Second Test: Confidence Is The Key For India
by P. Rajan
India's romance with cricket is alarmingly passionate,
it is also expectedly illogical: somehow
when the game begins, reason steps back. Our view of
the game is tempered less by the
aesthetic and the intellectual, and more by the
It is why we swing wildly between utter contempt for
our team and undying love.
It is why as a cricket nation we are also susceptible
Much like Anil Kumble was considered the equivalent of
Shane Warne (he never was), and
Dravid/Ganguly/Tendulkar were valued as the best
batting line-up in the world (come now, by
Yet for all the hype it has taken us 15 years to win a
Test outside the sub-continent. And
having won that Test we are likely to puff up with
virtue, though Zimbabwe, peopled with
farmers sons playing a semi-professional game, can
hardly be classified as a world-class
India's worthiness as Test team is two years away
(tours to the West Indies and South Africa
will decide that), but winning the second Test against
Zimbabwe, thus at least displaying
consistency in courage and method, will be at least of
It is good fortune that we have a captain, despite his
dismaying form, who chose introspection
rather than chest-beating after the win. "We've got to
be more consistent in playing good
cricket abroad," he said, and indeed he was right.
Barring a spell of some inspiration by Ashish Nehra,
the new fast bowler, the bowling scarcely
lifted the spirits. Harbhajan, who we have been quick
to cast as Prasanna re-born, is merely an
apprentice in his craft and hardly master, and his
figures 2/45 and 2/44 prove it.
Srinath's game spirit is locked within an ailing body
though his experience makes him
indispensable, especially since Zaheer Khan, who tends
to bowl short and swing the ball only
one way, has not been able to translate his aggressive
demeanor into wicket-taking.
Zimbabwe's one poor innings of 173 in the first
innings sealed their fate, and having studied
India's frailties with the ball they will be kicking
themselves, and marshalling their forces for a
more effective Second Coming. That said, one expects
Harbhajan, and Srinath, to have a
better second Test.
But India's bowling has rarely been spectacular; we
have lacked the pace to intimidate and
been blessed in recent times with only one spinner
(thus attacking only from one end and
praying from the other). It is the bullying batting,
especially at home, that has been India's
weapon, but still it continues to confound.
On one level it is heartening that India's first
innings was propped up by a 66 from Harbhajan
and a 47 from Dighe, suggesting our tail is no longer
content with a timid wag. Yet without
being cynical I'd suggest it was an aberration.
Without diminishing their skills, Harbhajan and Dighe
surely flourished partially because of
mediocre Zimbabwe bowling; therefore, what does that
say about the top order?
Dravid and Tendulkar expectedly were assured, but it
is Das, though dropped numerous times,
who is rapidly becoming headline material. He is no
Gavaskar, though they share physical
similarities and thus a compactness, yet his
temperament is admirable (to Das' great credit he
listens well to his coach, has asked Gavaskar,
Tendulkar and Dravid for advice, suggesting a
player eager to learn rather than one who is merely
satisfied being in the team, which one might
add is a common malaise.)
However, Ramesh's woes are troubling, though his
scores in his last four Tests ----2, 44, 0,
30, 61, 25, 2, 17---are not completely disgraceful.
Ramesh if anything is a prisoner of his style.
He stands and plays, his feet movement minimal, his
method technically unsound, and while that
has fetched him some elegant runs, his dismissals
always look like the result of lazy,
unconcentrated shots (a bit like David Gower, whose
dismissals suggested he was not really
trying, though 8000 plus Test runs suggests
Ramesh's place is on the line, specially with the
ambitious Badani, who has expressed his
willingness to open to Wright (which impressed the
coach that his player was willing to adapt),
ready for battle.
India needs at least a 80-90 run opening partnership
and an early Ramesh dismissal
immediately puts the top order under pressure.
Laxman's skills are evident but scores of 28
and 38 do him no justice; he scores freely and with
abandon but needs to discipline himself to
wait for the right delivery to hit. A big score in the
Ganguly's problems lie in his head and his technique
and scores of 8, 1, 23, 48, 22, 4, 5 in his
last seven innings are arming critics who believe he
is a limited batsman. Winning Tests has
stifled discussion over his form, but eventually, much
like Mark Taylor once, it will be
impossible to escape. He must score.
There is little to say about the Zimbabweans, simply
because India is the better team, and
victory or defeat in the second Test rests solely with
Zimbabwe will play better, though injuries to Streak
and Olonga will be a factor; they may lack
natural gifts but not those of pride. But India should
win simply because they have broken a
barrier, they have shaken off their leg irons and
They have the confidence and often in sport that is
the magical elixir.