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India's batting engine stalls again
by NT Shiv Kumar
Oct 26, 2006
The scoreline might suggest it was an even keel thriller but it was a minor aberration at the finish line in an otherwise flawless domination by the Caribbeans to reach the semis and leave India at the mercy of the Aussies.

For India, it was one of those days where nothing went right from the word get go – a bizarre team selection that defied logic – four seamers on a docile, slow, barren track. Someone must have been hallucinating on Ahmedabad being a Perth or Headingley and I don’t believe it was Dravid because he seemed as perplexed as the others during the toss when asked about the team composition – he merely mumbled saying they have a quickie replacing Powar.

They say courage and conviction go together and Dravid clearly didn’t have the courage to take the name of RP Singh. Deep in his heart, he knew he was playing a team of 10 for this match. He probably couldn’t win the case with the coach (or with selectors who love to value-add in home series) for atleast going with an extra batsman in Dinesh Mongia who could have provided the batting cushion given the vagaries of the top order batting form.

The Indian top order perhaps think that batting needs to be done with only the top portion of the body – one wondered if Sehwag and Pathan put glue to their shoes to counter the cracks. They took their feet completely out of the batting equation and the manner of their dismissals would certainly sunset all the products they endorse. Another logic- defying decision of sending Pathan at number 3 added to the miseries of the captain who then tried to rebuild it all with Tendulkar.

India’s self-destruct button notwithstanding, the Windies bowlers were impeccable in their length and pace variation that got the better of Tendulkar inside edging an offside flourish onto his stumps – the deathly silence of that moment was soon infused with some energy in the crowd when Dravid and Yuvraj went about the run gathering phase in a workman like manner. 125 for 3 at the half way stage suggested a healthy enough platform to target 260-270 with Dhoni geared up for the late assault.

India lost the plot when Yuvraj momentarily thought he was batting on a hard baked flat track – he played early on his booming cover drive uppishly and perished yet again on slow tracks, something that India needs to worry about if Yuvraj is one of the lynchpins for the WC2007 with similar tracks.

Given that Dravid is so darn crucial for a healthy total, his run out was a game-changing event that stalled the climb though Dhoni injected his dose of octane at the end to make it a fighting ‘death’. Raina was completely out of depth in that situation but one hopes Dravid will continue to invest on him just like Ganguly did on Yuvraj – it’s all about confidence which would have served Raina well had he batted at number 3 in place of Pathan. And that lack of confidence weighed him down to grass the bullet from Gayle early on in the Windies chase.

Munaf Patel’s parsimony was in pleasant contrast to the millionaires in Pathan, Agarkar and RP Singh who thought they were defending a 300 plus total. Agarkar has remained an enigma since he debuted 8 years back – for someone with that experience, it’s bewildering to see such a high density of hit-me balls in his spells. RP Singh didn’t apply any learning from Bradshaw’s display and Pathan’s rhythm was a replay from his nightmarish days of recent past.

Despite all these systemic issues, India managed to make a fight of it thanks to the ‘turbanator’ who packs as much passion to his bowling as he does in his batting and Sehwag who must have inspired himself remembering the providential win he had fashioned against SA in the 2002 Champions Trophy. It was shaping that way during the last 5 overs of the game when Morton, Lara, Sarwan and Smith got out in quick succession but Agarkar bailed them out with a hit-me short ball that Samuels obliged, with 2 balls to spare. They almost undid all the good work done earlier by Gayle, Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Morton who constructed good partnerships playing common sense cricket.

Bradshaw was a more deserving candidate for the Man of the Match award that went to Chanderpaul but in the ultimate analysis it was India’s batting blues combined with dogmatic strategy on team selection and batting order that got the calypso beating louder than the bhangra.

Mohali beckons the men in blue for a ‘balle, balle’on Sunday. Beating the Aussies in the historic 2001 Kolkotta test was an inflection point in Ganguly’s captaincy continuum – if Dravid marshals his troops to kill the kangaroos on Sunday, he may well be holding the Champions Trophy for his country. That’s what beating the Aussies can do to the team psyche. And Veeru endorsed products will start selling again!

More Views by NT Shiv Kumar
  Sehwag sizzler rocks Chennai
  India unearth ABC down under - Agility, Bench Strength, Cerebral Approach
  Dhoni says no to old age home, prefers young legs
  Opener Dravid crucial for India’s game plan
  Aussie Muscles Flexed by Indian Nerves
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