Occasionally, it's very interesting to watch an one-day game played on a pitch that is extremely difficult to bat on. This SCG wicket was one of them!
Nevertheless, the Indian performance in Sydney was well below par. They are a side lacking confidence, and this can be traced directly to the form and mental state of their captain, Sachin Tendulkar. Even before a ball was bowled at the SCG, Sachin was complaining about the programming of matches being too close together.
It is true the triangular series that is played in Australia each summer has a packed schedule, but everyone knows this going into the competition. It seems to me that the Indians have been struggling and, in turn, losing matches. This has a direct effect on the mentality of the side. That you tend to look for excuses and complain about the programming, especially after only two games, is a direct result of having it tough on the field.
This Sydney game saw a wicket that I believe was not the sort of track you want for one-day cricket. Yes, it had pace and bounce which you don't mind, but it also had too much sideways movement and that makes batting against the likes of McGrath, Lee, Fleming, Srinath and Prasad, extremely difficult.
My opinion is that for one-day cricket, the bat should slightly dominate the ball. On this occasion at the SCG, it was totally the other way.
In saying this, the Indian total of exactly 100 wasn't a true indication of the difficulties the batsmen faced on this wicket. Incredibly, the top scorer was extras on 32 ! A score in the region of 160 would have been more realistic and given India an outside chance. The bowling from the Australians was outstanding and they used the conditions brilliantly. Glenn McGrath was once again the chief destroyer. He finished with the incredible figures of 10 overs, 4 wickets for just 8 runs. He was well supported by Fleming and the Lee brothers, but to illustrate my point that the Indian total of just 100 was well below par, you only have to look at the bowling analysis of part-timer Andrew Symonds who took 4-11 off just 3.3 overs.
Andrew bowls steady medium pacers, but these figures are a bit flattering. Mind you, Australia's response when they came to bat wasn't much better. We saw a fantastic fightback led by Srinath (4-30), and Prasad (1-29) who had the Aussies reeling at 5-59 and in serious trouble. Unfortunately for India, the pressure was released once Tendulkar was forced to bring into the attack Ganguly, Singh and Kumble.
Things may have been different if Ajit Agarkar had been fit to play.
Australia got to the target, at times luckily, through Symonds who received the man of the match award and Damien Martyn who put together the decisive match winning partnership.
All summer, the Indian batsmen have been struggling to come to terms with Australian wickets and the extra bounce they produce. This is not a new problem, with previous Indian teams having similar difficulties. My suggestion to the Indian cricket authorities would be to take a leaf out of Australia's book. Australian teams have traditionally struggled to come to terms with conditions in India. We now try and send as many youth teams as possible to the sub-continent to give these young players experience in that environment.
In the years ahead, the Australian teams that visit the sub-continent will have players who have some knowledge of what to expect both in the cultural differences off the field as well as the different conditions on it. It wouldn't be too hard to organise India "A" and youth teams to visit our shores in order to gain invaluable experience on our pitches. Having our respective youth teams competing against each other both home and away will allow a greater understanding of what makes each other tick.
Professional Management Group