Tuesday, January 29, 2008

India in Australia: Reflections

The series is over with a bit of an anti climatic end - there was no result in the final match of the series, dousing all hopes of India leveling the series. Sure India and Sehwag fought well to hold on for a draw and for the Aussies drawing a game is probably probably as bad as losing it. The Indians can hold some comfort in that. They can also be proud of fighting well and keeping the series alive right till the end. In the end the Australians did win the series and were deserving winners. Here are some of my takeaways:

Maybe its just me, but the series win doesnt feel as satisfying as it could have been. The specter of Sydney still looms over the series win, especially with the Harbhajan hearing commencing shortly. The inclusion of new stump mike recordings/transcripts adds another bizarre dimension - every time you wonder if the ICC can screw up some more, they prove you wrong!

Is it just me of is Gilchrist's retirement a shock to all of us? He has definitely given Pakistanis and Indians many many nightmares but Im still sad to see him go so unexpectedly. For me that historic turnaround in Hobart where Australia chased down a record 369 with Gilchrist hitting a century was a defining moment. The Pakistani attack had Waqar, Wasim, Shoaib, Saqlain and 369 on the board- how much better can it get? The Indians have their own share of Gilly nightmares, specially the world cup ones. Sure, I respect and understand Gilchrist's rationale for bowing out while on top - that is what true champions do. But his announcement seems very hasty - his family didnt even know until the 4th Test was in progress... I just wonder if the events of the Sydney test had anything to do with his decision. I dont want to speculate, but a reflective, honest chap like Gilchrist may no longer want to play as hard with the "win at all costs" mentality of Ponting. Im curious to see what he says in the days to come. Hats off to one of the best ever - I salute you for giving us some great memories and for bowing out on your own terms.

The final thing that caught my attention is that playing Australia definitely brings out the best in India - whether it is at home or away. Lifting your game and challenging the best is an admirable quality to have. I read on cricinfo that the tally reads 6-5 in Australia's favor if you look at recent matches- cricket is definitely the benefactor in this contest. I hope that the next generation of Indian and Australian cricketers keep this context alive, but within the spirit of the game. For every Laxman there must be hundreds of youngster's taking up cricket. But for every Sydney there must be a few who ask - is it worth it?

Finally, Ponting's observation that India is going to lose many of its most experienced cricketer's is an interesting one. He backs up Australia to emerge from such losses because of the quality of the domestic Australian cricket scene - you can argue that they have already done ok after losing Warne, McGrath, Langer, Martyn. But what about India? For so long the focus has been on producing quality fast bowlers like neighboring Pakistan - have they neglected the batting department? You can see very good fast bowlers like Ishant Sharma emerge out of the system. But if you look at the batting, judging from the opening woes, the signs look ominous. Who will fill in for Ganguly, Laxman, Tendulkar, Dravid? At the same time if you look into the Indian domestic scene I am fearful that the wham-bam IPLs and ICLs with all their money will take talent away from the longer version of the game. Its not a final judgement - just a fear.


Make your pitch on this post...

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12 Pitched:

  1. Ottayan said...
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  2. Ottayan said...

    "For so long the focus has been on producing quality fast bowlers like neighboring Pakistan - have they neglected the batting department?" - excellent observation.

    However, alongside it the major reason for the lack of new quality batsmen is the preference given to ODI's.

    If you observe, most of the 'hopefuls' have graduated out of one day teams, eg.Yuvraj,Kaif etc.,

    Sadly it means a lot of batsmen with excellent technique have not got their due.

  3. David Barry said...

    I'm glad that the Cricinfo article you mentioned gave the recent score as 6-5 between the two teams. I've seen scores like "10-8" since after the 91/2 series, but that hides the fact that Australia used to get walloped in India and India the same in Australia.

    Now both sides are competitive in each other's countries, which makes the rivalry much more interesting.

  4. obaid said...

    hey guys, good to be exchanging comments with both of you again... I have been away for a while and have no real excuses. Thanks for the great comments and reading

    Ottayan, great point. I think this over exposure to ODIs and now 20/20 will only make the problem worse. If we completely overhaul the definition of what a good batsmen is then we will be in a lot of trouble. Look at Gilly, Symmonds and other aggressive Australian batsmen... they can play in any form of the game, we cant say the same for an Afridi. I hope good test batsmen get recognized and that the 3 and 4 day forms of first class cricket dont get marginalized.

    David, another good observation. Look at the recent Ashes exchanges. England did win in England and got completely walloped in Australia. You raise a good point that while this used to be true for India vs Australia, it is not true any more :)

    To draw a parallel with the other sport I love, its like Nadal stretching Federer to 5 at Wimbledon and Fed stretching Nadal at the French

  5. Q said...

    I agree with Ottayan, that that is an excellent observation. India have come up with amazing talent as far as bowlers are concerned -zaheer, nehra, balaji, Rp, Pathan, ishant, Sree, etc...

    As for the bat there have been some good batsmen who have made their mark in ODIs - Starting from Yuvi and Kaif to Raina, Uthappa, Gambhir, and Rohit Sharma. I see no reason why these guys can be good test players - they def have the potential.

  6. Soulberry said...

    I think spin too has been neglected on both sides...we expect them to bloom like wildflowers on these lands.

    Excellent post Obaid...and Gilly is one of my favorites too.

  7. Q said...

    Obaid, the match that u talk about where Australia chased 369 to win the test was the 2nd test of the Pak-Aus series in 1999 and Gilchrist scored an unbeaten 149 to win the game for Australia by 4 or 5 wickets. He shared a huge partnership with Langer who got a 100 as well. That test was marred with bad umpiring decisions. Whats astonishing though is that that test was Gichrist's 2nd test! He had scored 80 odd in his debut test against Pakistan.

    I reckon, he played his best test innings in his 2nd test. And his best ODI innings was also a 149 in last years World Cup Final.

  8. Obaid said...

    Soulberry, very true... so batsmen and spinners are the need of the hour. If we try and find them then keepers and fast bowlers will become scarce... what a see saw battle

    Q, I know, I watched that game. I still remember that one bat-pad decision against Gilchrist off Saqlain's bowling that wasnt given

    And Pakistan as always has a habit of launching careers for players from other teams. This must be some sort of disgraceful record, i.e having tha largest number of players with their personal best against Pakistan

  9. Q said...

    Not only Gilly, even Langer was caught behind of Wasim Akram but not given. We would have won that game..sadly we didnt have the powers that India does to replace the umpire and threaten a boycott of the tour...

  10. Straight Point said...

    very good observations obaid...

    its nice to have neutral views coz sometime one can overlook certain things being from within.

    we have got some good talents but the crux of the problem is that all of our Fab four are batting like anything...winning most of time and its very hard to argue with success...

    but i am of opinion that its high time that we blood in some new talents in batting specially while playing at home to gage their potential otherwise we will not be able to stand looming retirements...

  11. obaid said...

    Hi straightpoint... you are right the the Fab 4 are batting well. As such I dont see why they have to go immediately, but I think there should be an unspoken plan which allows them to go one by one. Maybe they can retire from the 1 day arena and focus exclusively on Tests because that is where their true worth lies

  12. Q said...

    I believe Sachin can play ODIs till the next world cup...Saurav and Dravid though shud call it a day.

    As for tests..Saurav probably has a year left and he should leave on his terms and not let the board kick him out. Apart from 1 test he had a poor series against the Aussies. Dravid probably has another 2 years, and Laxman and Sachin 3-4 years. So it is possible that the big 4 are phased out one by one.

    In 4 years time, India's top 6 in tests could very well look like this:

    1. Virender Sehwag
    2. Wasim Jaffer
    3. Dinesh Karthik
    4. Yuvraj Singh
    5. Rohit Sharma
    6. Suresh Raina

    Maybe even Mohd Kaif can break into that with some strong domestic performances. Gambhir could be playing instead of any of the top 3. Plus Uthappa, though more of an ODI player, could also be considered.

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