfect match for Sachin. He scored his 100, hit the winning runs and avenged the loss to Pakistan at the same ground 9 years ago. This incidentally is the 50th time he is part of winning side. The biggest criticism that he doesn't play well when India needs the most in the 4th innings is answered. There aren't any records left to break, he is walking on the path never travelled by anybody, 41 centuries and 12000+ runs. I would like to see him sign-off by winning the world cup for India in 2011 and Test Series in Australia in 2012.
Yuvraj as a Test cricketer
He hit his purple patch in one-day series and was an automatic choice to take Ganguly's place in test side. His 2nd innings knock will indeed seal his spot for the next few tests. But I am still to be convinced of his test credentials. He can be easily intimidated by opposition players’ chit chatting and bouncers. Worst of all he reacts to them with words and stares instead of responding with the bat. This is something he can learn from his legendary senior colleagues. None of the opposition players do the same with Sachin, Dravid, Laxman or Kumble as it would have no effect on them and also out of sheer respect for them. Sachin's presence at the other end did help him, he looked like sincerely following Sachin's advices but wasn't paying that much heed to Dhoni's tips in the 1st innings.
I savoured the winning moment at my friend Tarun's house for last 75 runs. It has been a lucky place for me to watch cricket. I watched India win tests this year at Perth, Kanpur, Galle, Mohali, Nagpur and now Chennai. I also saw India winning the ODI at Sydney and U-19 world cup at Malaysia on the same day.
MS Dhoni with 4 wins out of 4 matches makes me think, Is this best Indian team ever? The question will be answered when they go abroad. ICC Test Rank No 2 and later No 1 are also up for grabs.