Indians teach Aussies how to tell the time

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Thursday, January 8, 2004, 12:23 [IST]
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Sachin made runs while the "Pigeon" rested, but India still had to bat again because the Indian bowlers lacked the stamina to have a go at the Aussies again. Poor Dravid! He had to bow out from getting yet another hundred, in a declaration that seemed premature. The Indians should have batted the entire session out on the fourth day and then declared. This would have give Dravid the chance to notch up yet another hundred. However, alas! That was not meant to be.

The Aussies were definitely surprised by the Indians. One of the humbling lessons the Aussies had to learn was how to read the clock. Never ever had the Aussies in recent times batted with a view to staying at the wicket rather than scoring runs in their usual accelerated mode. Not only did the Indians make them watch the clock but also their steps as Kumble wove this web around them. It was a pity that Murali Kartik flopped!

That however, was the Indian think tank's fault. To include an injured Harbhajan Singh in the squad was foolhardy. Had Kartik been included earlier he would have had a chance of trying his wares against the club sides. But, that is why it is called "Test Cricket" and Kartik simply came away with an "F".

Agarkar flattered only to deceive. Nehra actually bowled better with a bruised ankle than a healed one as we saw in the World Cup. There was another mistake, Ashish was included prematurely, out of desperation to have more pacemen on the squad. But then, Indian cricket has always been confronted with TINA (There is no alternative) in the realm of pacers. Pity that a country of over a billion people cannot scratch out quality pacers with both speed and stamina.

I don't think Shoaib Akhtar is ready yet to help India in their pace department. He needs to get his injuries sorted out. However, if Shoaib were in India, he'd be playing no matter what. Irfan Pathan is also not Test material. Taking nine wickets against the Under-19 Sri Lanka team does not make one Test quality. However, the yorker he bowled to Gilchrist was a beauty! But deliveries like that are a few and far in between. Wasim Akram will testify to that. If Wasim could not do it, there is no way a beginner like Pathan will.

Since India has many left-armers in the pace department, Wasim Akram could be the right coach for them. However, Raj Singh Dungarpur will throw a fit over that. Most of the Indian pace bowlers are being trained by Indian coaches who were fast-medium or medium-fast in their heydays. How can a coach who was at best fast medium or medium fast produce a fast bowler from his trainees? It's like trying to get apples out of a peach tree.

The only way India can get real fast bowlers is for them to be trained on a regular basis by a fast bowler. True, Dennis Lillee was among the fastest and smartest in his playing days, but how often is he there at the MRF pace foundation himself? T A Sekhar was medium-fast in his playing days and one cannot expect him to produce anyone genuinely fast.

However, the tour Down Under was very satisfactory from the Indian standpoint. Inspite of the knockout punch India got on Boxing Day from the Aussies, they did not simply lie down till the count of ten expired. They got right up and delivered many a telling blow on the Aussies. Maybe with this renewed confidence, they may climb up the ICC Test and ODI ladder. But one thing is for sure, India has accomplished the most for a team with no genuine speedsters. That is remarkable.

Hopefully, Sachin will continue to score runs at will. Maybe now he can focus on being a match winner since Dravid, and Laxman have stepped up to the plate and made themselves count when it mattered most. Hopefully, the Indians notorious for forgetting the basics will not do a repeat and continue in the same vein as they left off Down Under.

Zaheer needs to work on his fitness. It is unusual when one compares the build of the Indian paceman with his foreign (including Pakistan) contemporary. The Indian paceman looks like a broomstick with teeth compared to his muscular foreign counterpart. Stamina is an entirely different story.

Here's wishing both the Pigeon and Harbhajan (Just Beer) Singh a full recovery. The Aussies definitely missed McGrath's services. Would the outcome have been different had he played? Maybe, maybe not. I also realized why people like Jason Gillespie are batting well all of a sudden. The reason the Aussie bowlers can focus on their batting is because they have already mastered their bowling skills. Whereas the Indian bowler for the most part can get his bowling act straight, and no wonder his batting skills are non existent. But, that's Indian cricket!

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