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Batting blues haunt Indian team

They say you can't win Test matches unless you pick up 20 wickets. While nobody who follows the game will disagree with that, it does not take away the responsibility from the willow-wielders to put big runs on the board. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Jul 24, 2010 23:47 IST
Amol Karhadkar

They say you can't win Test matches unless you pick up 20 wickets. While nobody who follows the game will disagree with that, it does not take away the responsibility from the willow-wielders to put big runs on the board.

On his way to catapulting India to No. 1 in Tests, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's success mantra during his stint as captain hasn't been much different from his predecessors. The Indian skipper has relied heavily on his batsmen to pile on the runs and then expected bowlers to use the platform and seal the match for them.

Unfortunately, with a bowling unit as lacklustre as the one India has in Sri Lanka, it might have been asking for too much to expect the bowlers to pick up 20 wickets. As a result, the top six batsmen had no option but to come good against a quality bowling attack. But they failed in the first Test in Galle. And India now enter the second Test, starting at the Sinhalese Sports Club on Monday, with a mission to save their top Test ranking.

In the batsmen's defence, there was a century and three fifties in Galle. But that is exactly where the problem lay as none of the set batsmen went on to get a real big knock and save the Test once the hosts had declared after putting up a mammoth 500-plus total in the first innings.

In the first innings, despite Virender Sehwag's ton and Yuvraj Singh's fluent fifty, not only did India fall short of the follow-on mark by 45 runs but they were also guilty of folding up in just 65 overs. The fact that they couldn't even see the second new ball in the first essay meant they were under tremendous pressure to bat out five sessions to save the match.

And the second innings wasn't much different either. Once the Rahul Dravid-Sachin Tendulkar partnership was broken, had the tail not hung on along with VVS Laxman for more than a session, India could have been bowled out in as few overs as in the first innings.

This is certainly not justified, especially with the batting talent India have. When you have in the top six Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Yuvraj — and Dhoni at No. 7 — failing twice in two innings on a wicket that hardly had anything in it for bowlers is unpardonable.

This meant that if the bowlers were guilty of not making an impression on the game, the batsmen committed a crime by not living up to their potential, leave alone raising the bar. The second Test will be played on a Sinhalese Sports Club track which is "firm and full of runs," according to curator Anuruddha Polonowita.

While this is good news for the Sri Lankan team, who will be focussed on winning the series and could make do with a draw in the second Test, it makes matters worse for the Indians. Desperately seeking a win to level the series, the batsmen were hard at work at the nets on Saturday. What remains is for the top six to convert form in the nets to performance out in the middle.