India in Australia 2011-12

Australia's green attack silences India's 'big three'

Rookies against ramparts is promising to light up the summer. It's 1-0 rookies, now it's up to the veterans to respond

Sidharth Monga

January 1, 2012

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A

James Pattinson finished with four wickets, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2011
The fate of the series rests on whether India's batsmen can find a way around the probing lengths of the Australian seamers © Getty Images
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Going into the first Test of the series, there was concern around the stronger suits of both sides. The Indian middle order was coming off a flop from England, but it had three greats in it who were expected to do well. It is no disrespect to the Australian stronger suit - their quicks - but this was expected to be different from England. While England's pace attack had been together for a while, a polished and efficient unit, the Australian fast bowlers were just coming together. The pitches in Australia too are traditionally more to the liking of batsmen than the ones in England.

One Test into the series, the contest of the summer has been set up beautifully. Three great batsmen against three inexperienced bowlers bowling as if they had been up against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman all their lives, giving nothing away, asking questions persistently. It is easy, and perhaps justified to expect the Indian big three to get the better of a green attack, not all of whom were the first choices but played because of injuries to others. As it turned out, they were up against some high-quality fast bowling.

The Indian batting flopped twice in Melbourne, in the words of their captain MS Dhoni, but it didn't happen easy. Every word of praise that came through from the Indian camp for James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle was meant and earned. All three found supreme fitness just in time for the Test series, all bowled at good pace, all bowled good lines around off, and exploited all that the pitch had to offer.

It's not as if they were bowling against batsmen woefully out of form. Dravid had had a bumper year, and Tendulkar looked good through the year, which showed in an average of 47. Only Laxman had an ordinary year, but he too had scored a big century in his last series. The Australian fast men got Tendulkar twice and Dravid once after they had got their eye in, which suggests sustained intensity, and Laxman wasn't allowed to get his eye in even once. They also came back from a whirlwind Virender Sehwag start and dropped catches.

Tendulkar tried to hit them off their rhythm in the first innings. There were the upper-cuts, and lofted shots off the offspinner Nathan Lyon. Yet, towards the end of the second day, a disappointing one for Australia until then, Siddle and Pattinson found within themselves spells of quick and probing bowling. Siddle broke through the defences of both Dravid and Tendulkar, but overstepped on one of those occasions.

 
 
The success was built around bowling lengths that would hit the top of the stumps, and lines that were neither wide nor straight, at high pace. Hilfenhaus swung it in the air, and the other two enjoyed the seam movement, either way, off the pitch
 

Dravid, admittedly not at the top of his game at MCG, was not given loose deliveries at all. He fought and fought through the adversity until he got a ripper from Hilfenhaus, as early as the first over of the next day.

Laxman is the kind of batsman who needs a couple of boundaries at the start of an innings. Here he was given none. Michael Clarke had the angles worked out well for both the batsmen, but it was Laxman who was especially choked. He played a couple of crisp shots, but found the fielders in the infield. Then he went into his shell, taking 20 deliveries to get off the mark in the first innings, and scoring 1 off 14 in the second.

By the second innings, it was clear the bowlers from the Members End had more assistance from the pitch. Hilfenhaus took the Great Southern Stand End, and bowled a 13-over spell broken only by the lunch break. Not only did he take two wickets for just 32 runs then, he allowed Siddle and Pattinson to charge in alternatively from the more helpful end. By the time India got a sight of what would have been the relief bowler, Lyon, they had effectively lost the match.

The success was built around bowling lengths that would hit the top of the stumps, and lines that were neither wide nor straight, at high pace. Hilfenhaus swung it in the air, and the other two enjoyed the seam movement, either way, off the pitch. If the bowlers can do that, it doesn't matter that they have 160 wickets between, and that they are bowling to batsmen who have 37,000 runs between them. This is not an easy virtue to keep up over eight innings, though.

If Pattinson, Hilfenhaus and Siddle can keep up the same intensity and skill, and whether the three Indian greats can find a way around it - two of them at the same time, and not just one, as Dravid did in England - could decide the fate of this series. The pitches here won't be like the one India found in Durban, where one batting contribution, Laxman's, was enough to win the match. This will veer more towards Cape Town, where India drew because Gautam Gambhir contributed alongside Tendulkar.

Rookies against ramparts is promising to light up the summer. It's 1-0 rookies, now it's up to the veterans to respond.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by sl271828 on (January 3, 2012, 9:21 GMT)

Calling for the axing of the big 3 is really premature. This is particularly so with Tendulkar and Dravid, who were the second and third highest run scorers in the first test and pretty much the only Indian batsmen who looked comfortable. Dhoni needs to go as captain though. Three times India had Australia on the back foot in the first innings, but he then proceeded to set defensive fields and let the batsmen settle. Even as an Australian, I found that very frustrating to watch.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2012, 22:40 GMT)

There is no fear of green tops and the rookies. If only our batsmen can support all the good work our bowlers are doing then we will win. We bat very deep but sometimes it may be a good idea to attack Australians. Dhoni may try his batting order a bit. One message will be that he leads from front and then attacking Australians is the best and only way to win against them. Australians do fear anyone who attacks them.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2012, 22:40 GMT)

There is no fear of green tops and the rookies. If only our batsmen can support all the good work our bowlers are doing then we will win. We bat very deep but sometimes it may be a good idea to attack Australians. Dhoni may try his batting order a bit. One message will be that he leads from front and then attacking Australians is the best and only way to win against them. Australians do fear anyone who attacks them.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

AUSSIE SQUAD FOR TOMMOROW IS WARNER,COWAN,PONTING,CLARKE,HUSSEY,HADDIN,HARRIS OR MARSH,LYON,SIDDL,HILFENHOUS AND PATTINSON .THERE IS FIGHT BETWEEN MARSH AND HARRIS.

Posted by Naresh28 on (January 2, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

Its not about rookies and veterans. The big problem India has is that Shewag/Gambhir are not able to give any good starts. I see this factor overlooked even by EX- cricket commentators of the game. The Australians know this and are exploiting it. That is why Gambhir was being sledged - the banter to annoy him. Put Rohit Sharma up there and see how he does. He also is a spin bowler. The team will benefit from this. I strongly believe that after this tour - INDIA SHOULD DUMP THE BIG THREE this is needed if feilding standards are to improve.

Posted by Shanmughan on (January 2, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

A ripper from Sehwag is what India needs.That will surely put young Pattinson of his trail,and then India will be well on their way..Hiffenhaus is way too reliant on the conditions,and Siddle can be error prone in his line and length as he has proved over the years.

Posted by Rukus_NZ on (January 2, 2012, 7:39 GMT)

India were not well prepared, same as last time they toured Australia. I hope they are not deluded enough to use the excuse "we need a couple Aussie Pitches to adjust" - they are professional criicketers for crying out loud!!! Hmmmm lets hope they do their homework - otherwise they will keep dabbing at that swing and keep getting out!

Posted by ravi_hari on (January 2, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

Nice piece Sidharth. It is surprising that Indians have always allowed new comers to establish themselves at international level. Cowan, Pattinson are the latest additions. However, if you look at the batting performances in the last 4 away tours, Indians have faired very poorly. Even in Windies they could not consistantly corss the 350 mark. To win a test match 1 batting collapse is enough. Indians have done it in each of the last 5 tests and lost. Aussies have done it on3 occasions in the past 5 tests and lost 2. The irony is that now India is playing its First XI. Only exception is Kohli who is a rookie in tests. The reason why India is loosing tests is because of its openers, Dhoni and the tail. Gambhir and Dhoni seem to have forgotten how to play in tests. They give so many chances for bowlers that it seems like catching practice. Laxman will bounce back, but will it be enough? Can Dravid bat for ever? Does sachin have it in him? All questions to be answered. Hope SCG answers some

Posted by RandyOZ on (January 2, 2012, 6:31 GMT)

It is absolutely disgraceful what the big 3 are doing to India. They are holding promising youngsters like Rohit out, even though he isn't that young anymore. Their continual chase for records only means that the next wave of Indian batsmen will be highly inexperienced. I predict a dark time ahead for Indian batting. The bowling however looks very promising, with the experienced Zaheer leading a good young crop. Dropping Harbhajan for Ashwin was one of the best things they could've done.

Posted by satish619chandar on (January 2, 2012, 6:17 GMT)

The guys who took away the "Cant win away" tag doesn't deserve to end their career failing in their last away tours.. They did it for a decade.. One more time it is required..

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