By Nishad Pai Vaidya
To err is human, but not too often – Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The Indian team’s performance on Day One at Perth is a microcosm of all their overseas woes since the tour of England. It indicates a failure of foresight, planning and preparation as a relatively young Australian side is successfully toying with them. At the start of days play, one would have been a little optimistic about an Indian fight back considering their previous visit to Perth. However, the day’s proceedings have proved that the team lacks the fight and zeal to turn the tables.
The biggest thorn in India’s flesh is their inability to learn from mistakes. An error committed once is acceptable as human fallibility, but when it is repeated to a frustrating degree, it’s unforgivable. The batsmen, in particular, don’t seem to have learnt from their dismissals of the past. This alarming trend, started on the disastrous tour of England, has continued Down Under.
Firstly, too many batsmen are falling in the arc behind the wicket. The tentative prods and indecisive stroke-making continues as the slips wait for their prey like a pack of lions. Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman looked intent on reversing their fortunes, but succumbed to the trap outside off. All the hard work done was wasted in that one moment of indecision. Virat Kohli’s knock promised to bring new light into the set-up, but a casual stroke ended his stay.
Secondly, the ball continues to find its way to Rahul Dravid’s woodwork. He has got out bowled far too many times and far too often for a batsman of his exceptional class and technique. At the end of the Melbourne Test, Dravid stood second behind Allan Border as the batsman who has had his stumps knocked over the most number of times in Test cricket. Counting his dismissal at Sydney and the first innings at Perth, he is now on a par with Border on that list. Going by his recent run, he is set to conquer an unwanted milestone.
When one gets out bowled, it suggests that the batsman isn’t getting behind the ball or isn’t judging the line perfectly. Sourav Ganguly has pointed out a change in his initial footwork as the back and across movement has been substituted by a new tentative and hurried approach. Dravid is a master technician and a thinking cricketer. His shortcomings would definitely disappoint him and he would be itching to make amends. But is it too late on the tour to make those adjustments?
The bowling has lacked the consistency and the persistence to trouble the batsmen. Given the way David Warner batted, the Indians weren’t given a chance to create a flutter at any point. Conceding runs at a haemorrhaging rate of 6.47 is appalling and shows that the Indians haven’t hit the right channels. The four-pronged pace attack failed to induce errors from the Australian batsmen as Warner literally flogged them.
Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav failed to create an impact with the new ball the way the Indians did in 2008. It looks as if their worries keep promoting themselves up the Australian batting order. At Melbourne, they struggled to bundle the tail. The Australian middle- order stood tall at Sydney and now the top order has stood tall.
The trio shines in a spell or two but are not able to persist with that pressure. If one is doing well, the others are conceding runs. Thus, the floodgates are open at some point which releases all the pressure applied at one end.
The decision to play Vinay Kumar is baffling. He lacks the pace or the movement to trouble the batsman. Perth may be the fastest pitch in the world but you cannot bowl dead straight at a military medium pace. Even then, the batsman would have enough time to pick his gaps and score runs with ease. An Irfan Pathan would have been a better choice on this wicket considering his return to form at the domestic level. All these are just ifs and buts. The Indian selectors had the chance to include him but failed to weigh in all the factors.
A team can have a bad game or two but for the run to prolong to such proportionalities is indicative of various cracks in Indian cricket. One cannot blame the presence of a pair of old legs for all the woes. The entire approach to Test cricket and foreign tours needs a review and a new way forward needs to be charted out.
For now, the Perth Test is firmly within Australia’s grasp. The result seems to be a forgone conclusion and India are on course to emulate the result of the England tour. There seems to be little or no chance for them to make a comeback whatsoever. However, if they manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat, it would rank alongside the Kolkata miracle of 2001. Again, it is just eternal optimism.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")