Virat Kohli needs to get back to the drawing board to learn the art of countering quality fast bowling © Getty Images
Virat Kohli needs to get back to the drawing board to learn the art of countering quality fast bowling © Getty Images

 

By Rohit Gore

 

Some things are eternal. They never change, even if powerful men and women exert all their willpower. Like the corruption in India. Like the daily spam messages in your inbox. Like a man’s inability to pick his shoes. Like a woman’s inability to resist discount. You try to change these things and all you get is heartburn and ratcheted blood pressure, but these things don’t alter an inch; they just stare back at you like the mountains that can’t be moved. We can now safely add India’s inability to win or save the first overseas Test in a series to these eternal things.

 

There can be no excuses this time for the defeat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), can there be? India’s opening batsmen were fit, India’s bowlers were miraculously fit, India had two guys bowling at more than 145 kmph, India’s top three batsmen had roughly 25,000 Test runs, and India had landed in Australia two weeks in advance. The result? An inexplicable 122-run defeat.

 

I wonder what would ensure a win or a save in the first Test. Maybe the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with all its might and money, should muscle the other boards to have the first Test of a series declared as ‘Practice Test’!

 

I wonder what’s going through Duncan Fletcher’s mind right now. Sport can’t be run like a corporate, where planning and executing is possible and achievable. There are just too many uncertainties on the cricket field. In the corporate boardrooms, you have strategies developed to eliminate all the uncertainties. And then those strategies are ruthlessly executed by successful companies, often led by the CEO and CFO. What can Duncan Fletcher and MS Dhoni do here? I’m not sure what they can tell the likes of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar about it. There is very little they can impress upon Gautam Gambhir, too. Maybe young Virat Kohli needs a net session or two to counter quality fast bowling, but apart from him there aren’t too many chinks in the batting order, are there?

 

In many ways 4th innings is like old age!

 

I guess it comes down to the good old ability to handle pressure in the fourth innings. It is said that a Test match often mimics life. I would like to think that the fourth innings is like old age. Your ability to face stiff challenges, absorb the pressure, make sacrifices and come out a winner decreases in the last quarter of your life – even if those challenges were a breeze when you were young. When you are young, you know no fear. Like in first innings of a Test match. There are new paths to be trodden, new summits to be scaled, new avenues to be discovered. But in your twilight years, you would want to follow the beaten paths, be close to the familiar and avoid the arduous. People who live out their last quarters like they did their first are the people we remember forever, don’t we? Perhaps, that’s why we admire someone like Dhirubhai Ambani. He never stopped foraying into new worlds, never stopped challenging the accepted.

 

It takes that kind of mindset to chase 200-plus score in the fourth innings. After all, the bowlers are the same that you faced in the first innings, the pitch, while it might change, is something you know well. Your equipment, your bat, your hand-eye co-ordination, your timing is the same. But great teams like India (one Test defeat doesn’t suddenly make them an inferior team) do lose it in the fourth innings. I guess, one thing that separates cricket from all other sports, except maybe boxing, is the ‘context’. Hence, a century scored in the fourth innings while chasing 300 is worth far more than a century scored in the first. Just like the precious knock-out punch, a boxer can summon in the 15th round after getting pummeled throughout the fight. And this is where, sadly, Indians have driven a blank many times in the past.

 

I’m sure this Indian team will fight back in Sydney – maybe win it. But they know that they are staring at a mountain. The climb is uphill after the crushing loss in the first Test.

 

(Rohit Gore is the author of Focus, Sam and the recently-released A Darker Dawn. He loves sports, specifically discussing & watching, since his playing days are long gone. His greatest passion for reading has inspired him to write. He has a keen interest in history, especially the history of music and arts. You can know more about him on his website or by following him on Twitter and Facebook )