On a good track at the Eden Gardens, the Indian batting flattered to deceive yet again as the English bowlers asserted their supremacy. While Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir recorded fifties, the others around them failed to build on their starts. The confident tourists ruled Day One and clearly have the advantage as they have India in a spot of bother. After the failure at Mumbai, the formidable Indian batting – one that thrives in home conditions – is a cause for concern and their struggle has been astonishing.
India’s scores at the end of the first day’s play at the ongoing Test at Kolkata and the last game at Mumbai are similar. In the second Test, India finished day one on 266 for six with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin holding on. At Kolkata, India are 273 for seven – not too far ahead when compared to the number at Mumbai. Yet again, only two batsmen – Tendulkar and Gambhir – held the Indian innings.
The failure of India’s batting was the main reason for their defeat at Mumbai. Although England batted well, it was only Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen who scored big – knocks that were the difference between the two sides. In both the Indian essays at the Wankhede, they fell apart with the odd exception who stuck it out in the middle.
What is worrying is that the Indian batsmen aren’t converting their starts. In essence, they are getting their eye in without going on to make a big score, leading to wickets falling at regular intervals. Take Tendulkar and Gambhir out of the equation at Kolkata, the scores of the other batsmen read: 23, 16, 6, 32 and 21. At the time of writing, Mahendra Singh Dhoni remains unbeaten on 22 – with the hope of adding to India’s total.
As Gambhir admitted, someone had to go on to make a big one for India. The England innings at Mumbai is an example for them as Cook and Pietersen’s big knocks made a difference even as the others didn’t make much of a mark. If Gambhir and Tendulkar had managed to script longer vigils, India would have found themselves in a much stronger position. The honours for the day would have been shared, but the balance of power is now tilting towards the visitors.
Gambhir the enigma
Gambhir himself hasn’t scored a big one for a very long time. His last Test hundred came in January 2010 – almost three years ago. As an opener, you have to convert your fifties into hundreds as it sets the tone for the innings. However, Gambhir has been dismissed in the 20s and 30s too many times since February 2010. He has scored a few fifties, but that simply isn’t good enough.
Here are his numbers since February 2010:
During India’s rise to the No 1 spot in the Test rankings, Gambhir played a pivotal role as he scripted a number of hundreds to further his side’s charge. Those efforts won him the ICC Test Player of the Year Award in 2009. His form since February 2010 has been a far cry from that prolific run. Those fighting fifties aren’t enough as the consistency is clearly missing. While he has looked decent on most occasions and is gradually getting into his groove in the ongoing series, a hundred is long overdue.
The other Indian batsman who is in desperate need of getting a big one is Yuvraj Singh. As mentioned in a previous article, he needs to cement his spot at No 6; the flashy fifties aren’t going to help in that regard. Even at Kolkata, he played a few good strokes and was looking good, only to fall in the 30s.
Through all that, Tendulkar’s knock came as a huge relief to many. The determination in his eyes and general body language was evident as the great batsman tried to ward off a his inner demons. This was perhaps the toughest test of his career as calls for him to retire have never been stronger. In the past, he has silenced critics with thunderous displays and this time around a more sedate one has perhaps done the trick – although it may not be enough. Is he waiting for that one big score that all his fans are talking about? Is there a final flourish before the inevitable?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)