Most people can push a car out of their driveway, some are fit enough to push it to the end of the street and hardly anyone has what it takes to push it to the next block. Defeating Australia at home is the cricket equivalent of pushing your car to the next block and India at the MCG didn’t look fit enough to even push it out of the driveway.
Several cricket experts were giving India a serious chance in this series on the basis of India’s recent form-essentially their trouncing of one of the weakest Pakistan side of recent years- and also on their relatively successful previous tour. In that 2003-4 tour, Australia’s bowling was rather weak as Gillespie proved rather ineffective without Mcgrath at the other end, Brett Lee was making a comeback after a long layoff from injury and wasn’t half the bowler he is today and Bracken and MacGill proved rather ineffective as well. Australia today however have an extremely potent pace attack and even though there is a question mark hanging over the quality of spin bowling on offer they haven’t allowed that to be a factor as India have lost early wickets in each innings allowing Hogg to bowl at the batsmen under pressure.
India do however boast one of the most talented batting line ups in world cricket and being dismissed for under 200 undoubtedly had more to do with clutter in the head than any demons on the pitch. Making your best batsman bat at a position where his average drops to half in order to accommodate even an immensely gifted individual like Yuvraj isn’t something that is likely to bring Dravid back into the kind of form India need him to be in to compete against the world champions. By not showing any positive intent at the end of the top of the order, the Indian openers not only ensured maximum relaxation for the ball boys but allowed Ponting to set extremely attacking fields and dictate terms.
This problem could be fixed by a change of personnel or preferably a change in mindset. Sehwag could be brought in but it isn’t clear who he would replace. Sehwag’s innings of late have been likened to Bungee jumping where the excitement of watching his breathtaking stroke play gets the adrenaline pumping but it’s over before you even have the chance to catch your breath. Another option could be to get Yuvraj to open the batting with Dravid dropping down to the number 3 spot. At the end of the day it is Yuvraj who is trying to break into the test side and must be willing to play in any position. With Dhoni not in great form with the bat, Dinesh Karthik could be brought in to open as in spite of a poor series against Pakistan he has been India’s leading scorer in tests for 2007 and has played some gritty knocks in testing conditions. It is unlikely that the team management would be willing to drop their vice captain and newfound youth icon after the 20-20 triumph although on pure cricket merit that could prove to be a smart move.
There was never any doubt over the quality of the Indians spinners and with Zaheer Khan and RP Singh being impressive in bursts it’s up to the Indian batsman to deliver. The Australian mentality is to knock their opponents out once they’re on the mat but some much needed impetus at the top of the innings could be just what India need to push their car till the end of the street if not the next block.