Monday, 31 December 2007

Forget the MCG, bring in Viru for SCG

The big question when India left for Australia was whether Kumble and Co had it in them to pick 20 wickets. Not much was asked of India's 'famed' batting line-up. The reason was clear. A plethora of runs against Pakistan in familiar conditions gave them a false sense of security. There were no demons in the MCG pitch; nor was the home side's bowling menacing to warrant two sub-200 scores. In fact the wicket was more Indian than Australian and the bounce was true till the end. It was disheartening to see the Indians surrender meekly.

The crushing defeat in the first Test has opened the big debate again on the famous batting line-up's ability to score runs in tougher conditions. It was the bowlers who orchestrated India's Test wins in South Africa and England. The batsmen have consistently failed to deliver when taken out of their comfort zone. Notwithstanding the odd good knock, the bitter truth is there is not enough firepower in our batting to challenge sides such as Australia and South Africa.

The seeds for India's appalling show were sown in the first innings. After the bowlers had managed to keep the Aussies to a reasonable score, the batsmen failed to keep the match alive. The result was on the wall the moment India was set a target of 499. The match was lost on day two. The batsmen would have done well to get some runs on the board and minimise the margin of defeat. The shot selection of the top-order left a lot to be desired.

The approach of Dravid and Jaffer continues to puzzle me. How on earth are runs going to come in Australia if batsmen continue to defend balls that have run written all over them? Scoring areas have to be identified and every opportunity has to be seized. India's strength is scoring off boundaries but they will be tough to come by on these big grounds and against Australia's watertight fielding. They will have to create plan B.

It is important for the visitors to approach the remainder of the series with a positive frame of mind and not delve too much into this defeat. There is no harm in bringing in Virendar Sehwag. It is vital to have one player at the top of the order who can unsettle the attack. If Yuvraj has to be sacrificed it has be to done in the interest of the team. It will be harsh on the southpaw after just one match. But it is important Kumble gets the strategy right before it proves too late. I liked what the Indian skipper said after the match. He insisted the batsmen have to bat more freely and that to me will lift the gloom that seems to have descended on the team.

Patience is wearing thin with India's poor running between the wickets and fielding efforts. The attack can do with all the help they can receive from the fielders. The Aussie intensity even in the fourth innings was admirable. The Indians can take a leaf out of that. It has certainly not been the best of starts but Sydney provides a chance for India to redeem themselves.

The wicket at the SCG has always assisted spin and India should continue with two spinners. Dravid going back to his familiar number three is also important for the team's success. Bring in Sehwag at the top and force the World Champions do some thinking.

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