India's experiments in Tests not working

Written by: Javagal Srinath
Published: Friday, February 3, 2006, 12:40 [IST]
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On flat pitches, we saw the batsmen's encroachment of the bowling space and witnessed an undesired imbalance in the first two Tests of the Indo-Pak series. The Karachi pitch, which had a bit of moisture, allowed the bowlers to rule some parts of the Test.

It not only produced a result but also brought life to cricket. Although the result is too bitter for the Indians to digest, Pakistan has reassured its supremacy in the Asian continent. India, who were in a position of strength initially, let opportunities go begging only to lose the series in the end.

Irfan Pathan literally bowled the match-winning first over of the match. But with half the Pakistan batsmen sent back to the pavilion in the first hour, the last four batsmen won half the battle for the hosts by occupying the crease for the next five hours.

One can accept the blinder of a knock played by Kamran Akmal but not the runs scored by the controversial speedster Shoaib Akhtar. At the crucial juncture when Pakistan was 39 for 6, the Indian bowlers needed to bring the element of intimidation. Instead they allowed a match-winning partnership.

Pakistan has always been successful in finding great batsmen in wicketkeepers. After Moin Khan and Rashid Latif, it's now the turn of Akmal to sparkle with the bat.

There will be a lot of debate and discussions in the coming days on the Indian opening slots. The idea of moving batsmen like pawns in a game of chess somehow seems ridiculous in a Test match situation. In one-dayers, such experiments seem to work as the pace of the game calls for innovation all the time.

Laxman walking out to open the innings in Karachi was not a great idea at all. Sehwag is a regular opener, averaging around 100 against the hosts. His absence gave the Pak bowlers a psychological advantage.

Though Laxman had opened the innings in the initial part of his career, he had always been reluctant to do so as he felt his style of batting was more effective in the middle order. The positions for the batsmen in Test matches assume high importance in the way they mentally prepare for the game. I have every reason to believe that the Rahul-Greg duo has gone too far in experimenting in the Test matches too.

When it comes to evaluating Pakistan batting, one must conversely assess the Indian bowling too. Pakistan's batting truly reflected the Indian bowling strength. One argument could be that the bowlers were completely drained after playing on two flat tracks earlier.

But Irfan was the only one who figured in all three Test matches. It is not fair to compare the pacemen of the two countries, but it was clearly evident that the Pakistan bowlers in tandem bowled above the threshold pace of 135 km/h whereas the Indian bowlers operated at a rather amicable pace.

Zaheer and Irfan have bowled with much better pace and penetration in their careers. Both Zaheer in his late 20's and Irfan in the early 20's can afford to bowl with a yard or two of extra pace. Test cricket calls for decent pace and no matter what you learn in terms of line, length and movement at this level, bowlers must keep up with the critical pace all the times.

When it comes to spinners, there is hardly any spinner in the world who has done well in Pakistan.

The Indian batting failed because of the pressure of a 600-run target. Hardly any team can bat in the fourth innings for over five and half sessions while playing in a saving mode.

The credit of winning the Test certainly goes to the Pakistan bowlers. Shoaib did not get many wickets, but it was his constant speed, which helped the other bowlers like Razzaq and the new-find Asif to reap rewards. In fact, they both must contribute half their success to Shoaib's pace.

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