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Indian batting needs quick redressal

Keeping with the disturbing trend, the batsmen have flattered to deceive in a seesaw series, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2007 16:03 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

Unlike what was fashionable in most of the nineties and the first few years of 2000s, nobody today calls Indian batting the most formidable line-up in the world.

And the South African series only goes on to justify the pessimism, which has come to envelop the whole nation with some mundane performances delivered by our willow wielders.

One shudders to think how we would have fared had selectors not dared to recall Sourav Ganguly for the Test series, despite some very average domestic and county performances.

Probably some players (though average performers at the domestic level) who are better equipped may be destined to play a more defining role at the national arena. It is like Manmohan Singh, a terrific Prime Minister, might have been an average Chief Minister. Or it will be worth imagining Queen Elizabeth as chairman of some British Municipality!

Some players have an aura, and that never refuses to cease at a stage which is bigger and better. Ganguly is one of those players. And what a tremendous comeback it has turned out to be.

Ganguly in comparison with other top-order batsmen
(in SA series)

  Inn Runs Avg SR
 Ganguly 6 214 42.80 63.31
 Tendulkar 6 199 33.16 46.82
 Jaffer 6 185 30.83 43.63
 Laxman 6 180 36.00 38.21
 Dravid 6 125 20.83 37.65
 Sehwag 6 89 14.83 74.16

Unfortunately, no other top order batman has been able to cross 40 in average from six innings.

In comparison with the much hyped top order, even a player like Dinesh Karthik, for whom this Test was a blessing, thanks to an injury to the first choice keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, played his part to perfection.

Karthik did not allow his insecurities to dominate his mindset and made a very sedate half-century in the first innings which eventually allowed India to cross the 400 milepost. He showed extreme aggression in the second innings in the company of tail-enders. But for his twin efforts, the match might have been over by the fourth day.

Now in last 14 months beginning December 2005, India have had at least three major collapses where they lost seven wickets for less than 60 runs. Against England, this uncalled for show had come in the final innings at Mumbai, which had allowed Flintoff's men to escape with 1-1 draw.

Worst last 7 wicket collapse for India
(ln last 14 months)

 Runs-Wkts Opposite Venue Year
 55-7 South Africa Cape Town 2007
 25-7 England Mumbai 2006
 36-7 Sri Lanka Delhi 2005

But more than the collapse on the penultimate day of Cape Town Test, it is the approach, which puts question mark on India's batting efforts.

While on one hand, it was laudable to send Sehwag as an opener in a bold move to boost up the scoring, it was bizarre how the scoring rate came down once Ganguly had fallen.

At 90 for three with a lead of 131, a reasonable scoring rate would have put South Africa under tremendous pressure. But what one saw was a toothless  batting display by Tendulkar and Dravid where they put up just 24 runs in as many as 91 deliveries. In fact, the first 19 runs of the partnership took a good 80 balls to come.

Tendulkar - Dravid Partnership

 Runs Balls Strike-rate
 10 40 25.0
 9 40 22.5
 5 11 45.5

The South Africans just love this kind of clawless resistance. When Tendulkar plays like a debutant Harris, scoring just nine runs of 35 deliveries, they like it even more.

The 4th wicket partnership allowed India to be dominated and for once it looked the visitors were looking for an escape. South Africans simply did not need second invitation.

Tendulkar off various bowlers

  Balls Runs SR
 Pollock 10 0 0.00
 Harris 35 9 25.71
 Kallis 17 5 29.41

For most Indian batsmen, the problem is not technique. You can't simply make so many of these runs without technical excellence and some minor adjustments over the years.

The main problem is that of temperament.

May be a top quality, permanent psychologist is long overdue for batsmen, who look worn out both mentally and physically.

ht epaper

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