1st Test blues revisit Team India on the third morning at the MCG

Ben Hilfenhaus claimed his maiden five-wicket haul on Wednesday © Getty Images

 

By Sidhanta Patnaik

 

What started many years ago as a psychological excuse is now an epidemic that has spread as a trauma from which there seems to be no way out whatsoever. After remaining in the shadow for two entire days of absorbing Test cricket at Melbourne, the ‘1st Test blues’ syndrome, came back to hit the Indian cricket team on the third morning – a decisive blow that could determine the fortunes of this match, and with it the series.

 

All the effort that was put working towards a dominating position in the contest was hard done by in a matter of few overs. A batting hara-kiri that registered the fall of seven wickets (eight if the last over of the second day is taken into account) for just 68 runs is appalling, to put it mildly. Australia, a side that has not been at its best at home in the recent past, needed a sniff of a chance to get back into a rhythm. India played good Samaritan and presented them with a redeem voucher for the New Year.

 

With India having to bat fourth on the track, a lead of 51 runs should be ideal enough for the home team to take charge of the proceedings. Having said that the way the match has progressed so far, it might still go down to the wire. But that is Australia’s problem to resolve.

 

The Australian bowling unit deserves every bit of credit for bowling to a set plan. The idea was to dry up the runs and bowl a probing line consistently. It tied batsmen to their respective ends and without the scoreboard ticking, a sense of claustrophobia crept into the line up. Playing a waiting game and displaying patience are all strategies that look good on paper but in an age where fast scoring is the trend, it is difficult to expect the batsmen of that generation to turn the clock back.

 

By not allowing VVS Laxman to open his account for as long as 19 balls, the tone was set. One could sense an entry of drama into the innings as frustration was slowly making its way to the forefront, and before long it unfolded. Gaps became a thing of another match and edges became the talking point. And Ben Hilfenhaus, who was making a comeback after an injury break, was allowed to reclaim his stature as an international quality bowler.

 

A word about Ravichandran Ashwin’s batting. He is technically solid and looks to be in control of his senses every time he is in the middle. In the near future if he is promoted ahead of MS Dhoni in the batting line-up, then it will be rightly so. Cricket is a game of ‘what if?’ But the way Zaheer Khan brain froze and threw away his wicket with a callous slog when the requirement was to show a percentage more of responsibility, even the phrase ‘what if?’ took a hiding.

 

India has squandered the advantage and now it is back to playing the catch up game.

 

(Sidhanta Patnaik is a sport marketing professional, public speaker and writes for Cricketcountry. His twitter id is @sidhpat)