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Lessons from Sabina Park
by Sunil Gavaskar
Jun 26, 2011

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By Sunil Gavaskar

Comments

India’s win in the first test at Sabina Park was a well earned win, for the pitch was not an easy one to bat on. There was bounce and there was turn from day one of the game which was unusual but also brought out the technique and temperament of the batsmen. In circumstances like these there is no one better than Rahul Dravid who simply relishes the challenge that such pitches bring on and is at his combative best.

The reason why test matches show the men from the boys is because it is such pitches that provide the real examination of a player’s technique and temperament and how he guts it out is what tells more about him than any other form of the game. The player’s also know it and so are keen to do well in Tests because they will be remembered more for their test deeds than their performances in limited overs cricket. Batting in Test cricket is different than in limited overs cricket simply because, unlike in limited overs cricket the bowlers are trying to get you out every ball.

In limited overs cricket even if the bowler does not get a batsman out but restricts him to a couple of runs in the over he and his captain will be satisfied. In test cricket unless you get the batsman out the team is likely to be fielding for a long time and however good a fielder a player is he does not relish that prospect. For the bowlers too it is a test of temperament since he has to show the ability to come back even after he is hit. He also has to adapt to the pitch be it one that has bounce and spin or one where the ball hardly moves. If it is a pitch where there is bounce and spin he has to curb his excitement and bowl the right length else all the assistance he is getting from the pitch will come to naught.

How often have we seen on bouncy pitches fast bowlers wasting their energy and the new ball by bowling it short when a fuller length would have helped them take advantage of the pitch and, how many times we have seen how on a spinning pitch bowlers have bowled too flat and thus dropped the ball short and allowed the batsmen to negotiate them from the back-foot.

 

It was here that the Indian spin bowlers missed out. They not only bowled short of good length which let the batsmen play them off the back-foot, they also bowled a line that was restrictive than destructive. As a batsman I can tell you that it is far more difficult to change a shot when one is on the front foot than on the back-foot where the extra foot or so helps you in making any adjustments to counter the deviation of the ball.

Devendra Bishoo who is relatively new to international cricket bowled fuller and tossed the ball up and though he went for a few boundaries he picked up wickets. The Indian spinners having played plenty of limited overs cricket bowled a flatter quicker trajectory that did not help them exploit the wicket as well as Bishoo did. Still it is early days and with the experience they have they should be able to come back in the remaining tests.

What the Sabina Park pitch did was also show the young Indian batsmen that there is a world of a difference between Test cricket and one-day cricket. Abhinav Mukund, Virat Kohli have scored plenty of runs on pitches where all they have to do is get onto the front foot but in tests where pitches have a little more bounce they have to play on the back-foot and play around their ribcages which is not the hand movement and balance they are used to and thus the difficulty in playing those deliveries. They may not have got runs but both showed gumption and that is a plus and as they play more of such type of bowling and on such pitches the better they will become at it. They would have learnt a lot watching how Dravid batted and how he slowed his bat speed to ensure that he had the time to play the quick’s and ensures that even if the bounce caught him by surprise the bat speed would ensure that the ball didn’t lob up in the air.

As it seems to happen in Jamaica whenever there is cricket there is rain and the rains did come but late in the evening of the fourth day well after the match was over. That brought memories of India’s tour in 2002 when the rains came barely few minutes after India had lost their last wicket and with it the series 1-2. So hard was the rainfall that the presentation of the awards had to be done indoors and the rains didn’t stop for the next five days and the two one-dayer’s in Jamaica had to be abandoned. If only the tail-enders had stuck around for a couple of overs the series would have been shared. of course this is not an attempt to point a finger at the tail when the top order also had not done much but that last morning it was clear that with such a heavy cloud cover the rains were round the corner and all it needed was the tail to try and hang in there instead of going for the big shots.

That was then and the Indian tails has improved considerably and are no longer pushovers and that's why the 2006 and 2011 matches at Sabina Park have gone in India’s favour.

Let us hope that the team does not relax as they did after the one day series was won and let the West Indians narrow the margin. It’s not often that India wins all the tests but this series does give a golden opportunity to do so.

 
More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
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