'Agnipariksha' awaits India against four-pronged pace attack on fiery Perth

Australian firepower for the Perth Test: (clockwise from left) Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking which, more than anything else, will determine its successful outcome.” – William James

 

Before the Boxing Day Test began, India was apparently the favorite to win this year’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Considering the fact that this Indian side was skilled, had a perfect blend of youth and experience, and that the Australian side was going through transition, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that majority of cricket followers believed India would overcome a few minor obstacles with ease and eventually regain its lost glory with a win over this Australian side. But the Australian players had one significant quality that most of the Indian players failed to express right from Day One of the First Test – the right attitude.

 

Uneasiness was on the rise in the Australian camp, especially after the series against New Zealand. Fingers were pointed at stalwarts like Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Michael Clarke’s effectiveness as a captain, too, was questioned. It was appalling to see the noose around Ponting and Hussey’s necks despite averaging close to 36 and 44 respectively during their so-called lean patch and notwithstanding the fact that their overall career averages are close to 53 and 52 respectively. That was probably because of the high standards set by Australian cricket over the past few decades.

 

It is said that you cannot tailor-make situations in life, but you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey did exactly that as they silenced their critics for the umpteenth time by proving that they still have it in them to perform at the top of their game and contribute to their side’s cause.

 

It wasn’t as though they regained their form with ease. Credit must be given to the Indian bowlers for troubling the Australian batsmen to an extent in the first innings of the First Test. Runs didn’t come easily for Ponting and Clarke, and Hussey was sent back for a first-ball duck in that innings – thanks to an umpiring glitch. Importantly, they didn’t let that dishearten them. Ponting knew he could get that ton that had evaded him for so long if he was willing to stick it out for a little longer than usual.

 

In the second Test, he scampered like a hungry 21-year-old, often converting ones into twos and twos into threes, and appearing to value his wicket all the more. He put away the bad balls with ease and more importantly respected the good ones rather than poking at them. He deservedly got to his century, albeit that risky single which was uncharacteristic of his running between the wickets in that innings.

 

On the other hand, the Indians aren’t doing any justice to their talent with a lethargic approach on the field. Even when batting, there were so many opportunities for the Indian batsmen to convert singles into twos and twos into threes, but it appeared as though they were contented with a little less than what was actually available. Never did the Australian fielders appear under any sort of pressure.

 

There also appears to be a lack of communication while the Indians are on the field. The Anil Kumble-led team that toured Australia in 2007 always gave an impression that they were striving on the field. Who could forget Ishant Sharma’s magical spell to Ricky Ponting and the conversation that took place between Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma and skipper Anil Kumble before that over. After Ishant had bowled seven overs, Ponting was on strike and that’s when Sehwag went over to Ishant and asked him if he’d like to bowl one more over. After Ishant agreed, Sehwag walked up to Kumble and suggested to him to let Ishant have one more go at Ponting. Kumble agreed and famously asked Ishant, “Ek aur karega? (Will you bowl another over?)” Ishant replied, “Haan karoonga (Yes, I will)”. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Sadly, such moments reoccurring this time is hard to imagine looking at the body language of the Indian players.

 

However, credit must be given to Sachin Tendulkar for his positive approach while batting or fielding. He is India’s highest scorer in this series so far, averaging 56.50 with 226 runs from four innings. The way he threw himself at the ball to prevent Ponting from getting to a century shows his undying passion and determination even at the age of 38. It would be for the Indian team if the rest of the team took a cue from Tendulkar’s attitude on the field. Unfortunately, he has thrown his wicket away against the run of play right throughout this series thus far and it could augur well for India if he avoids this at Perth and Adelaide.

 

It will be interesting to see how India approaches the remaining two Tests after being ruthlessly hammered in the first two. This side needs more than just a stroke of luck to bounce back and level the series. It’s important that they have the right attitude and a killer instinct. They need to show a sense of urgency while fielding and a sense of purpose while batting. They have the skill to succeed in testing conditions and must strive for it.

 

The Indians will be served an unrelenting diet of pace at Perth in the third Test. Will the beleaguered Indians survive the firing from both ends from Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc? It’s truly anagnipariksha – ordeal by fire – for them!

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)