July 24, 2007

Luck of the Draw.

It’s not often team India gets out of jail – that too with Indra’s assistance. On Monday, 23rd July, much to everyone’s surprise, India wangled a draw. Now, India is no stranger to the No. 23 – during the ill-fated Caribbean cruise, the Indian team watched the psychological thriller, “the number 23” – all about the voodoo of the number 23. On April 23rd, some days later India’s World Cup ran into a Blue Line bus.

When India went into the 5th morn of the Lord’s test on July 23rd, it appeared the number 23 would hunt them down yet again. But most Blue lines were still off the roads. And much like Jim Carrey does in his feel good films (No. 23 aside), the team must be laughing their heads and God knows what else off.

Is that a good thing? Did India deserve the draw? Will it hurl us into the same old feel good inertia? Or has team India had their share of bad runs? Has their luck turned a corner? What does this draw mean, if anything?

In hindsight, India’s batting was complete crap in the first innings. No test team, barring Australia, can play nearly 80 overs, and score just 201, at barely 2.5 runs per over, and still expect to get back into the game, leave alone hope for a draw. That after the rookies restricted England to 298 (@ 3.26 r.p.o). After conceding a lead of 97 runs, the rookies yet again, thank you very much, restricted England to under 300 – 282 (@ 3.59 r.p.o). And if not for Kevin Pitersen’s single hand, England may have been in big trouble.

But that was to be India’s predicament - left with a day ‘n’ a half ‘n’ a prayer. Somehow the prayer worked and India smuggled a draw. But not before sticking it out for 96 overs – and though India scored at a shade under 3 r.p.o, there was more intent in the second innings. But like the first innings, players got starts, spent time and then got out – Saurav Ganguly remains a 30s and 40s man. Jaffer, Karthik, Tendulkar, Laxman all got in – but failed to soldier on. Is this what happens when Rahul Dravid fails to score? And what if Dravid has a horror run through the series –will Laxman and Tendulkar not find someone to shepherd them to greater glory? Clearly, without Dravid’s long vigil at the wicket, the balance of the Indian innings is shaken.

But because of this drawn test, chances are the Indian team composition will not be shaken. For, too many players have similar non-descript contributions. It’s like the whole team has contributed to this stalemate. 30s, 40s, the odd 50, 60 and loads of single digit scores. Who do you target? It’s either nobody did their job, or everybody chipped in with their pennies.

And though, the chat before the Lord’s test was of a toss up between VVS Laxman, Yuvraj and Dhoni, VVS was special as he killed precious time at the crease - like only he or Dravid can nowadays. And while Dhoni was the No. 1 fall guy after his first innings’ shot, he and the elements finally saved India.

As for Sachin Tendulkar, how does one describe his fevicol-fix to the crease? And though Tendulkar has been stumped very rarely in his career, it’s baffling to see his lack of intent against Monty Panesar? If Warnie could be decoded and destroyed, then pray, what is Monty? Or for that matter, what is Sachin? Now, that is?
Ian Chappell’s comment that Monty Panesar is up there with Warnie and Murali may be a tad premature, but do the Indians already believe in him? If not, why does Sachin Tendulkar continue to play him from the crease?

For India to succeed, it’s imperative that Panesar be bullied in his first spell in the first innings, no matter what. Dinesh Karthik, Saurav Ganguly and M.S. Dhoni can look to get after him, while the other batsman should look to rotate the strike and refrain from blocking. Caution bordering on paranoia against spin will only lead to India’s doom in this series. After the seaming ball, all you need is a sikh spinner dancing the Bhangara on your head – to make it worse, he’s not even in your team.

Dancing aside, Tendulkar and Laxman need to introspect deeply, and adopt a less passive approach. Dravid can even drop down to no. 4 - hope to get the bad decision monkey off his back. Worth exploring VVS at no. 3, as he’s scored heavily at that position –notably against Australia. Jaffer should avoid going into his shell and then playing shots - that can only leave one shell-shocked.

As for the implications of this drawn test, come Friday, 28th July, and we’ll get a sniff. Till then, maybe we should enjoy, a rare glimpse of lady luck dropping our way.

1 comment:

Rhona said...

Well said.