Riders of the storm
Though it has lost the Test series, Team India's performance wasn't discouraging. A Mukhopadhyay examines...cricket Updated: Jan 29, 2008 02:54 IST
India couldn’t rise to the occasion when mattered in the final Test because of their bowlers, but it was them who had kept the team in the series by delivering the goods in the first three matches. India lost 1-2, although it could have been different had luck not deserted them completely in the second game in Sydney. By and large, the performance wasn’t discouraging. Here’s a quick look at how the players fared in the Tests.
Being the only specialist opener in the squad, there were great expectations of him, especially after his good showing against Pakistan. He turned out to be the most disappointing of the batsmen, hardly surviving the first hour in three Tests. Unable to cope with Brett Lee, he was undone on most occasions poking outside off on the front foot. He may have to fight to regain his place now, although that would be unfair because this was his first complete failure since coming back to the side.
Proved everybody wrong by coming good in almost every outing. Was lucky to survive many wild swings outside off, but built on that substantially. His quick scoring provided the early momentum that was missing even when Rahul Dravid had come good as opener. His aggression was the answer India were looking for. Apart from scoring those runs, played a more than handy role as part-time bowler, particularly in Perth.
The start and finish wasn’t good, but he played a key knock in the first innings in Perth that was instrumental in India’s big total. Came good as opener in the second Test too and even though his overall performance was below by his own lofty standards, it has to be taken into account that he was forced to open, which to is not his cup of tea. Didn’t play the role of the main batsman as he used to, but it was a fair outing, considering everything.
His failures in the second innings will remain a concern, but how can you say anything against a batsman who excels on every occasion in the first! One can say he isn’t as fluent or dominating as he used to be, but does it really matter if he still ends up as the highest scorer for the team? And in terms of batsmanship, he showed he is still growing, adding new dimensions to his game. It’s time to sit back and enjoy as long as this wonderful show lasts.
The last two Tests brought down his average in this series substantially, but everyone to have seen him will agree that he was batting as well as anybody else in the side in the first two. Omission from the ODI squad may put a question mark over a lot of things, it should still be unfair to overlook that he was the one to have showed maximum composure in the first two Tests, in all four innings. Two bad decisions only made things worse.
His position in the batting order was dependent on Dravid’s, but that didn’t stop him from playing a few crucial knocks. The century in Sydney couldn’t prevent defeat, but he more than made up for that by a heroic rally with the tail in Perth. Apart from India’s big first-innings lead, his 51-run ninth-wicket stand with R.P. Singh made a big difference in the end. In Adelaide too, with Tendulkar, he laid the foundation for a big total. An unsung hero, his contributions spoke of his worth in the team.
Came with great expectations, but was quick to find out that Australia was a different ball game. After getting a bad decision in the first Test, he never looked as if he was up to the task before being sidelined with a knee injury. Ironically for him, it helped India field a combination that looked better than the one featuring him.
There were always critics of his ability behind the wicket and after the Tests, there will a few more talking about his performance in front of it as well. It’s unfair to expect big shots each time he walks out, but not unfair to expect runs. He failed on most occasions, although helped Laxman add some precious runs.
Grabbed with both hands the chance that came his way. After making the new ball talk in Perth, he came up with a lion-hearted performance with the old one in difficult conditions in Adelaide. However, he has to work on his line against right-handers. Was useful with the bat in Perth too. Making him open doesn’t solve all problems, but that’s not his problem. Most important, there were signs that the swing bowler in him is coming back, although there is still some way to go.
Conducted himself like a true captain, with the ball, the bat and even when it came to dealing with unpleasant issues off the field. None had given the bowlers a chance before the series, but he led from the front and showed that they could sting too. Was below-par when he was expected to deliver in Adelaide, but hopefully, that was just one of those bad days. A team in transition witnessing an influx of youth needs people like him to show that excellence demands prerequisites like focus, commitment, hard work and modesty.
Some will remember him in this series for the controversy around him and some others for his feisty half-centuries in Sydney and Adelaide. None should forget that he bowled well below the level he has bowled at in the past. He struggled for line and length in Adelaide at a time when the team depended on him. He must remember that irrespective of the runs he scores, his inclusion in the team will always depend on how he bowls.
Surpassed all expectations by taking over the mantle of the senior medium-pacer in the absence of Zaheer Khan. Not only did he swing the ball, but the bounce he extracted from a seemingly unresponsive pitch in Sydney was commendable. Kept striking at vital times in Perth apart from helping Laxman add precious runs in the second innings. Was a vital member of the team that did commendably in this series.
In recent times, there have been many young Indian quick bowlers who burst on to the scene only to make news for the wrong reasons after earning fame. One hopes this skinny teenager doesn’t go that way. The number of wickets he’s got pales into insignificance if one looks at the way he’s got them. He got helpful conditions in Perth, but it was different in Adelaide and the long spell he bowled on Day 4 with Pathan deserves special mention. Has to keep focus and work on variations.
India missed him sorely when he had to return home after the first Test. In the first innings at Melbourne, he was bowling just as well he had in the impressive tour of England and this was a big void to fill. He should enjoy the company he gets when he is fit and back.