Let’s do what India did that first morning in Indore and run where angels fear to tread. No gentle effort – jumps down the pitch and plays big shots.
Finally winning the toss and batting on a pitch that is likely to deteriorate in the fourth innings doesn’t do much good if you’re bowling an hour after lunch. Strategic high ground assigned! In my earlier mid-day article, I had pointed out the fact that it is not easy to win a Test in a single session, but you can certainly lose one. Throughout this series, both the teams have taken it to heart. Australia did this feat in their second innings at Nagpur and Delhi, but India pulled out the gun by handing the game to Australia by lunch on the first day.
let’s be honest. Had Australia taken the lead in Delhi when India were 130–7, the series could have been 2–1 for the visitors. Most of India’s thinking looked confused for the Indore Test.
Axar Patel is almost an expert batsman at nine. Why he was not moved up to give Cheteshwar Pujara some stability in the second innings will remain a mystery.
The selection of Mohammed Siraj was a complete waste of a position. India could have played with 10 plus sub-fielders. If local knowledge suggested that the pitch was going to be so spin-friendly, why not just field the extra batsman?
In a recent article I said that in India your heart guides you more than your head. This was never more true than on that crazy evening when Ravindra Jadeja was allowed to run with his ego and talk the captain into two referrals that were not clearly out even at first glance. The gun-shy Indians a few minutes later handed out a referral against Marnus Labuschagne that could have changed the game. After this he was thrown a no ball. In Ahmedabad, India must have had the discipline to revert to a rational system of referrals rather than relying on Jadeja’s provocative instincts.
Desperation isn’t reason enough to burn reviews.
On that note, it should definitely be on the ICC’s radar to look into the ridiculous situation where teams take bails and ask for a stumping review because they know full well that it gives them a free catch behind the review. This is a clear example of a gaming system. If fielding teams wish to probe the sneak, they are forced to use review or be content with side-on or stump-cam angles for stumping.
Modern Asian batsmen are no longer the consummate players of spin that their predecessors were. Across Asia, the fast-moving deck is proving a challenge for the home teams. The recent record against visiting teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is poor. India have won because their spinners are better than the opposition, but when it comes to their batting, the modern generation doesn’t even have the patience and supple hands of the Fab Four generation or the silky skills of the Gavaskar-Vishwanath-Vengsarkar era. Today’s batsmen are far more destructive on flat pitches, but appear to lack the patience and craftsmanship to grind their way out, like Pujara in the second innings, on fast-turning tracks.
The fourth Test in Ahmedabad will test India’s resolve. A rising Australia is no longer intimidated by the aura of India. If the pitch is even, it will require the Indians to rely on their defense for much longer, chip away at the unplayable ball and wait patiently for the loose ball. Rotating strike with singles may be safer than running down the pitch like the two Indian openers did in Indore. Both the rash outs opened the door for Australia in each innings and from that point on, India were always playing catch-up. For once, their tail didn’t save them and the weakness of the top-order was exposed.
Inconvenient truths are hard to swallow but India may need bitter medicine. The bottom line is that in the first two Tests, it was India’s lower order that was the difference. Australia realizes this and will plan to exploit this weakness. Hunting the ego of the top order would be part of that plan. It’s still Test cricket… wait for the IPL before thrashing pitches on flat, true pitches.
Michael Jeh is a former first-class cricketer living in Brisbane.