January 4, 2008

Indian Cricket

Laxman was sublime but India need more

Mukul Kesavan
Steve Bucknor warns Australia for time wasting, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, August 14, 2005
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Peter Roebuck has said all that needs to be said about the umpiring on the first day of the Sydney Test. The Indian bowlers, given how thin the attack looked on paper, were first-rate. Disregard the static about how a truly resilient bowling attack would have picked itself off the floor: this one just did. RP Singh and his fellows took Mark Benson's gift to Ricky Ponting in their stride and reduced Australia to 134 for 6. (Ponting, by the way, did a Yuvraj and moaned about getting a bad decision having benefited from his let off!). The spinners then gamely tried to put Steve Bucknor's hearing-aid moment behind them by having Andrew Symonds stumped twice but the third umpire was astigmatic and didn't give the first one, so Bucknor sensibly didn't refer the second stumping to him to stop him from giving technology a bad name.

For the Indians, RP Singh and Sachin Tendulkar were exceptional. The four wickets that RP Singh took were actually out, which, with umpires like these, must count for something. The outstanding Australian player was Brad Hogg. He started the counter-attack and caned the bowling with such smiling good cheer that Anil Kumble and the rest must have wondered if he was Adam Gilchrist's cousin. Then Brett Lee did his part by putting the boot in on the second morning. It's the depth of this Australian lower order that kills visiting sides off; if the batsmen don't get you the allrounders will. This Test may well turn on Symonds' big hundred but that had so many fathers that it must count as a collaboration, not an individual achievement.

I haven't watched a lovelier innings than the one VVS Laxman played today in years. The cover drives were reliably sublime but it was the onside shots, the whips and pulls and flicks that made me grin and nod like a hypnotized child. When threading a packed off-side field wasn't challenging enough, he seemed to experiment, for the sake of his art, with more improbable angles. Long legged and stooped, Laxman occupies the crease like a slightly worried, but marvellously graceful stork. His stroke-play is non-violent; when he's in his zone the strokes seem to be played in some abstract cause - beauty? geometry? - rather than the needs of the contest itself. It isn't true, of course. His epic innings have always been played in ferociously competitive contexts; it's just that he never looks dogged or fierce or elaborately determined.

That said, this innings mightn't rank amongst his best because it doesn't seem big enough. Size matters; India needed a repeat of his two previous centuries at Sydney, a hundred and fifty at least. If stumps had been taken on the second day with Laxman and Rahul Dravid at the crease, Indian fans could have gone to bed dreaming of six hundred runs, Kolkata redux. As things stand, a sensibly optimistic scenario would have India matching the Australian score over two sessions and a bit on the third day and then look to RP Singh, Kumble and the enigmatic Harbhajan Singh to keep the Aussies down to a plausible fourth-innings target. One of Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh has to get a century for any of this to happen. If it is Yuvraj, he will have earned his Test spurs and this blog will happily abase itself and acknowledge its absolute ignorance. But someone had better do it, because if they don't, Laxman's magical innings will be diminished; it'll become one more pretty thing to be salvaged by desis from the familiar wreckage of defeat.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

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Posted by Punter007 on (January 7, 2008, 21:26 GMT)

Ahhaa, Even Zimbabwe could have won this test match with those two umpires around, And I don't understand why australians are celebrating so loud, Hmmmm....I think this is the way they always win, Many people by now understood why all visiting teams have lost or protested against the upmiring standards or sludging, which is Australia thinks they are playing in cricketing spirits, I don't understand whys ICC is not considering sledging as poor sportsmanship and ban it.

Posted by Rahul Razi on (January 7, 2008, 5:22 GMT)

what is with people complaining over Australia's so called double standards, i bet if you ask Ricky Ponting what he was really fumming about when given out would not be the decision but the fact he fell to Harbajan again and a critcal moement in the game and the fact he wasnt out would of added to it at the time. Australia play Very hard cricket and to win, at all cost unlike the other 7 or 8 test nations DONT - Thats a fact, INDIA are coming along but still lack that killer instinct to be a great team. Why is so much being put on Symonds over the Dravid wicket caus he was batting so will what a joke.. droped could of easily been given out LBW 2 or 3 times give me a break. Im from india as well by the Way.

Posted by Gee on (January 6, 2008, 14:05 GMT)

sorry Dave but just tot will add d much needed corrections to your post mate! Here it goes..

Victory...a SHAMEFUL n Disgusting Aussie victory! Once again, the (UMPIRE)ful Australians serve up a big bowl of bulls**t and make the better deserved Indians eat it, utterly humiliating the Australian team spirit after Steve Waugh yet again.

This is one of the saddest test match victories ever - getting lucky as they did from 6-134 to post two totals of over 400 (only losing 17 wickets, which actually was probably 27 after d shocking decisions n d aussie spirit shown),and then bowling out a side in 70 overs (8 out of 10 batsmen atleast), inspite ponting n clarke appealing for grounded catches!

The Aussies must be utterly humiliated and the prospect of facing the reality in near future cud b seen on ponting's face! Thanx Dave n im sure ud remember d 99WC semis after seeing ganguly's dismissal

India werent outclassed at the sport mate but im sorry, Aussies seem better Drama artists!

Posted by Travis on (January 6, 2008, 11:39 GMT)

Dave, yes we're all happy that we won. But I find the way you're rubbing it in distasteful and ill-timed. If the boot was on the other foot I'd be feeling a tad peeved myself. Have a little empathy, dude.

That said, I'm in no way going to "put an asterisk" next to this win as somebody above suggested. Yes, Australia had the better of some incredibly bad umpiring. But until some proof is shown that the umpires were a part of some vast conspiracy to deny a valiant India side, this is merely a statistical oddity. Nothing more.

Posted by Mark Lees on (January 6, 2008, 10:50 GMT)

Forget about Bucknor, he's finished. Rather than harping on about bad umpiring no one is offering a fresh solution. TECHNOLOGY IS NOT THE answer!. Why? Because the rules state that the umpire is the sole judge etc etc. The ICC cannot make better umpire magically appear but..... here is an idea..... Why not have 3 or even 4 umpires appointed for every test match. They could "interchange" at drink and session breaks. That way no one perso is required to concentrate 100% of the time for 2 hours x 3 sessions x 5 days. If we want to get closer to perefect decisions then we should be looking at why umpires have mind blanks etc. No one asks the sportsman (batsman, bowler or fielder) to concentrate for 450 overs why do we think that unpires can? It's not much easier being at square leg than the bowlers stumps so an umpire needs to be "on" all the time. Umpires are only human.... well just.

Posted by Jason on (January 6, 2008, 8:06 GMT)

Yuvraj Singh = bahahahahahahahaha!

Anil Kumble deserves praise for his true captain's knock and one can't help but admire him for it.

Dravid copped an absolute shocker. It's funny just before that decision I was thinking that he was having a really lucky run this series- caught off no-balls, absolute sitters dropped off him etc but his luck ran out in the most terrible way today.

I can't recall ever seeing such poor umpiring in a cricket match, and more errors went in Australia's favour than India's, but you still can't say Australia wouldn't have won- you can't speculate what would have happened, and at the end of the day India just haven't been good enough this series so far. They really were completely outclassed (and poorly captained) when the game was there to be won on days 4 and 5.

Credit has to go to Laxman for being the man who took Australia on from which Tendulkar, Kumble, and to a lesser extent Ganguly took their leads.

Oh and Yuvraj Singh... bahahahahahaha!

Posted by dave on (January 6, 2008, 7:54 GMT)

Victory, glorious Aussie victory.

Once again, the masterful Australians serve up a big bowl of crow and make the racist, self-deluding Indians eat it, utterly humiliating them yet again.

This is one of the greatest test match victories ever - recovering as they did from 6-134 to post two totals of over 400 (only losing 17 wickets), defending a 500+ total and then bowling out a side in 70 overs, despite some dreadful umpiring decisions going in India's favour.

The Indians must be utterly humiliated and the prospect of facing the Aussie quicks in Perth must be terrifying.

And what do I hear form the Indian supporters- moan, moan, moan.... face it, your team is outclassed and will continue to be.

Posted by jay on (January 6, 2008, 7:37 GMT)

Recent umpiring decisions have been so blatantly biased towards England and Australia and against Asian teams that even Anglo and Aussie journalists have been embarrassed even to speak out against them.

The attempt to keep the Asian teams 'in their place' has been going on for some time now through every kind of dirty trick imaginable - umpire-rigged matches, selective punishments, pressurising of Asian cricket boards, gagging orders, rule changes etc, etc.

May I suggest a way to fight the beast? Rest guys like Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar for tours to England and Australia. Give junior guys a chance to have a practice tour, knowing that any fair and serious cricket is not going to happen in those countries. Let the English and Australian authorities continue to wallow in the self-congralutaory orgy that is the Ashes and let them be denied the chance to see the cream of Asian cricketing talent in action. Maybe then they will be forced to change tack.

Posted by ed on (January 6, 2008, 5:37 GMT)

I can't watch this test match any more, having just seen Umpire Bucknor giving Dravid out caught behind off the middle of his pad.

If the Aussies' winning streak is to continue, there needs to be an asterix against this game, as the 2 umpires have done more to win the game for the Aussies than the combined Aussie XI....

Fundamentally incorrect decisions against India at critical times have altered the entire course of the game. Symonds caught behind on 30, then stumped on 48 - he went on to get 160 odd. Ponting caught behind on 17 (he then had the temerity to complain about his even worse LBW decision when on 55). In the Aussie 2nd innings - Symonds (61) plumb LBW first ball (Hawkeye - you were wrong!); Hussey caught behind on 45, then scores 145 not out...Now Dravid in India's game saving dig - Bucknor is utterly hopeless and has been a liability for years. India would have wrapped up the test by now if these decisions had been made correctly - that makes it 1-1!!

Posted by Eddie Keys on (January 6, 2008, 5:11 GMT)

In this Test Australia had an unfair advantage. They also had Steve Bucknor(decisions:Symonds and Dravid) in their team.It is high time that this incompetent official masquerading as an umpire was sent packing. He passed his sell by date at least three years ago!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mukul Kesavan
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.

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