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India did well; must avoid mistakes

Chappell and Dravid must admit where they went wrong so as to do better, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2006 15:30 IST

It's somewhat unfair to say this or that was wrong after something has already taken place because India’s performance in the first Test - where they missed a win by a whisker - was immensely creditable, to say the least.

The way Rahul Dravid’s team fought back after sniffing and chasing leather for the better part of the first two days was a refreshing turnaround following the ODI series defeat. It was also a gutsy performance in the longer variety of the game after some embarrassing moments against Pakistan and England.

But the saying goes that good teams analyse matches where they don’t do well and great teams analyse those where they did do well. If Greg Chappell and Dravid’s band of boys aspire to be better than good, they must admit where they went wrong in the last international match at the Antigua Recreation Ground. There can be no sound justification for leaving Harbhajan on the bench. The tweaker in turban had a highly satisfactory outing in the ODIs and also looked good in the last Test he played, against England, though he didn't get many wickets.

Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that of the three medium-pacers India fielded, debutant VRV Singh bowled 11 of the 95 overs in second innings and that of the 19 wickets India took, 11 went to Anil Kumble and part-timer Virender Sehwag. There was a reasonable layer of dry grass on the pitch, which prompted the move to have three medium-pacers, and as Dravid said, combinations are decided before the toss without the privilege of knowing what happens in due course.

But then, is it a question of fielding bowlers who are known to bowl a particular kind of stuff or is it a matter of fielding your best bowlers? The horses for courses theory, as Chappell puts it, is fine but how do you justify it if you don’t show enough faith in the horses you pick - like Singh being underused in the second innings?

Dravid said he was happy with the way the three medium-pacers - with a combined experience of four Tests between them before the first Test - shaped up. “We picked the team we thought was best. These young kids showed the hunger to do well and learnt what length they should bowl on such pitches.”

That’s fine again, but didn’t his team miss Harbhajan, who must have been biting his nails off during the closing stages instead of rolling his arm over? Despite all his faith in the young quickies, the captain had to rely heavily on Kumble and fall back on Sehwag, who responded with two wickets in each innings.

Like one said, it’s easy but unfair to comment on things that have already taken place. But the question of what might have been suddenly rings pertinent. Blooding youngsters is praiseworthy indeed but it's better if this is seen as a means to an end rather than embracing it as an end in itself.