India’s tour to Aus begins next week. The first match of four matches, test series starts on 6 Dec 2018 in Adelaide. Aus start favourites in my book. My thoughts partly influenced by Ian Chapel, we can disagree. The following set of clichés were play out – Captaincy, Catches, Collapses, Conservative, Controversies.
As Napoleon seems to have said, “I don’t fear an army of tigers led by a sheep, I fear an army of sheep of led by a tiger. Captaincy has such a vital role in any team game, probably in cricket the cause and effect of captaincy is more pronounced. Kohli has a very good record as a captain. At home, when Pujara, Dhawan are going ahead with big runs, Ash and Sir can pick wickets at will, Kohli himself virtually scoring a fifty every time he bats. While Indiam team tours away from Subcontinent, Ash or Sir, only one among the two will get to play and bowl, Che and Dhawan don’t score big runs, Kohli alone is seen marshalling the batting and scoring the runs. Obviously Kohli’s role has to be analysed twice. As a batsman he is simply superb, there is not much change in his technique or approach, his fitness is amazing, his hunger remains insatiable, for what’s perceived as a flamboyant player on the field with theatrics and all, he has runs, boundaries, centuries etc. to brag about. As a captain he carries, losses in SAf and England tours, where his team could have done better, his captaincy could have done far better but not to be.
Captaincy seems such a cake walk when you have ace up your sleeves, openers laying a solid platform, middle order grinding out, a quick partnership in half a session, when you are batting, while bowling opening bowlers keep a check on dashing openers some timely wickets bowling probing lines, inviting the drives on the off side, setting the right field, third and fourth seamers, keeping runs in check and chipping away wickets, opening bowlers coming back with reverse swing combining with spinners to clean the tail. Elementary.
Kohli away from home finds his aces bit out of places. However he has had the best bowling attack for an away tour that any Indian captain who could hope/dream for in last 25 years. Problem is his team selection, choosing Kuldeep on a green top in England and leaving Ashwin away on spinner friendly pitch … Bumrah is asset to have right now, Ishant is wise now, bowling better in away tests, better than his career averages. Bhuvi is out of sort for now. Umesh Yadav looks and bowls like a wild card. Ashwin will get better as an away bowler.
Fielding best encapsulates the mood of the team, spells out intent. Converting a half chances, someone catching a RIPPAH in slips, a close-in catch or a run out can change the complexion of the game in matter of minutes. One wicket brings another. India out fielding has soared in past five years, diving and stopping boundaries, cutting of the singles etc but close in catching weighs India down. Number of catches dropped and matches lost have a direct correlation. Fielding spells the camaraderie in the group like nothing else. Catches win matches and series. Indian team have their work cut out. Watch out for drop catches.
Indian batting team, heavy on indecision and temprament not being 100%. On the outside, Indian batsman playing, out sessions in alien conditions seems daunting. I am not convinced if India can bat 200 overs consistently in test matches away from home. It is something not all teams to do, here they don’t even aspire to play out a tough sessions by building gritty partnerships more often than not, and they just collapse under some mysterious sense of helplessness . In the 8 away test matches this year, the average team score is 230 both innings combined, the first inning score is 247 and second innings score is 212, if you discount for the best and the worst scores, average first innings score falls to 213 and second innings score falls to 203.
It’s tough to defend or attack in these runs but it’s not something you realise once you mark the guard at the crease. The conditions are pretty much known. A team has all kind of support staff for numbers, video technicians etc. So it shouldn’t be surprise at least to the payers where they stand. Also players themselves know, we on the outside can just hope batsman put their hands up be counted and score big runs. At the moment repeatedly over the years across the geographies they tend to collapse. Stringing partnerships in the middle order is an oddity for past five to six years. We have been expecting a change but that particular break hasn’t really been noticed as of now.
I am a stroke player and I will play my shots, that’s the way I play. I hope any batsman playing this series and averaging in 20s shouldn’t do that, play to the percentages, play on the merit, if session demands, to shut the door on the opposition and play for attrition so be it. It is expected that players err on the side of caution. It also goes for captaincy. At the start of the series play the right team, which makes the opposition cautions? As Ian Chappell often says, ask imagining the opposition team if they would like to see a particular bowler, batsman or for that matter field setup and then act accordingly.
Kohli needs to address the elephant in the room, i.e. Kohli the batsman. Kohli should give up the number four spot which has been affecting both Jinx and Che. Ideally playing XI – Vijay, KL, Jinx, Che, Kohli, Vihari, Karthick, Ash, Bhuvi, Ishant, Bumrah. Che gets stuck at the crease, doesn’t rotate the strike, Jinx and Kohli are always on a look out for runs, this will get Che going at four. Kohli will make runs anywhere on current form (read fitness). Jinx needs to be given responsibilities confidence. He averages better away than at home, barring Kohli, may be. Conservative cricket would mean, Draw first and not have a repeat of what happened on Tours of SAf and England. The final score line shows a big gap between team, having said that, the gap shows where due to lack of captaincy, team selection, individual payers like Che and Jinx, making big runs.
A good controversy sets the broadcasters, cash register ringing overtime. News Flashes, commercials, repeat telecast, TRP no one should ideal complain. The TV coverage is now cringe worthy, too much animation, stats, interview, expert opinions, ads. I suggest they get back to 15 minute review that includes, playing XI of both sides, recent performances bit of information on weather and pitch and how probably teams stack up. Focus on cricket coverage and some great commentary. Watching cricket is cumbersome, when cricket is not on the centre of things and everything is covered along with cricket. If the trend continues, people will suffice to have a look at online medium whether to watch live or simply follow scores and follow the highlights at the end of the day. It will be in interest of cricket, its followers, boards, broadcasters, audiences to make sure they have lean, plain vanilla coverage for cricket. If you have extended cricket preview session with all the flab and sugar, be my guest.
This is the first series for Aus after Sand paper gate. Smith and Warner took the fall, for previous captains of 25 years. Tampers already flew in that, SAf tour Aus, Warner’s theatrics went over the boundary in more ways than one. The fall out was, Vice-Captain Warner and Captain Smith banned for one year, Bancroft for nine months, Coach Lehman stepped down, Starc got injured and didnt play the next game. It seems the ball was tampered but none of the bowlers knew about it. There have been review committee and everyone has jumped into it. The best observations on this saga had come from English ex-players. It was fun reading every word of it.
Traditionally, umpiring has been of very poor quality in Aus. One of the more consistent things after their bowlers line and length and their hard hitting batsmen scoring runs freely. Sachin’s LBW when stuck on the shoulder is hard to miss, also that Sydney Test in 2008. Peter Roebuck slammed Ponting. Look for how many appeals against Indians get over turned assuming they use it judiciously. Also see the fun once, Indian team run out of reviews. It will be a telling tale of this tour. I hope rain stays away.
A comparison of numbers across careers and away matches, Matches, Innings, Runs/ Wickets, Average
Batting numbers in away test matches since 2015
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A comparison of numbers against Aus
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Numbers for Bowlers Matches, Innings, Wickets, Averages
Numbers for bowlers since 2015 for away test matches
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Numbers for bowlers in matches against Aus
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