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Criticism of slow wicket distracted the team

Having lost to New Zealand in the series Down Under, it is imperative that the home team wins, if only to further amplify the point that the wickets there were below international standards. A draw again, will be perceived as a defeat.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2003 23:51 IST
Arun Lal

The second Test begins on Thursday and the pressure is squarely on the home team. Having lost to New Zealand in the series Down Under, it is imperative that the home team wins, if only to further amplify the point that the wickets there were below international standards. A draw again, will be perceived as a defeat.

The wicket at Ahmedabad played a major role not only in the outcome of the match but also on the psyche of the team. There is no doubt that the wicket was slow, excruciatingly so, but it's apparent that it was not by design. On the first day, there was talk of it having some life and bounce because of the moisture and grass on the track. Here let me say that too much emphasis is being put on the wicket, so much so that it is distracting the team from its prime focus. They fought hard, especially the bowlers but were willing to give up that much earlier because the constant criticism of the slow wicket had eaten into their resolve. It seemed that the focus had shifted to being unhappy with the state of affairs.

Sourav Ganguly's abscess didn't help either and though he scored a terrific century and bravely stayed on the field it also contributed to the feeling of lethargy and resignation. He seemed to be distracted by his affliction and the extreme discomfort that he was suffering.

The fact is that the Indians should have won the match despite the dead wicket as they came very close. A little more aggression would certainly have won the day. Maybe endeavouring to bowl more than the requisite ninety overs or even attacking a bit more may have worked. This entire argument is further amplified by the fact that let alone bowl more overs, the Indians called it a day with a few overs to spare. This is unheard of as it only takes four balls to get four wickets and is a huge indictment of their state of mind.

The wicket at Mohali is usually hard and provides entertaining cricket. This time, though it has been re-laid, it also seems to be hard with a fair sprinkling of grass (at least so far) but the cracks are already beginning to widen, indicating that it may be on the drier side and should assist the spinners.

The other thing is that through out the match and especially on the fifth day, the Indians missed another bowler. The argument that if such world class bowlers like Harbhajan and Kumble can't get them out then what can a fifth bowler do, is flawed. It was evident that these two lion-hearted cricketers had tired by the afternoon. Any bowler who has to bowl such long spells in the heat will tire, especially when he has to use all his strength to extract some life from the track. In hindsight, it is evident the Indians miscalculated, for even if they did not want to play a fifth bowler, there certainly was a case for another spinner.

Now, with the in-form Sourav Ganguly not fit to play, the chance that they will include a fifth bowler or the extra spinner has receded even further. It is definitely an inopportune blow and one that will be a severe test of character for Rahul Dravid and this team.

It is clear that the visitors have worked extremely hard while preparing for this tour. They played late and nullified the close-in cordon with a loose grip while defending.

They look self-assured and would be content with the proceedings so far. Although, they do not look like winning, they certainly believe that they can finish the series all square and go into the one-day series with their tails up.

This is the decider and a little more enterprise will be required to neutralize the resolve and preparedness of the visitors.

First Published: Oct 15, 2003 23:51 IST