Ricky Ponting made mockery of the stiff target South Africa set by scoring his second century of the Test as Australia chased 287 runs in 60 overs at the SCG in 2006 © Getty Images
Ricky Ponting made mockery of the stiff target South Africa set by scoring his second century of the Test as Australia chased 287 runs in 60 overs at the SCG in 2006 © Getty Images


By Navneet Mundhra


India’s pusillanimous tactics in the final Test against West Indies dredged up memories of rain-marred Melbourne Test of 1986 when they had almost all of the post-lunch play on the last day in which to score 126 to win. India were 59 for two at tea when the weather intervened forcing India to settling for a draw. India paid for their utter lack of urgency.


India’s failure to go for victory in the final Test at Dominica has raised serious questions about its No.1 ranking. India were without Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar, but 86 runs in 15 overs was not imposing ask when you have batsmen of calibre of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman at the crease – and MS Dhoni to come follow – against a depleted West Indian team. Champion teams don’t entertain thoughts of failure – something India undeniably did with their ultra-safety tactics on Sunday.


Dhoni has led India to some glorious victories, but despite his record of not losing a single Test series, he is regarded as a defensive captain who let things happen rather than making them happen.


There are few instances in the recent past when he preferred to play it safe rather than push for victory. The most notable being the final Test match against South Africa on the recent tour when India needed 340 runs – tough, but not impossible for the No 1 side, to clinch their first Test series in South Africa. But Dhoni seemed content with a draw. Among the wave of disappointment expressed on the social media platforms, one humorously summed up the Indian captain by saying: “Dhoni is an artist. He likes to draw!”


History is awash with heroics of West Indies and Australian teams at their pomp pulling off stunners out of nowhere. Twice Australia won 16 Test matches on the trot and West Indies gained victory in 11 Test matches on the trot in 1984. One ubiquitous attributes of champion sides is the winning mindset; draw is not an option.


Below are three instances of champion teams when faced with a situation similar to that of India:


Australia vs England, 4th Test, Headingley (Leeds), 1948


The Australian team of 1948, captained by Sir Don Bradman, was heralded as ‘Invincible’ and for good reasons. Australia required 404 runs in 345 minutes on a last day pitch. Arthur Morris (182) and Sir Don (173) got into the act and creamed a partnership of 301 runs for the second wicket as Australia romped home with 15 minutes to spare. The Don described it as the greatest victory of his career.


West Indies vs India, 1st Test, Sabina Park (Jamaica), 1983


West Indies needed 172 runs in 26 overs to win the first Test of the series. Desmond Haynes gave West Indies a flying start and West Indies were 65 for two when Vivian Richards stormed in and savaged the Indian attack, plundering 61 runs in 36 balls. West Indies reached the target with four balls to spare.


Australia vs South Africa, 3rd Test, SCG (Sydney), 2006


It was Ricky Ponting’s 100th Test and he made it memorable by scoring hundreds in each innings. South Africa declared its innings at lunch and set a target of 287 runs for Australia in 76 overs. Ponting made mockery of the target. He scored an unbeaten 143 runs and, with ably assisted by Matthew Hayden, finished the match in 60 overs.


(Navneet Mundhra is a dreamer who has no delusion of grandeur about himself. He is an eternal learner brimming with passion and compassion, a maverick who swears by perfection and integrity and an avid reader, devout philharmonic, die hard movie buff and a passionate writer)