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December 15, 2003
John Buchanan: wishes his batsmen had played like Dravid and Laxman did
© Getty Images
In the beautiful words of Peter Roebuck, Waugh's Australians have played cricket by their own lights. To add to that, every once in a while, they have fallen prey to their own brand of cricket that knows no alternate path. Pushed to confront that reality after an atrocious batting performance today, John Buchanan conceded that the Australian batting had been immature.
"There are days when teams will get bowled out for 196 if the conditions favour bowlers and the bowling is exceptional. Sadly, we can't offer those excuses today.
"We always look to play aggressive cricket. It's part of our batting philosophy, we try to score off as many balls as possible. That's how we have been successful. But some of the shot selection from our top six batsmen was not good enough today. The Indian bowlers bowled in the right areas, give them credit for that. But our batting performance was immature."
The essence of Australian batsmanship is based in an immense faith in their ability to dominate and decimate bowlers irrespective of conditions and match situations. While their bowling is often based around precision and efficiency, their awesome aura has been built around an intimidatory approach from their batsmen. Not only do their batsmen work on the principle of demoralization, but they create time for their bowlers to chip away at the opposition. Their record brooks no arguments.
But there come occasions which demand circumspection. There are times when bowlers deserve to be accorded respect, when impetuosity needs to be replaced by common sense. The evidence is that the Australians have, whenever they have been found facing a rare circumstance calling for a withdrawal from aggression, failed the test. They failed to bat out for a draw in Kolkata, they didn't learn from their mistakes in the following Test at Chennai, and today, when a couple of hours of sensible batting was needed to stabilize the innings, they refused to be swayed from their belief that they could pulverise their way through.
Of their top seven batsmen, only Justin Langer fell solely to the skill of the bowler. Indian bowlers deserve credit for creating the other wickets by their stifling the scoring opportunities, but when Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist replay their dismissals, they will have cause for regret.
"We had talked about the ability of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to bat time yesterday," Buchanan said, "that's what good batsmen need to do on a pitch like this. A couple of our batsmen needed to do that today. Sadly it didn't happen."
The match is, of course, not won or lost yet. Just how hard Australia will fight was evident from Brad Williams, who had appeared at yesterday's press conference with his left arm in a sling, braving his injured shoulder to come out to bowl today. "Brad has shown great courage," Buchanan said, "and that's the sort of courage and commitment you will see from all eleven players tomorrow. 197 runs is a lot to get on a last day pitch, which, as you saw today, played the odd trick. There will be a little more dust and turn tomorrow. Things didn't go the way we had planned today, but it's not a match gone wrong for us yet."
The odds, Buchanan admitted, were in India's favour at the moment. "In our plans, we had hoped to create a situation by lunch tomorrow when there could have been only one winner. The way things have worked out, there are two teams in the contest at this stage."
The man who, more than anyone else, is responsible for creating that situation wasn't complaining about Australia's batting. Ajit Agarkar, who despite bowling well on his last tour to Australia, had gathered ridicule for five successive ducks, attributed his career-best bowling performance today to bowling consistently and to a plan. "They [Australia] always play positive cricket," he said, "and when so many shots are being played, you always fancy getting wickets if you bowl in the right areas.
"We have a plan for every Australian batsman. On some days, those plans might not work, but there's no reason why we shouldn't stick to them."
Sambit Bal, the editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine and Wisden Cricinfo in India, will be following the Indian team throughout this Test series.
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