Samir Chopra October 14, 2010

India and Australia: Another delectable duet

A couple of posts ago , I wrote of my anguish at having missed out on a type of Test finish I'd always wanted to see

India celebrate their triumph but more fascinating challenges lie ahead © AFP

A couple of posts ago, I wrote of my anguish at having missed out on a type of Test finish I'd always wanted to see. In the Bangalore Test, I felt the opportunity had come for India to pull off another kind of Test win that I don't normally associate with them: a close, aggressive chase on the last day. But I was pessimistic about this, because the business of taking the last three wickets was still unfinished. Would India be incisive enough to quickly wrap things up; would they chase hard, and not get flustered by early wickets if they fell? I still thought a draw could happen, and my cautiousness led me to pick this as the most likely result.

But, I didn't want to miss out on the end, so the alarm was duly set for 5 AM, and I staggered out to settle down for what I thought would be a close-run final session. Well, all I got was another 30 minutes of action. Not only had India ripped through the tail, they had scored at over four runs an over, sent in a debutant at number three ahead of Rahul Dravid, and generally bossed things on their way to a 2-0 win. The end of this series was surprising in more ways than one. The Australians faded fast, and their feebleness contrasted with India's aggression even more starkly as the day wore on. And so, this frustratingly short series drew to a close. My sleep patterns will be happy but the cricketing part of my brain won't.

This was a series that can, and should be, used to showcase Test cricket: it is possible for a side to lose two Tests after winning tosses and scoring more than 400 runs in the first innings of each Test; games can be dead even after three days and then swing (almost) decisively one way on the fourth day; one delivery can mean all the difference in retrospect (Steven Smith's throw, Billy Bowden's finger could have meant that India could have walked into the Bangalore test 0-1 down); and so on. The daily swings in momentum, sometimes large, sometimes miniscule, were fascinating, as were the many little battles between individuals. (Virender Sehwag lost his against the Aussie bowlers; but still, one can't be too displeased by the fact that India beat Australia without a significant contribution from him).

In both Tests, India surrendered the early advantage of the toss, fought to keep the opening days even, and then let the Australian lower order take the initiative again. In their responses the Indian batting line-up threatened each time to rack up huge leads, but then obligingly handed back the party ball to the Australians, almost as if taking a first-innings lead would have been unbecoming of the hosts. Sachin Tendulkar would have been justified at screaming with frustration at the lower order on the fourth day of the Bangalore Test; a potentially match-winning double-ton was in danger of turning into another one of those exhibits in the Indian Museum of How We Let Tendulkar Down and Let Him Be Accused of Not Playing Match-Winning Innings.

Thankfully, in each second innings, the Indian bowlers, that much-maligned component of Indian teams, grabbed the advantage. Nothing, bar nothing, gave me more pleasure than watching the Australian tail go quickly. Forget about the top and middle orders; Indian bowlers have gotten rid of those in the past. It's the tail that always wags a little too much. But not this time.

In all of this, spare of a thought for the Australians. Despite their second-innings wobbles, they were not easily vanquished (and had managed to reduce India to 124-8 chasing 216 in Mohali). While everyone was busy congratulating the Bangalore crowd for rescuing Test cricket, no one bothered to wonder whether the presence of the Australians might not have had something to do with the large numbers that showed up. The Australians are still compelling, despite all their weaknesses.; they are, after all, an indispensable part of the famed India-Australia rivalry. Ricky Ponting, that much-maligned man, did not have his generosity in letting VVS Laxman have a runner in the first Test acknowledged by too many (and sadly, the Indian captain, MS Dhoni did not see fit to acknowledge the opposition in generous terms at the post-match ceremony; now that India are number one, they should show the loftiness of true champions and acknowledge the vanquished with grace). If the Australians can get their puzzling selections sorted out, they can still prove a mighty hard nut to crack for England.

This series is done, but fascinating challenges lie ahead for both its contenders. India will play New Zealand at home before they take on another perennial overseas challenge: the South Africans. Australia will try and regain the Ashes. And Test cricket, I'm pretty sure, will let everyone know what time it is.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on October 21, 2010, 15:35 GMT

    All together it was the fantastic series and good atmosphere for test cricket, to show the world that still test cricket have same crowd what we have for the IPL games.But thing is that u should stop the rotation policy of venues and select Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Eden garden and upto some extent Delhi as our test venues, as this cities catch the crowd at greater extent and may be test matches should be shedulde to start on Weekends to catch the crowd and on the deciding days automatically is going to come for the party. About Dhoni his performance was not that much good in this series, but as acaptain his moves were very well done. hope he finds his form too vs New Zealand.

  • testli5504537 on October 20, 2010, 7:43 GMT

    Nice piece. What a great advertisement for test cricket, which is generally lagging if not dying in the subcontinent, what with a young population that is following T20 to the exclusion of most else. The Australians fought hard with limitations in bowling. I think Indians make too much of the umpiring, but it was uniformly bad and India had goofed by rejecting the review system and could so easily have come to grief. One must admire Ponting for his grace in defeat and fighting against the odds. It is sad that many of the mails are critical of him and the Australians and some of the crowd in Bangalore , actually booed them. For what? For being australians was it? Sad. I think we need to be gracious in victory and even Dhoni was scarce in his praise. But nothing can take away from the fantastic games that we saw. May we see more of the same! sridhar

  • testli5504537 on October 19, 2010, 23:42 GMT

    Mr Chopra,I want to make things very clear to you.If Ishant Was not given out,the case would be different and I agree completely with you that Aussies played their part but were outplayed by us.One should accept defeat.The complaint you give about MSD for not appreciating Aussies post match is void.And also about umpiring in mohali test should be compared with Steve bucknor too in Australia and in the same mohali test for Indians....Its not partiality but umpires are in pressure too....

    So to make things very clear to you......everybody is watching cricket....a

  • testli5504537 on October 19, 2010, 15:44 GMT

    @Anu--Unsubstantiated reports, and you jump on it. And anyways the "reported" CWG incident took place 2 days post the test series !!! So i wonder which tabloid do you read?

  • testli5504537 on October 18, 2010, 15:01 GMT

    Both teams played good cricket and players from both sides showed great sporting spirit.the team having slight edge over the other has won the series.that's it!!!! And now ponting should forget about equalling sachin's records in any format of the game.

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2010, 11:21 GMT

    @anu. Very well written. The truth is Australian grace comes out only during defeat. When victors they forget the whole world.

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2010, 7:21 GMT

    Is this an example of Australian grace in victory and defeat-Oz atheletes started shouting against Sachin when he got a 200 and hurled down a washing machine when Aus were white-washed 2-0 at Bangalore. They found nothing wrong in damaging the property of a country which had given them the highest no. of medals in CWG. AFter winning the Sydney test of 2008, Ricky and his team did not shake hands with the Indian team which even after losing had come to shake hands in the spirit of the game. Indian cricket team or any Indian sportstar did not hurl down washing machine when the hockey team lost 8-0 to Aus. A team that once used underarm deliveries to stop opponents from winning and used aluminium bats to damage the ball should not talk about grace in victory and loss to other teams. Chandrashekhar used to bowl with a hand paralyzed by polio. Injured Ishant was bowling as well as batting, injured Laxman was scoring boundaries. Dont give excuse of injury to Bolinger.

  • testli5504537 on October 16, 2010, 3:52 GMT

    The innings by debutant Pujara in 4th innings at Bangalore was no less crucial than Laxman's in 4th innings at Mohali. We must not forget that Pujara got a ball in 1st innings which could have devoured any one except probably Sunny Gavaskar.If we putup the team of Sehwag, Gambhir, Pujara, Tendulkar,Dravid, Laxman and Dhoni followed by 4 bowlers with Raina as 12th man, we might return undefeated from S Africa

  • testli5504537 on October 15, 2010, 20:06 GMT

    @Venkat: I am prepared to give every bowler a 'runner'! Can he/they bowl just from the crease? LOL! Come on! Pl argue based on something meaningful.

    Laxman was fielding for two days. So his injury was during the match. So Ponting wd not have had a chance to object to a runner even if he wanted to. btw, Laxman had a runner (Gambhir) even in the first innings but did not propser. (;page=3;view=commentary)

    So it is speculative to think that w/o the runner Laxman wd not have played that innings.

    Go back to the 1982 Bombay Test against England. Indian skipper G R Vishwanath recalled Taylor (I think) after being given out by the umpire and Taylor went on to make a big score which contributed to the English victory. Vishwanath was known as a 'walker' too. So the tradition of sporting spirit has been in India for a long time. Remember Kapil Dev?

  • testli5504537 on October 15, 2010, 17:26 GMT

    @ Bingo Haley Cant remember Indians lacking grace in defeat or victory. Do agree that some of the new lads lack grace but we have always handled defeat and victory really well. Sachin, Kumble, Dravid, VVS, Srinath, etc. Have they ever acted in a way to bring " disrepute to the game"? Cheers!

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