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Bad weather, worse cricket

The Indian team's Lord’s encounter ended in darkness and cheer, but a few critical factors emerged, writes Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Jul 25, 2007 06:39 IST
Rohit Mahajan

The Indian team reached Nottingham after a three-hour bus journey from London on Tuesday. Their Lord’s encounter ended in darkness and cheer, but a few worrying, critical factors emerged.

Facing an inexperienced attack, India had an excellent opportunity to win at a ground where their record is dismal, but if the tail and rain saved India, the top order lost the plot and India practically lost the game.

This freakish summer, marked by flash floods, storm, cold and rains, reminds Londoners of the dismal days of smog, but the tourists can’t remain unaffected by the elements — especially if they happen to be a bunch of 16 from India, here to play cricket.

By mid-July, summer in England is normally comfortable, even warm — this is quite unexpected weather for the Indians, and they would do well to get used to the ground conditions. You come to England prepared for the maddest quirks of the weather, but this year has been a shocker even for locals.

India did have a really torrid time in the cold and rain of Belfast, but with the move to England, they perhaps thought the worst was over, that only green vistas lay ahead. That has not proved to be the case.

On the field, it means that the ball would swing more, troubling both the batsmen and bowlers of a team, especially a visiting one.

The bowlers tend to err on the side of excessive effort in these, especially if they are raw.

“I was pumped up, I had been trying too hard initially,” said S Sreesanth of his initial performance. “I had to tell myself to keep it simple and make sure that I bowled to my strength, to swing the ball away from the batsmen.”

Wasim Jaffer, who got a half-century in the first innings, conceded that it was very difficult to face Ryan Sidebottom — the fact that the left-arm paceman had played just four games before this mattered not. Sidebottom has gained by years spent in county cricket, he has learnt his art of accurate swing bowling by putting in days, months and years in these conditions.

Now it is up to the Indian think-tank — especially bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad, the last Indian to do a five-for at Lord’s before RP Singh’s effort this time — to ensure that the bowlers are schooled quickly and learn to swing it right, and fast.

The batsmen have to learn too — the Big Three have played a lot of cricket in these conditions and must lead the way, and so must VVS Laxman. Dinesh Karthik, who has played no first-class cricket in England, was impressive in the second innings, and it would be incumbent on him and Jaffer to provide the starts. Karthik goes for his shots and that can be good — in these conditions, where it’s unlikely that a team will play 100 overs, it’s essential that one batsman goes for the bowling and punishes loose balls. Karthik can be that man at the top of the order.

Then there is MS Dhoni — his wicketkeeping has not been up to the mark, and he conceded that it’s very difficult for him here.

“The ball wobbles a lot after it passes the batsmen,” he said.

“You have to learn fast. About eighty per cent of my cricket has been played in Indian conditions, and if I sometimes don’t do well abroad, I can’t be too hard on myself,” he had said before the game. “I have not played with A teams and all that…”

His batting will keep Dhoni in the team, but as he conceded, he has to learn much, and quickly.

Dhoni was considered the only weak link in the team, but he emerged as the hero on Monday.

But England were the better team, and their bowlers were the difference. The Indians failed to get runs on the board, and that is where they nearly lost the game.

But moral wins don’t count for much, and Vaughan knows that. Conversely, the Indians would know that this is as good as a defeat. The time to raise their games is now, right now.