Sunday, November 08, 2009

India's misery in Guwahati. A tale of 170 all out vs 175

By John Cheeran
So much for India's batting strength. It caved in Guwahati (170 all out, 27 for five, 75 for six at one stage of the innings), and if not for the carefree innings of fast bowler Praveen Kumar (54 off 51 balls), Mahendra Singh Dhoni's India would not have crossed 100 runs.
This is what I call as context. On a merry batting track, anyone can score. But your character and temperament are revealed when you are tested by a surface that offers some bounce and turn to bowlers.
Virender Sehwag 6, Sachin Tendulkar 10, Gautam Gambhir 0, Yuvraj Singh 6, Suresh Raina 0 and you want to win a match and the series?
We have seen this kind of inexplicable batting displays from Indian sides over the years. And again I'm not surprised by the abject display of Indian top order. As Sachin Tendulkar himself said the other night in Hyderabad, everyone cannot score on every day.
But what, then, about consistency?
Pundits and former players who have raved about Tendulkar's 175 should have reserved their encomiums for an innings that would be played in conditions that are challenging to batsman.
You are nothing but a statistician when you cannot appreciate the context of an innings. A batsman becomes great only when he towers over adverse circumstances. And again, you have to get out of the rut of calling every second innings played by batsmen, the best.
Well, I have taken note of the fact that Kapil Dev himself has rated Sachin Tendulkar's Hyderabad 175 better than his own stupendous effort of 175 not out in the 1983 World Cup. But I have never taken Kapil's comments on cricket seriously. A natural cricketer he is, but not the best of minds that can bring in a sense of dispassionate analysis to the game.
Now look at Ricky Ponting. Full credit to him for securing the series win against heavy odds. The way Australian batsmen handled the chase of 170 runs on a tricky pitch reveals their ingrained professionalism. It was a chase that could have gone wrong, had they lost a few early wickets. Not only did they not lose wickets but Shane Watson's positive approach to run gathering ensured that the innings never got bogged down.
Winning the toss did not help India and Dhoni. May be Dhoni wanted to unleash his spinners on a track that tended to break in the afternoon. But for all that, without posting a decent total, you could not expect bowlers to run through the innings.
Now there are legions of fans who will absolve the stars of the Indian side of the responsibility of losing this match, the one before and the one before that and the series.
And that is cricket for you in India.

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