India lost first match of another over sear test series. England coasted home with 196 runs. Indians has conceded a lead of more than 190 runs and since then they were just doing the catching up. The international sports scenario increasingly gives equal importance to fitness and skill i.e. physical and mental aptitude. England was the fitter team. Indian team was hamstrung (Zaheer), bugged (viral, Tendulkar) and bruised (Gambhir). Sehwag had already in the injured list. This further tilted the balance in favour of England. England seems to be in control for most of the match except for a session when Ishant Sharma set the cat among the pigeons taking 3 wickets in 16 balls.
Hindsight, foresight and the mental hide & seek.
The rules of leading a life are learnt in hindsight and life is led with a foresight. There is a clear deficiency of both when it comes to BCCI & Test match cricket. BCCI has been big and bold about their (monopolistic) business and given a lot of support to Indian players. If Gambhir, Zaheer, and Yuvraj were fit before the second test started in West Indies, shouldn’t they have boarded a plane to Caribbean and played the third test? Gambhir looked out of sorts for obvious reason; Zaheer broke down after taking two wickets. Gambhir’s injury was freakish and something, which one feels good if we avoid it. Sachin was down with a viral. Sehwag remains unavailable for first two tests. Dhoni needs to make better plans and take some tough decision about the composition of his bowling attack. There was enough rub off the green in this match especially in the second innings on the last day. May be things would change for the good. The best performers in this match for India, Ishant, PK, Dravid, Laxman, and Raina to an extent had a good but a gruesome tour of Caribbean and primed themselves to another fighting test series against the number one contenders. At least it wouldn’t have done any harm
Pietersen finds form.
The one thing Indian team has done is let the Poms get back to form. Indian bowlers bowled incoherent line and lengths and let the English batsman get into the groove, Strauss, Bell, Pietersen, Prior all had good knocks and got used to the conditions and Indian bowling. Indian batting on the other hand helped bowlers find their rhythm and expose the chinks in the batting order. Pietersen is not a batsman you will see and say that this guy will guts it out to find form. Pietersen is a compulsive stroke player who has been scratchy for a couple of seasons now. Zaheer broke down and with no bowling all rounder or Yuvraj Singh chucking pie at Pietersen. He helped himself to a big meaty double century and England posted a huge total that India couldn’t match. Pietersen was restrained for better part of the innings. He played the type responsible innings, where strokes were cut down on all that was flashy and trenched deep for survival. He played a very compelling innings under indifferent batting conditions. He will be the key to English fortunes for the rest of the series.
The other bowlers toiled hard most of the match on the other hand at times, it was toil to watch Harbhajan bowl.
Singh is King-pin
Bhajji needs to shrug it off and think the batsman out. The fizz is mellow, the lengths and lines are meek, timid, and defensive. I mean he can bowl all day round the wicket without getting a decent first class player out. He bowling round the wicket reduces his chances of a bat pad kind of dimissal. He should look to aim at the outside edge of the bat and invite the batsman to play forward on the off side around fifth stump. He should invite the left hand batsman to drive of the front foot with the turn. Dhoni can help him by keeping a short fine leg for a miscue sweep, a forward short leg. A short cover and midwicket for the mistime drive. He definitely seems to have lost it and just trudging around for a year. He lost of ideas and seems fixated bowling defensive trying to contain the batsman. He is neither controlling runs nor taking wickets. Indians were effectively bowling with little more than two bowlers. Ishant and PK looked good. Bhajji should make it large and look to do that soon.
Rahul Dravid is a professional and disciple of patience.
Rahul Dravid has numbers to show that would put any batsman in awe. He is technically perfect of this generation. Dravid holds one end up. We just choose to observe the magnificence of other stroke players around him. It is the comfort that Draivd provides and the partnership he strings with the other batsman that keeps the Indian ship sailing. I mean how many batsmen can score at the rate of Sehwag. How many are as impeccable as Tendulkar, Laxman over the years has become a very dependable bet. Raina is fast learning the tricks of the trade. Rahul Dravid form will continue to direct how performance of Indian team. He scored a century in tough conditions when the stroke makers were guilty of injudicious stroke play. It was Dravid's watertight technique. But his drive, off the front or back on off or legside, remains pristine and delight to watch. You can have photographs of his strokes and it will be a cricket handbook of batting.
Yes, he is orthodox batsman. The Russian orthodoxy would be impressed if anyone of those guys follow cricket. However, expecting him to play like a Sehwag would be like asking Sehwag to play like Dravid. It simple won’t happen. Yes, he was beaten and dropped but he did carry on providing a little bit of respectability to the score. He knows how to weather a storm and build an innings so crucial in Test matches to keep going. Dravid making runs was one of the few good points for the team from thsi match.
PK swing karo.
Praveen Kumar has the talent of get the ball to swing. He bowled tirelessly after Zaheer left hobbling. He seems to almost glide from a shortish run up. His ability to get the ball swing both ways makes him crucial bowlers in the English conditions. I wonder if he could get it to reverse swing. Zaheer and Ishant can get it to reverse with a good degree of control. Zaheer may not (should not) play in the second test. I wonder if PK and Ishant would open the bowling in the next innings. I hope PK claims more wickets because these would be one of the better bowling conditions that he is likely to get for a long time.
Indian cricket is some where in between the hype of a victory and hysteria of a defeat created by the traditional media. There will be tragic losses and exhilarating victory. The game is bigger, more important is to support the team through thick and thin that the game offers. One bad day doesn’t make a bad season. The second test starts at Trent Bridge starts on Friday.