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The 'low-downs' of the Border-Gavaskar series - Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Nov 10, 2008
Australia had come to India in total cognizance of the fact that the Indians would be favorites to lay their hands on the Border-Gavaskar trophy. It was a hard-fought one, but in the end, it wouldn't be too far off the mark to use the cliche that the best team did go on to clinch it.

This piece reviews the not-so-great moments of the four test match series that ended today with a 2-0 scoreline for India.

'Negative-Aussie-mindset' moment of the series: The talk of the town was the surprisingly defensive tactics that the Aussies employed right throughout the four test matches. However, the biggest moment, for me, came even prior to the commencement of the first test match at Bangalore, when the Aussies decided to go in with Cameron White as their frontline spinner in place of Jason Krejza. Not so much because one regarded Krejza as highly as one did in the hindsight, after his eight-wicket haul, but because it smacked of the defensive mindset that the Aussie brain-trust had got into for this series. The sense that one got from the outside was that White's selection was more to do with his batting prowess as a number eight batsman than anything to do with his attempt at slowish leg-breaks.

If it was a trial based on some sort of a gut feel - and I certainly don't believe that was the case - Krejza could have been tried at least a test match earlier than he was. Even when the offie was picked, it was ahead of Stuart Clark, a bowler who could have worked wonders with his impeccably miserly bowling. It looked a clear case of confused priorities, or a darned negative approach to the series, almost as if to say that they were happy to lose the series 1-0 instead of 2-0.

Disappointing moment(s) of the series: Now this has been something that has often been spoken about, but not been acted upon. The crowds, or the lack of them anyways, was by far the biggest dampener of one of the biggest match-ups of recent times. Despite having a fair cognizance of the home team starting as the favourites, the home crowds preferred to stay away from most of the action. One of BCCI's chief personnel, I.S. Bindra hit the nail on its head when he admitted that for long, the stadium audiences had been short-changed, and that itself necessitates a change. The facilities at most grounds in India have been, at best, appalling.

However, the problem is slightly more deep-rooted than that and most of it is to do with the paradigm shift of this generation to instant gratification that the likes of IPLs and ICLs of the world have to offer. One look at the crowds for most of the matches in the unrecognised ICL bears ample testimony to this.

I wonder if one Mr. Lalit Modi is listening, watching and planning, for the oldest format of this game.

Distasteful moment of the series: Aggression is a good trait to possess against a team which is not known to budge an inch. However, it is an art that needs to be practiced well before getting on to the hallowed turf, or else one may end up being in the shoes of Gautam Gambhir. Not only was the delivery of the soccer-like elbow to Watson in a really bad taste, it was also downright foolish. Gambhir was easily the best batsman of the Indian team in the series - as he has been for more than a year now - and by exhibiting that child-like vulnerability to the on-field chatter, he only managed to play into the Aussie hands.

Having said that, I have no doubt in mind, that Chris Broad has exhibited a hopeless one-sidedness in his decision-making process so far. Watson was let-off without too much damage, while Simon Katich was not even booked for prohibiting Gambhir from taking off for a single. Clearly, there was an Indian rule-book, and another for the rest of the world. Almost an apt, Adam Gilchrist-like, "different strokes for different folks" here according to me.

Teary moments of the series: More than anything else, this series would be remembered for the curtains that fell on two of the most illustrious careers in Indian cricket. Sourav Ganguly announced his retirements at the very start of the match-up, while Anil Kumble barely gave a whiff of the impending end, and gave way on the final day of the third test match.

The pressure had been on all the five senior members of the Indian team, and as harsh it may sound, Ganguly was the first one to buckle. Left out of the Irani squad before the series, and then got back in after a change in the selectorial guard, Ganguly decided that he had had enough and promptly made his intentions clear. The eulogies hadn't even ceased flowing, when two successive injuries to Kumble forced him out of international cricket. Two absolutely correct decisions brought out more than just a couple of tears from the aficionados of Indian cricket.

Out-of-form moments of the series: There were two, out of whom much was expected. For India, Rahul Dravid needed to put his dry-as-the-Sahar-desert patch behind him and get amongst the runs, where as their opponents had a quick bowler in Brett Lee who was coming of a rough off-field escapade.

It would be fair to say that by the time the series had drawn to a close, both left much to be desired.

Just when one thought that it couldn't get worse for the Indian number three bat, Dravid's average plummeted further southward. At the other end, Lee's inability to pick up wickets was accentuated by the fact that he had been expected to lead the pace bowling pack.

The umpteen times that Dravid nicked to the slips made one think of a pre-match slip catching practice, and this was soon replaced by inside edges that invariably went on to hit the stumps. Lee, on the other hand, gave an insight into his disturbed state, as kept appealing for LBWs that were hopelessly beyond the realms of going in his favour even with the most biased of umpires around.

Worst timing in the series: Now this one is not directly associated with the series, but one cannot help wonder that the timing of the release of the three-pronged attack, in the form of the books released by Adam Gilchrist, Ponting and Andrew Symonds could have been much better.

The trio came out with breaking-news-like revelations that had targeted almost anything remotely associated with Indian cricket. But by that time, their on-field performances in the series had been barely as sensational as the excerpts that came out thick and fast in the media. Beyond a certain point, the reactions turned from anger to disbelief to surprise to finally, indifference, and without opening those cans of worms again, one really thought that the Aussies could have at least waited before getting their performances back on track.

Selfish moment of the series: What else but one Mr. Ricky Ponting's decision to keep self before the team? Fearing a one test match ban due to slow over-rates, Ponting brought on the part-time bowlers for a lengthy period of time in the final test match, when the situation demanded something totally different. Watson had been delivering bananas before this Ponting tactic, and the Indians had been struggling for almost the first time in the series.

Such was the shock that the Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland, decided to quiz Ponting over these negative tactics, again. It probably summed up the series aptly for Australia.
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