Team India lost the first Test to Sri Lanka at Galle from a seemingly invulnerable position.
A batting collapse followed an inept display of bowling intent which let the Islanders back into the match.
Once a foothold was established, the home side drove home their advantage in the face of tentativeness from the visitors.
Does this signal the end of the ‘five-bowlers’ theory?
Virat Kohli says no and he is right.
“If I have said I am going to play with five bowlers, I cannot go down after a performance like this and say I wish I had an extra player, you cannot play with 12 players. If I have chosen to play with five bowlers to take 20 wickets then it is our responsibility to bat in a better way which we did not do today. So I am not bringing up any excuses or wishing that we had an extra batsman. We should have done this better with six batsmen.”
The Indian skipper has a point. The team is going to lose some when they try to win games.
The mind-set and execution should be to play positive cricket and go out there expecting to have a result.
Playing for a draw never brings about a gain for the side unless your opposite number is suicidal.
Kohli should continue with his game-plan and should expect more from both his batsmen and his bowlers.
The bowlers have to bowl on average 18 overs in a day given the current dispensation; that’s only eight more than what they would in a one-day game and that’s in just three-and-a-half hours.
They cannot complain.
The batters are to shoulder the extra responsibility and not count on the tail to wag. It is their job; they are specialists.
What Team India also needs to figure out is how to tackle counter-attacking batsmen. Man-of-the-match Dinesh Chandimal revealed that he and his partners batted as though it were an ODI. Well, if that’s the case, why doesn’t the Indian skipper set an ODI field? Drying up the runs would have certainly lessened the damage especially when your bowlers seem to have run out of ideas.
It’s about adapting to the situation.
And the Indian media and former cricketers-turned-commentators should refrain from playing the blame game whenever India loses.
Sometimes, you have to admit that the other side played well and deserved to win for their ‘never-say-die’ attitude.
What went wrong with a team that came into the semi-finals undefeated, winning seven straight games in a row?
What can explain the abject display of this Indian side once they came up against their bete-noire of the last five months? Was it another case of déjà vu?
First, the Australians scored 30-50 runs more than our batters could easily achieve. A score of around 280 was chaseable against their strong bowling attack. Once the Aussies went past the psychological barrier of 300, it was an uphill struggle. Dhoni missed a trick by not letting Umesh Yadav bowl the last over. He was the only one who looked like getting wickets in his final spell and a couple of wickets more could have restricted the Aussies to a less substantial total.
The loss of Shikhar Dhawan began the slide. The left-handed opener was looking good for yet another ton but threw it away in a moment of casual lassitude. Rohit Sharma has scored runs but all of his big scores have come against the lesser sides. The Mumbaikar once again failed to step up to the plate when it mattered. How different is this Sharma from the one who made his debut in 2007-08? Have the years left their scars?
Virat Kohli disappointed. And much as Dhoni tomtoms Ravindra Jadeja’s abilities with the bat, the ‘all-rounder’ has no business being in the side if he cannot average at least a decent 30—both at home and away. Sure, he has three triple centuries in domestic cricket but if that’s the reason he’s in the side, then he should be batting further up the order, not with the tail.
The Indians were probably looking at chasing 328 in chunks. A score of 100 in 20 overs, 200 in 35 and 260 in 40 (power play) would have left them chasing less than 70 in the final 10 overs. It was not to be.
Dhoni’s unwillingness to experiment against the minnows meant that the Indians went up against the Aussies with a closed mindset. What works all the time will fail some day. What then?
Indian fans have a lot to cheer about. At the outset, no one expected this side to travel this far. Winning the trophy would have had their cup of joy overflowing but it would not be a true reflection of the capabilities and form of this side.
Overall, a fair result.
What he said:
“Actually that was the case, Virat [Kohli] used a knife. He stabbed Shikhar [Dhawan], who just recovered out of that, then we pushed him to bat. These are all stories. Marvel, maybe Warner Bros or somebody should pick up this and make a nice movie out of it.”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni squashes rumours about a split in the dressing room and poked fun at tales about a fracas between Delhi mates Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan.
“If somebody from the team has actually told you this, it’d be interesting if you could give us the name. Because his imagination is really brilliant and he should be working for one of the movie companies. He doesn’t deserve to be in our dressing room, because he has entirely created something that has not been there at all. Stuff like that makes good stories for the tabloid and maybe it helps them sell it. As far as the reality is concerned, there’s been nothing like that.”
What he really meant:
“Take a yarn and make it wilder; that’s in the realm of rumour, that’s in the realm of fiction. Fiction has no part to play in the Indian dressing room. “
What he definitely didn’t:
“Bloody Tales from the Dressing Room’ starring Virat and Shikhar ought to be the name of the film. I’ll play the narrator.”
Team India conceded the initiative and the series lead once again. The Indian team capitulated in three days at Old Trafford. It could have been all over sooner if it was not for the twelfth man for the Indian side—the rain.
The signs were ominous from the start. Pankaj Singh retained the confidence of his skipper and his place in the side.
Varun Aaron came in at the expense of Mohammad Shami. I truly feel for the UP bowler; he has been bowled into the ground since his début and is not the bowler he was at the start of his exciting career.
Aaron did enough to justify his place in the side. The inclusion of Ishwar Pandey could have made things even more interesting. I would rather have an express bowler in the side than a medium pacer on these pacy wickets especially when the journeyman is not a Zaheer Khan, that is, he lacks variety.
But the real story was that our much-vaunted batting line-up failed once more; the senior bats were made to look like novices against the moving ball.
The attitude of the new batting stars should undergo a sea change. Instead of muttering that things will be different when the English come to India—it was not, they beat us 2-1—it might be better that Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli consider a stint in county cricket to build their technique in overcast, murky conditions. The question is how and when? Will their IPL and Team India commitments allow them to do so? Or are these fancies to be indulged in only by players on the fringe of national selection?
Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan failed to deliver when it mattered. It is time that the selectors selected in-form batsmen for crucial overseas tours and not hope that they strike form on tour—a strategy fraught with obvious dangers.
Dhoni can gamble and have Naman Ojha or Rohit Sharma open the batting. I would go with the latter.
There appears to be no option but to persist with Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli and hope that their twin failures galvanise them to improve their performances and live up to the reputations of their predecessors—Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
Ravindra Jadeja is another perennial favourite with his skipper. It is time he sat out.
Why does one have a sneaky feeling that the Indian skipper prefers either his Chennai Superkings teammates or players from the North?
Ishant Sharma makes his return to the side conditional on a full recovery from his ankle injury.
Pankaj Singh—at last—made the record books claiming two wickets in his second game. He is more suited for the shorter format of the game where containment is the name of the game.
My team choice for the Kensington Oval: