There is no doubt that Team India faced a demoralizing innings defeat at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday in the Second Vodafone Test Match. Infact the match was lost on the opening day itself when India got bundled out for 191 having won the toss and elected to bat first. In the second innings, there was a much better show from the batsmen but it had come very late to have any impact on the match.
Instead of improving their performances from the Melbourne Test, the Indian players did the opposite and thus lost the Sydney match by an embarrassing margin. For India to come out of this 0-2 deficit in the series, a lot will have to do be done whether its the mental part, the technical part or whatever. Each player will have to assess himself and figure of what has gone wrong with him so far. The support staff of Coach Duncan Fletcher, Bowling Coach Eric Simmons and others have got to their act right too. The good thing about the Third Test is that there is a nice gap of six days and India has won its previous Test at the WACA, Perth last time around.
Anyway, let’s look back about the 11 Indian players’ performance in the Sydney Test to see what went wrong and if anything can be done better than this :
1. Gautam Gambhir (Marks 4/10) : India’s misery in the Sydney started with Gambhir’s duck in the very third ball of the match. The southpaw has saved his place in the side with a strokeful 83 in the second innings although one has to say that he had his share of luck. But Gambhir’s stylish and fluent shots are starting to flow again which is a treat to watch.
Gambhir in both the innings got out while trying to close the face of the blade to play square of the wicket. Again that’s the problem with him, Gambhir has got to give more preference to present a straight bat unless the ball is really down the legside. As the only left hander amongst the specialist batsmen, Gambhir does add a great value to the side but if only if he gets going or lasts a significant time in the middle. In the second innings, Gambhir made a slight difference to his game by going hard at the ball outside off instead of those good for nothing dabs on the backfoot and he produced the results with a nice knock of 83. For now, Ajinkya Rahane will have to wait.
2. Virender Sehwag (Marks 2/10) : Sehwag’s failure leads to India’s failure most often. And that’s what had happened in the Sydney Test. In the first innings, Sehwag did show some application by lasting 51 balls for his 30 before nicking behind a Pattinson delivery. Poor footwork led to that dismissal for Viru as he looked to stand and deliver on a seaming pitch. In the second innings, it was a stupid shot from Sehwag, chasing a wide delivery from Hilfenhaus and dangerously trying to cut that in the air. That’s not a shot that can save a Test match right?
Sehwag somehow fails mostly in the second innings of a Test match. He doesn’t add much value to the side in such match saving situations except for his intimidate batting style which works sometimes. One can expect Sehwag to throw his wicket at any moment because of the risky cricket that he plays. A bit of common sense approach from Sehwag in testing batting conditions will help him to produce better results.
3. Rahul Dravid (Marks 1/10) : The Wall is not that solid anymore, his gate is open for any fast bowler to go right across to clean up his stumps. Even Rahul Dravid will be hugely disappointed the way he has got out in this series. India’s no.3 is no more The Great Wall! Wonder if its the age that’s catching up and the reflexes slowing down for Rahul Dravid?
In the first innings, Dravid got out for 5 bat pad when he pushed his bat well away from the line of an indipper from Siddle. In the second innings, there was no doubt it was a magical delivery from Hilfenhaus which got through his gate dismissing him for 29. Looks like Dravid is falling way too across on the frontfoot and pushing at the ball with lot of uncertainty in the mind. We will have to see if Dravid can come up with something convincing or not in the remaining two Tests. If not its time for him to quit with all the honour intact.
4. Sachin Tendulkar (Marks 8/10) : He has been the only batsman so far who has looked convincing against the Aussie quicks. Tendulkar despite being 38 years of age is still moving his feet superbly and having all the time in the world to deal with the express fast bowlers. Sachin is perfectly going back and across which the rest of the Indian batsmen are struggling to so against the steaming pace of the Aussies.
All Sachin Tendulkar needs is steady support at the other end and he can produce the goods. In the Sydney Test, one cannot fault Tendulkar for his knocks of 41 and 80. The little master was sensational on the fourth day with his attacking strokeplay. Of course, it was disappointing to see him to get out to Michael Clarke of all the bowlers in the world!
5. VVS Laxman (Marks 4/10) : If Melbourne wasn’t his happy hunting ground, then the Sydney Cricket Ground certainly was for VVS Laxman as he hit a century on each of his three tours before. But this time, VVS Laxman flopped in Sydney and looks like he is playing the last Test Series for India! Laxman is 37 years of age, still a classy batsman but definitely a dull mover on the field and a poor runner between the wickets. There is no doubt that he has been a safe catcher in the slips on most occasions.
Coming to the Sydney Test, Laxman couldn’t come good in the first innings when Tendulkar badly needed some support to put things back on the right track for India. In the second innings, Laxman did provide the support to Tendulkar but lost his wicket having scored 66. Nobody can blame him for getting out in the second innings as it was an unplayable late outswinger from Hilfenhaus. We will have to wait for Laxman to score well in the remaining two Tests. Even if he scores or nor at Perth and Adelaide, its time India invests on a youngster to take Laxman’s spot once this tour is over.
6. Virat Kohli (Marks 0/10) : It was a player wasted in the line-up by India by persisting with Virat Kohli despite his failure in the Melbourne Test. Rohit Sharma should have played ahead of him but the team management thought otherwise and Kohli flopped again with scores of 23 and 9 in the Sydney Test. Kohli made news not about his batting but for the wrong reason of showing his middle finger to the crowd. Atleast based on his show at the MCG and SCG, Kohli should be dropped by default for the Perth Test and the young man will have to wait for his time to make a Test comeback.
7. MS Dhoni (Marks 3/10) : It was a better Test match as a batsman for MS Dhoni as he scored an unbeaten 57 in India’s first innings. In the second innings, he got out in a bizarre fashion when he was caught and bowled by Hilfenhaus while trying to squeeze out a yorker. The problem with Dhoni these days is that his captaincy is going down the hill. He hasn’t been able to rally his troops and inspire them to lift their levels. Dhoni has to do something dramatic to raise the spirits of his teammates in the coming matches. Probably its time to rest Dhoni from the captaincy burden and hand it over to somebody. At present, Dhoni seems to be suffering from mental fatigue.
8. R Ashwin (Marks 3/10) : As a bowler, Ashwin hasn’t improved from his first test performance. May be it wasn’t that easy to bowl spin on a grassy pitch but having said that there is no excuse of not holding proper lines and lengths at this level of the game. He went wicketless in 44 overs which went for as many as 157 runs. The most important thing is that Ashwin could only bowl four maidens! Its quite surprising that Ashwin hasn’t got his carrom ball, the arm ball and the drifters coming out well on the Australian pitches.
Sourav Ganguly is right in saying that left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha has to come into his place. But let’s not forget that Ashwin has looked really good with the bat. He has scored 20 and 62 in the Sydney Test and its a fact that he has looked far better than some of the specialist batsmen on this tour.
9. Zaheer Khan (Marks 3/10) : The swing is very much happening for Zaheer. The Australian left-handed trio in the top order is his bunny. Zaheer seems to be giving sleepless nights to the likes of Warner, Cowan and Marsh with his superb new ball bowling. But somehow Zaheer couldn’t do anything more than removing these three batsmen cheaply on Day 1. The left-armer is down on pace and he looks more like a Chaminda Vaas kind of bowler these days looking to move the ball both ways to trouble the batsmen. Zaheer will need a bit of more pace to get the results and of course some support at the other end too.
Credit has to be given to Zaheer Khan for bringing India back in the game when he had Australia three down for 37 but the other three bowlers couldn’t keep up the same intensity.
10. Ishant Sharma (Marks 2/10) : The luck isn’t going his way as far as Ishant Sharma is concerned. On a flat pitch at the SCG, Ishant did show some fighting spirit by running in hard and bowling consistently around 140 kmph. He went past the bat a lot of times but couldn’t get the wickets. Ishant also had to blame himself for putting down a return catch offered by Michael Clarke when he was on 182. It was a poor Test overall for Ishant with figures of 1 for 144 in 33 overs.
11. Umesh Yadav (Marks 0/10) : This 24-year-old was a big let down for India in the Sydney Test. There was something missing in his bowling and that could most probably be his rhythm. Melbourne was a different story for Umesh Yadav as he ran in and bowled consistently around 150 kmph to make the Aussies hop. At Sydney, he bowled mostly at 138 kmph and sprayed the ball on both sides of the pitch. He also couldn’t get his outswing going. Yadav went wicketless and leaked 123 runs in 24 overs. A proper rest should recharge the young fast bowler ahead of the third Test.
- A feature by BV Swagath