By Vincent Sunder
“We can beat this team in Perth”.
That statement of MS Dhoni was the most heart-warming part of the Sydney Test. The normal Indian cricket fan would be in a state of “Kolaveri” (murderous rage) as cricketing defeats are seen as the end of life, in a manner of speaking.
A sixth consecutive overseas defeat sure does rankle, and there would be a rush to find scapegoats for the relentless debacles, as also find quick-fix solutions. If one were to take an unemotional and pragmatic look at the two recently-concluded Tests, much as the results are disappointing, things are not as bad as it was in England when we were comprehensively outplayed in every game on that tour. India had moments of ascendancy when the opponent was on the mat. And until the last morning of the game, both sides were in the running at MCG. The first innings debacle at Sydney is the like from which any side would find it extremely difficult to ward off defeat. That India ended up with 400 runs and a relatively lower margin of defeat than expected, given the circumstances of the first innings performance and the string of batting failures overseas, was some consolation.
Small aspects and positives in a game are lost in the larger canvas of a Test defeat. Crucially, Zaheer Khan is still around and Ishant Sharma has remained fit to bowl. Gautam Gambhir, after a long time, was his old self when he began the second innings, and VVS Laxman’s fluency was finally back in the second innings. Rahul Dravid is intelligent enough to figure out how to close the now open gate in his wall. The elusive 100th hundred appears to be playing mind games with Sachin Tendulkar, but he has been contributing as can be expected of a very successful Test batsman, if not like a world champion. And for those who dismiss Virender Sehwag as mindless, one needs to look at his two triple hundreds, four double hundreds and the other near double hundreds to realise that there is a method to his batting, albeit untraditional and very different. The day he fires, the desert will transform into an oasis from which all can drink to their heart’s content. The legends may be past their best, their age maybe against them, but they still have the skills to be where they are.
The victories may have been ultimately big for the Aussies, but they would be looking at their top order batting and their failures. The bowling unit has done well with pace, but the overs from Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke at Sydney do convey something. Should the Aussie pace attack be dealt with or lose steam, Clarke will wish he had some better spinning options. No, quite not the relentless attack that will be at the throat of Indian batsman, who should gain some comfort looking at the 400 runs posted at Sydney, even if in a lost cause.
The defensive mindset of the Indian captain whilst on the field was a cause for concern, and a brave talking skipper needs to demonstrate that on the field, especially when the opposition is on the back foot. Criticism from the likes of Ian Chappell and Ravi Shastri on the captaincy are not without good reason.
Six consecutive overseas defeats, even if the time between the tours of England and Australia is forgotten by those speaking of consecutive defeats, can cause tremendous damage to self-confidence and self-belief. This is where Dhoni’s statement is heartening. Whether it was meant with belief or whether it was a statement to get through the final formalities of a loss will be known in the next few weeks, but if Dhoni did mean it and the team as well believes in it, things can change for India. And Perth’s WACA (Western Australian Cricket Association) happens to be a ground where January 2008 saw an emphatic Indian win that came on the back of unsavory happenings at Sydney in the earlier weeks.
It is time to put mind over matter, and get on with positive thinking. Just make sure though that small kids, irrespective of who they are, are not bowling at the practice sessions for the national side, for Test cricket is serious business!!
(Vincent Sunder aspired to play Test cricket, but had to struggle to play ‘gully’ cricket! He managed a league side to title triumph in the KSCA tournaments. He was debarred from umpiring in the gully games after he once appealed vociferously for a caught-behind decision when officiating as an umpire! After two decades in the corporate sector, he became an entrepreneur with the objective of being able to see cricket matches on working days as well. Vincent gets his ‘high’ from cricket books and cricket videos and discussing cricket)