Saturday, March 4, 2017

Go Green

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It is now no longer about skills. Australia have assaulted India's pride. India might think it's about lack of proper judgement on part of their batsmen, Virat Kohli might admonish his fellow batsmen all he wants for not adapting or applying themselves. That is not going to salvage this series.

The desire that Australia have shown to keep the Border-Gavaskar trophy with themselves seems to have shocked the Indian team into a state of immobility. That Australia have not rolled over into submission as they were expected to have left the Indian team without the back to stand up to Australia's spinners.

Before this long Indian home season, Kohli had marked England among the visiting teams as the team to watch out for. Perhaps he was playing mind games with Australia. Either that has backfired or he was simply wrong in his assessment.

Perhaps India are simply mentally tired after a long home season. May be they did underestimate Australia even though they may never admit it. Perhaps it's just a case of Australia being too good for India so far. There was always the possibility of Australia's spin, with top class pace support and the prolific Steve Smith against India would make this a competitive series. No one was counting on Australia producing such a dominant performance.

There is no precedent to a visiting team felling India's famed batsmen under 200 in 3 straight innings. The response then also needs to be something that is unprecedented. Playing to their traditional strengths has been a shocking failure.

They can't seem to get Steve Smith out before he reaches three figures and they can barely last 2 or 3  sessions against Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe. And KL Rahul's optimism about R Ashwin running through Australia on day 2 appears firmly grounded in delusion. Steve Smith himself has scored a comparable number of runs against India in the last 3 innings than the whole of India's batting has scored against Australia. It is beginning to feel like 20 of Steve Smiths 18 Test 100s have come against India.

Unless something remarkable happens tomorrow this is looking like 0-4 for India. Perhaps too early and irresposible to make it a prediction but after all we do know the making of a white wash feels like around this point in a series.

The only way I think India can now salvage this series is to swallow their pride about spin, and try to trip Australia on green tops. Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe who were scoffed at before the tour are now the most fearsome duo of bowlers ever to visit India.
To take them out of the game is India's best option if they lose this test too to Australian spin.

Among the many things so refreshing about Virat Kohli is how he has kept his fast bowlers engaged even in home conditions. It's time to ask them to salvage this series. Results from 3 innings is good enough to conceded that our batsmen can't handle Lyon and O'Keefe. Let's ask Australia to deal with our fast men. Surely they didn't come prepared for that.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

An Epic Backfire

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One of the most refreshing aspects of Virat Kohli as a sportsman has been his willingness to feed off cricket crazy fans. While those before him at times seemed bogged down by misreading the adulation as "unreasonable expectations" to win every game, Virat Kohli has openly stated that his team will play every game to win and engages with the crowd urging them to egg his team on. 

Those who came before him were willing , for the most part, to grind the opposition down by putting up runs on the board and slowly chipping away at the opposition batsmen and wait for the wicket to naturally deteriorate and go for the kill. This seemed to the Indian Template. Where runs on the board created the pressure in the absence of genuine fast balling and Tests, that appeared to head nowhere suddenly got alive on the last day. 

Most Indian batsmen know how to play on these wickets. When India's own batsmen struggle at home and collapse in consecutive innings one has to wonder if the pitch was a factor. Nathan Lyon is an accomplished spinner and India have lost to him in Adelaide not too long ago. Steve O'Keefe had shown promise in the one Test he played on Australia's recent horror tour of Sri Lanka. Neither are this good though. To knock India out 2 innings in succession in India.

Kohli is the kind of sportsman that most fans of my generation: who grew up watching cricket in the late 70s and 80s, yearned for. A bad ass, no nonsense leader who wants to cleanse Indian teams of their infuriating tendency to seek personal milestones on the road to victory. A trait that has plagued the team for decades. 

However his tendency to seek wins by controlling the pitch curating process is off putting. Not just because it sometimes backfires to humiliate like it did in Pune but it's not how most fans want to see India win.