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Ten conclusions from Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008: Second Test
by Chetan Narula
Oct 28, 2008
Huge, massive, colossal, humongous would only be a few words recounting the 320 run win at Mohali. But that is just one side of the coin for Dhoni's team, rather Kumble's team, no wait, Team India. For on the other side, there are still a couple of points that need to be sorted out before the third Test begins. As concerns the Kangaroos, there is no upside to their coin, they actually need to mint their way out of this mess.

And, hence from the Mohali Test, we conclude:

The game of cricket is a great leveler. At Bangalore, the pitch threatened to crumble from the first day, yet held on for five days. At Mohali, it appeared to be flatter than it is usually here, obviously under-prepared, but it had good carry throughout, plus a little bit for every one involved in the game.

And the luck had a bit part to play as well. The Indians didn't get many appeals going their way in the first Test, the visitors benefited on a few occasions. With the exact opposite panning out, on a helpful pitch plus some aggressive captaincy, the end result was well, a result and not a draw like in the first game, and thus a good advert for Test cricket. Too bad only a couple of thousand people came to see it!

Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest batsman of modern day cricket. More than 12000 crackers added to the broad daylight and it only shows the anticipation his record had created amongst his billion followers. Add 16000 to that figure and you get 28000 international runs scored over two decades, only meaning that this is the finest record ever assembled. Yes, Ricky Ponting is breathing down the neck in Tests but what of the ODIs? Unlike others, the Little Master has done it, time and again, in both forms of the game, handling overwhelming pressure at all times. And his stature is beyond question!

Dada will get what he wants in his last international series and that is to go out on a personal high. He's got the runs to show for it, a couple of good innings in the first Test and a ton in the second, mean that he can fail in the next two games and no one would hold a grudge against him. Knowing him though, he won't and would certainly want to go out on a winning note. The good news is that he is already half way there!

He's not the proverbial new kid on the block, having played domestic cricket for a good enough duration; but Amit Mishra has given hope to all those who thought the Indian spin factory is near close-down. A seven wicket haul in the match means that there will be added focus on Anil Kumble's performance in the third Test, if he gets fit in time that is. This sort of pressure won't be anything new for the legendary work-horse, but more importantly, Mishra's feat means that there are suddenly two leg spinners in the team, one performing and the other non-performing. Mishra might indeed sit out in Delhi, but if Kumble fails here, then we'll be hearing an announcement from him soon enough!

The Aussies can't bowl India out twice; that is now a foregone conclusion. In Bangalore, it was quite obvious that if the Indian batting line up doesn't commit hara-kiri, then the visiting bowlers will find this a long, hard tour. In Mohali, the same came true. The Indian first innings could have been even better, had the Aussies been not so lucky with two batsmen caught down the leg-side. That they couldn't exert any pressure even when India were trying to rebuild means that there is a lot lacking in their attack. In the second innings, things kind of fell apart when the hosts attacked, and it will continue to do so, unless something changes for the Aussies, and fast!

Done with the Aussie bowling, it is now time to talk about their batting. If there's one way they could have saved face in this series, it would have been their collective prowess with the bat. But bar a couple of odd innings, the batsmen too seem to have left their form at home. Hayden just can't see off Zaheer it seems, Katich can't go on for too long after getting a start; if Bhajji doesn't get Ponting, Ishant will; Hussey will not be around every time and Clarke is struggling unlike 2003! And it is too much to expect a lot from Haddin, White and Watson if either the spinners or seamers are on song.

This means that the usual lynch-pins of the team have failed to fire for the Aussies this time around and with four innings remaining, time is sort of running out on them to improve their performances on this trip. Maybe the eight day break will help them get their thoughts together!

Is it the beginning of the end for Ricky Ponting? There are just some instances when you know that it indeed begins now, time for a change that is. Ponting looked bereft of ideas in Mohali, like he was defending 434 all over again. And in this quandary, he didn't use his main attack weapon, Lee, to the optimum, so much so that the pacer had to remind the skipper of his presence on the field. There is something called 'intent', which goes a long way in determining where the team is headed, especially on a cricket field.

After a very long time, an Aussie team didn't show its intent to bring about a change in the proceedings, its captain didn't show any intent to attack, or even try for a rearguard action. With the rampaging South Africans up next at home, suddenly the world number one ranking doesn't seem all that safe.

Up until the Australian first innings, the series had been fought on a level pegging. The Aussies believed that they could upset this Indian team, in India and they almost did it in Bangalore. But every one knows by now that India always had the upper hand over them, except that they failed to exert themselves. It so happened that in the second Test, a moment came about when the Indians could have done so, telling the Aussies, "Hey mates, we are better and we are going to blank you silly!" And this was when the Indian captain had the chance to enforce the follow-on.

Yes, the bowlers were tired and all that jazz, but in all fairness, they are professional cricketers and it is not too much to ask them to bowl one more session that day. Maybe India didn't want to risk batting last, for they too fear what they did in Kolkata, 2001. But if an Indian captain could take such a decision at that time, it had to be Dhoni out of Kumble and him. That he still didn't is however a different matter.

And this goes to say that MS Dhoni is now firmly ready to take full charge of the Indian team and anybody who thinks otherwise, simply needs to revise his/her cricketing acumen. Anil Kumble was expected to be a stop-gap arrangement and clearly that arrangement has outlived its utility. This would have been an ideal opportunity to move on, with Kumble relinquishing the job and allowing the smoothest of transitions. But then, when has that ever happened in Indian cricket?

Eventually then, gossip mongers have gotten their due, as the clock begins to tick for the current Indian Test captain. What if Kumble is indeed fit for the third Test? Will he drop Mishra, or a sixth batsman? What if Australia draw, or even worse win the match? What if he fails to pick another wicket in this match as well? Won't then that affect the team psychology too?

Yes, conjecture indeed, but under Dhoni, for an hour at Bangalore and a Test in Mohali, the Indian team was a completely different batch from the one Kumble has led for the past year. Maybe, Gary Kirsten was indeed right and we need to take him more seriously!

 
More Views by Chetan Narula
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