Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Time to stop the blame game and look ahead

It is indeed sad that the failure of the middle order has become a subject of finger-pointing exercise; post the defeat of the Indian team against the Sri Lankans in the final test. One cannot forget the fact that cricket is a team game and the failure of a team to win a match cannot and should not be attributed to the failure or success of a couple of individuals.

The performance of the Indian middle-order, especially that of the big four left much to be desired, would be stating the obvious. But to put the blame for the defeat on these men alone would be too simplistic. Cricket is a team game and the team as a whole has to own up responsibility.

What is alarming is the fact that none of these India-Sri Lanka tests stretched beyond the third or fourth day. This definitely isn’t a good sign for both the teams. The Indian camp has reason to be more worried for being at the wrong end in the final test.

One might be tempted to attribute this to the failure of the Indian middle-order. The Indian middle-order, made up of highly experienced and classy individuals who have lorded over some of the best spinners in the world, were ironically done-in by a pair of spinners from within the sub-continent. No doubt, these players are in their twilight years of cricket and time is perhaps ripe to find and groom replacements for some of these great men, but it isn’t going to be easy. We should learn to be patient and be prepared to face some initial set-backs for long-term gains. Fortunately, we have enough talent readily available but the enormous experience and sheer greatness of these men presently donning the Indian middle-order would be hard to replace.

The Indian bowling also needs some revamp. The spinners have been no match for the Sri Lankans and haven’t been consistent. Overall, the Indian bowling remains another weak-link in the side and will need some dressing up.

The Sri Lankans can be proud of beating the Indians in their own game. Never before in the history of cricket have spinners been able to dominate the Indians, as the duo of Murali and Mendis did in this series. Mendis was easily the find of the series and I am sure we are going to hear a lot more about him in the coming years. The Indians haven’t still figured him out completely, notwithstanding claims to the contrary from the Indian camp. His eight wicket haul in the final test bears this out. However, I strongly believe Murali’s presence was largely responsible for his phenomenal success. Fortunately for Mendis, Murali has some more years of cricket left in him. Together, the duo can rock some of the best teams in the world. It would be interesting to see how the Aussies play this duo!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Shocking capitulation

The manner in which the Indians have lost the first test to the Sri Lankans is absolutely shocking. The abject surrender in just one and a half days of play by a team which is renowned for its prowess in playing quality spin bowling is appalling, to say the least. Some of the best spin bowlers in the world have struggled to make a mark against Indians and it is disturbing that a couple of spinners from the sub-continent have dealt a crushing blow to this reputation and reduced the Indian domination of spin bowling to a myth.

What is even more worrying is the manner in which the Indians lost their wickets. That most wickets fell to close-catching positions (catches at slips, forward short-leg, lbw’s, caught and bowled, etc.) is an indication that all is not well with the Indian batting. It is clear that most batsmen failed to read the balls being hurled at them and ended up messing up their strokes. To think that the Sri Lankans scored 600 runs on the same wicket, with four of their batsmen getting hundreds, is even more disturbing. There was no devil in the wicket and if at all it did, it only existed in the minds of the Indians. The Indian batting line-up was thought to be one of the best in the world, but the inept display we saw today is a cause for serious concern. If the Indians are hoping to make a come-back in this series, there was no indication of that whatsoever in the way the Indians meekly surrendered to the guile of the Sri Lankan spinners.

This is not to take the credit away from the Sri Lankan spinners. Muthiah has proved what made him to be the highest wicket taker in the world, and in Mendis, he has found an able partner to rock the Indian boat. That the duo managed to do this on a “not-very-spinner-friendly track” should be a disconcerting thought for the Indian camp and an indication on what to expect in the series. The onset of Mendis seems to have sharpened the lethality of Muthiah, and unless Indians do some serious soul-searching, the series might well turn out to be a one-sided affair. Sadly, the Indian spinners have turned out to be no match for their Sri Lankan counterparts. The Indian spinners should stop looking for spinner-friendly tracks every time they need to take wickets. It is time for Harbhajan to deliver on unhelpful tracks……If Muthiah can deliver with Mendis, why not Harbhajan with Kumble?