India lose 1st Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

The agony is finally over. If it was agonizing for the Indian batsmen, it was equally so for us to watch that. A rain-delayed Test match that initially seemed destined for boring draw, gave India its third greatest defeat on the 4th day and has raised scathing questions of India’s Fab Four (in fact, Fab Five, including Kumble who went wicketless).

I actually started writing this post hours after the innings defeat to Sri Lanka, but didn’t get around to writing more than the first sentence. Perhaps that was for good, for it wouldn’t have been anything more than ranty, rambly, irritated, angry and haunted. Today, I feel very differently about it and have more sympathy for the batting line up, than they have been getting in the last 24 hrs. That’s not to say there is no anger, neither is there any proper excuse for the manner in which the batting folded completely, but if at all there is any slack to be cut it is for this Indian line up. This Indian line up won against at good South African line up, a weak Pakistan team, and had Australia on the mat on several occasions, so much so that Gilchrist conceded that India won the series 2-1. Somehow, we have forgotten all that and ranted in typical Indian fashion. So what caused this colossal debacle? We can only speculate in hindsight. Maybe it was complacency, maybe it was lack of preparation, perhaps it was even a sense of taking Sri Lanka too lightly (or at least lighter than they should have), but to me the most unforgivable part of this collapse was the lack of fighting-spirit and self-belief among the top order batsmen.

Let’s look at this from a first innings vs. second point of view, and a bit objectively shall we? To me the first innings seemed more like a mix of less-than-50% effort,”neither-here-nor-there” faith, rashness, and complacency than lack of skill or being bamboozled. The second innings was starkly different: one of over-cautiousness, despair, resignment to loss and finding the quickest route to it.

Here is my analysis by batsmen:

Sehwag: started rather aggressively, though many suggest (and I agree) it was more brainless than foolhardy. He was in T20 mode, but he has always be in that mode, even before that form of the game exsisted. In the second, he played with a bit more brain, maybe had some harsh words from coach Kirsten, but was given out on a very contentious decision. What are the umpires paid for? Can’t they make it through one match (or even one innings without a glaringly wrong one). The on-field umpire (though this was Mr. Incompetent Benson who I have ZERO respect for him), I understand – he has only a split second to decide – but not third umpire Koertzen who could have very well caught the deflection off the pad, if only his eyes were open.

Gambhir: played in T20 fashion, but quite well, better than I had expected, especially in the second innings. There was a trace of intent to occupy the crease. Though he fell to Murali in the very early overs in the first innings, and then again to Murali in the second, the latter was a more patient Gambhir. This kid will learn and must be persisted with, above any of the younger lot.

Dravid: arguably the tragedy of the batting line up. Is it the media pressure,or the board pressure for wanting him to keep wickets else get lost? He started the first innings rather positively – that uppish shot off Murali(?) which fetched him one of his two boundaries from that outing was nothing short of positive. But he was clearly bamboozled by Mendis’s carrom. The second innings demotion from #3 was possibly to allow Laxman to hold one end, or even in the hopes of an Eden repeat from 2001, but this move probably shattered the shards of self-confidence that he brought. I don’t know what has happened to India’s never-say-die man with so-called nerves of steel. If anyone deserves any faith, it’s him. God save Dravid!

Tendulkar: The man most capable of tackling Murali, with an average in the 60s against him, threw his wicket away in the first innings. He seemed to be in half a mind whether to play it or leave it, and ended up dragging it on to his stumps. Forgivable? By Tendulkar’s standards, no, but nobody’s perfect. The second innings dismissal is just sad. There isn’t much else to be said there.

Ganguly: first innings rashness and a saw him play a sweep shot, when he knew a fielder was there. Completely uncalled for while chasing a mammoth score. The second innings attempt by Ganguly was nothing short of callous carelessness. He had already given up, not wanting to fight it out.

VVS Laxman: Ok, I don’t have the heart to blast him, not after that tremendous effort in the first innings. No one, I repeat, no one else can fight with the tail, without losing hope, even in the most hopeless situations. In times of dire need, there is a sense of relief when he takes to the crease; a feeling that the damage will stop, even if it is to delay the eventual. He deserves to bat at #3, though nobody else can bat so successfully with the tail at #6. With Dravid in the state he is in at the moment, it seemed logical to promote him (which I had suggested here), but he fell and too quickly for the Indians to digest.

Dinesh Karthik: I think he has reached the end of his sudden stroke of luck in Dhoni’s absense. Though I will not be surprized if he makes in next XI, that might just be it.

Having said all this about the Indian batting, it was a collective failure that cost India dear – batting, bowling and fielding. You cannot allow fear to overcome skill. Umpiring atrocities notwithstanding, you cannot drop a batsmen twice, that too the likes of Jayawardene, and expect the favor to be returned or to win a test match. You cannot bowl to pass time without any regard to line and length. On the other hand, you must not milk a fast bowler till he bleeds. Kudos to Ishant for a gutsy showing with the bat: he lasted 70 mins with Laxman and faced 54 balls, for his 13.

Credit must be given to Ajantha Mendis for getting two of India’s best – Laxman and Dravid – not once but twice. That is more credit that I could ever write. Murali was perhaps his normal self. The pressure that both the spinner put from either end helped them both.

What now for India? Some gameplan, strategy and tons of self-belief and courage. Meanwhile shall we stop the trash talk for moment? This series ain’t over yet!

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16 Responses to India lose 1st Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

  1. Cracker of a write VM!
    Yeah, the fear was evident in the batsmen, and a general lack of interest in the bowlers . Time pass with bowlers, and not even that with the batsmen, eh? Even England takes it to the fifth, they owe us a day – with interest.
    Repeat, Sehwag+Gambhir are the key for the series, will someone tell them that. And Ishant should bowl have got Mahela atleast. Still wonder why dada was bowling when he came in?

  2. Meant: Ishant should have bowled when Mahela came in.

  3. vmminerva says:

    @NC, thank you. “Still wonder why dada was bowling when he came in?”, a question worth pondering indeed.

  4. hindsight is very good thing VM… šŸ™‚

    they deserve eveybit of pasting the are getting…if you again look at score book yo will find that only 88 overs of spin was needed to bundle them out twice which doesn’t constitute even a single day!!

    a team filled with the most experienced batsmen one can get cant hold crease for largely a day not once but twice…its a shame nothing less…and its sometimes nice to call spade a spade…

    another ancient weakness that we have is that we never start well when we are favorite…some how we want trashing down our @sses to come to senses and they duly got that…now it remains to see how they respond to it…and if they go more or less the same i bet one place in the middle order will be up for grab by the time series ends…

    who that will be?

  5. Q says:

    They will bounce back. Surely.

  6. Cricketer says:

    Oh! Hw bad this indian guy is. He is not going going to highlight d wndrful spin bowlin atack daa i ve ever seen, but to show dat indians play badly nt once bt twice.This make me lough dear.Anyway itz nothing but the quality of murali n mendis.The talent they hv got is immence and this is the best spining bowlimg pair in history of cricket.No doubts in ma mind.
    and wt s dis analysis you hv given.Why you r saying sachin is unlucky in 2nd innings.Actualy he is unlucky only becoz everybody realized how unhonesty he is.A big edhe off the bat,but he weired his face like he never ever edge the ball.How disgrace dear. Shewag was plumb coz he is not playing a shot and the ball pitched right inside the track.Umpire should hv ruled him out straightly as great david shepard did when batsmen are nt offring shot.
    Only thing that couse india to depeat is the great bowling of murali and mendis.India bAtted to their streanth buT two spinners made it their day.
    Hope for a good fight frm india nxt tym…..

  7. Soulberry says:

    Dravid’s extended run troubles me too. It’s over a year long now. Surely, he must be capable of proper introspection. That said, he could end up India’s top run getter in this series…or one of the top three.

  8. vmminerva says:

    @SP, still angry huh? šŸ™‚ Who do you think that middle order batsmen will be. I’m curious now.

    @Q, I expect that will be the case.

    @Cricketer, welcome to my blog. We shall see what happens.

    @Soulberry, yes, Drav’s been rather worrying. But I still think the problems are psychological. Let us see. India needs him to return to normalcy.

  9. Som says:

    You know what? I missed Warne! I remember how Warne the RR skipper assigned roles to each member of his IPL team. I think Kumble too would have done well to assign two to go after at least one of the spinners. They just walked in and volunteered their head on the chopping block. Everyone seemed to have retired to their destiny of being scalped by M&M. I have not seen a more feeble capitulation.

  10. ankit says:

    @VM

    “the board pressure for wanting him to keep wickets else get lost”

    where did that come from? or have i been that out of touch with what is happening with dravid.

    @Som

    i think i missed the role assigning in kumble’s captaincy too (in this match). but credit goes to the two spinners.

    @cricketer

    why don’t you first work a little on your English, before blasting VM here? so that we souls could understand a word of what you have written!

    @Q, VM

    though i definitely want india to bounce back in the next test, and have a chance in the last one, it will take no short of a repeat of another perth effort, considering the wicket is of Galle, where india have been traditionally worried by murli.

    good luck to the team.

  11. vmminerva says:

    @ankit, there was some news about Kumble insisting on a second wicketkeeper, while the board suggested that they could use Dravid’s wicketkeeping skills. The emphasis “else get lost” was mine. Sorry to create sensation – too much watching news is affecting me, I guess. Either way, I see that as a very real red flag.

    Of the next match, true, it will take another Perth effort, arguably even more.

  12. trideep says:

    Nice write up!!

    I agree with u.. This series aint over yet. India will definetely bounce back. Surely India needs to improve, whether its batting, bowling, feilding. But I feel they will definetely come back.

  13. scorpicity says:

    My question is whether anybody is going to look beyond harbhajan singh in tests

  14. vmminerva says:

    @Scorpy, honestly, I doubt it, at least at the moment. But India’s spin closet is as bad as South Africa’s at the moment. Piyush is no where near class. To me, Powar seems ok.

  15. Soulberry says:

    Dravid needs to gather his mind around quickly now. A year-long meditative break is now being noticed. Before anyone can say “that’s sleep not meditation,” Rahul needs to demonstrate activity around and on his being…or rather, consequent to activity of his being.

    The batting should hopefully pull together now, but does India have the attack to pull back even one match in Lanka?

  16. vmminerva says:

    @Soulberry, he definitely needs to. As for the Indian bowling attack, something special has to happen.

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