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July 11, 2011

Samir Chopra

Oh no, not again: the great misses continue

Samir Chopra
Darren Sammy and the West Indian team salute the crowd for their support, West Indies v India, 3rd Test, Dominica, 5th day, July 10, 2011
Should West Indies have been allowed a draw in Dominica?  © Associated Press
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In 1978, seven years after the Bangladesh War, India and Pakistan resumed cricketing ties in a three-Test series played in Pakistan. After playing out a draw in the first Test at Faisalabad, drearily in conformance with the cricketing history of the two sides, Pakistan beat India in the Lahore Test, thanks to Zaheer Abbas' magnificent 235, and a very enterprising run-chase on the fifth day in which Pakistan scored their runs at 6.19 an over, and galloped home with 8.2 overs still left in the day. This was heartening enough for fans of Test cricket, but it was the third Test that really showcased positive Test cricket at its best.

Sitting on a 1-0 lead against their archrivals, in a series fraught with emotional and political significance, Pakistan chased down a victory target of 164 runs in a maximum of 100 minutes. At times, the asking-rate had mounted to seven an over. No matter; the Pakistan batsmen, especially Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad scrambled singles like a pair of amphetamine-crazed ravers, drove the Indian fielders batty, and then finally, thanks to Imran Khan's assault on Bishen Bedi's bowling late in the game, Pakistan scampered home with an over to spare.

That was 33 years ago. Well before Twenty20 cricket had been conceptualised, and only three years after one-day cricket had staged its first World Cup. Just like India going into the Dominica Test that concluded on Sunday, Pakistan enjoyed a 1-0 lead in 1978. They could very well have shut up shop, strolled over to the victory dais, picked up their thousand-rupee cheque (I'm guessing that's what the prize money must have been in those days), and posed for the post-series victory shots. Mushtaq Mohammad could have given us some pablum about not being disappointed, about how Sunil Gavaskar had held them up on the final day, how the Karachi pitch was a bit slow and not conducive to penetrative bowling and so on.

Instead, Pakistan chased down the runs. There was a match to be played, a contest to be engaged in. Pakistan were not the world's No. 1 Test team; India was not one of the world's weakest teams (they might have been one of the world's worst fielding sides though). Rather, what made Pakistan go for victory, I suspect, was how that lot, Majid, Zaheer, Asif, Javed, Mushtaq, just played the game.

We should keep this in mind when we think about what transpired in Dominica on Sunday. The Test was called off by mutual agreement between both captains with India needing 86 runs from 15 overs after having been set a target of 180 in 47 overs. Abhinav Mukund's first-ball duck might have put a damper on things, but M Vijay and Rahul Dravid had at least scored at three an over, and Suresh Raina had sensibly been sent up the order. But the Indian balloon deflated rapidly after his departure and, in one of the most-bizarre abandonments of a Test match I've ever seen in my life, India walked off with 90 deliveries still left.

There are some Indian fans out there, including me, who are still surprised that India agreed to call off the 1979 Oval Test with one ball left and nine required to win. They, and I, will certainly never understand the shutting up of shop against West Indies on Sunday.

To be a true champion it is not enough that one sit on top of a numerical ladder of rankings and points; it is necessary the putative champion show the desire and the ability to respond to challenges, to find a way to transcend limitations and rise to the top of the game. This Indian Test team is certainly one of the most consistent in Indian cricket history and MS Dhoni is certainly one of its shrewdest captains. But the Dominica result shows that there is a long way to go before it can attain the status of champions. For the spirit of Melbourne 1986 - when India scored at 2.36 runs an over while chasing 126 on the final day and had bad weather force a draw - still lives on apparently, and the desire and wherewithal to force a win when not everything is in ones' favour still seems missing.

As for Test cricket, in such dire times, you need better guardians.

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

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Posted by Andy on (July 15, 2011, 15:13 GMT)

I really want to believe my own theory.the whole efforts were to allow West Indies to Draw. in order to promote cricket in Dominica & indirectly support growth of cricket/economy in west Indies. to make sure one of the oldest beauty in the cricketing world survives. wow I feel so good being an Indian. its impossible to believe, #1 Test ranked team, world cup winner, T20 champs, IPL folks habitual of carrying T20 hammer, Legends of test cricket on the crease, Best young talent, coolest captain & most destructive Oneday player, game changer Bhaji, formidable lower bat order (if Fidel can bat for 37 ovr),slow but batsmen friendly pitch.et al.. pls do not tell me any other reason for offering a draw. in total disbelief, I did not move away from the screen, untill they stopped transmission. then I question myself.. wasnt it the West Indies, who after their worldcup defeat came, demolished, demoralised & went back with 3-0 test & 5-0 ODI win. I will go with my first line & Shardas first para

Posted by Anonymous on (July 13, 2011, 9:01 GMT)

i think these playes just didnt not think of fans enduring the whole match and as when they deserved to watch some thrilling good quality cricket with fiedel and co. challenging the great indian line up they were denied just because of some laziness,lack in desire and commitment.The test cricket and fans were robbed.the crowd must ask for the return of tickit money

Posted by BirKat on (July 13, 2011, 7:19 GMT)

Typical Indian fans giving excuses for their boring team... Team India did not play like champions, or as the No.1 team in the world. Taking a risk in order to go for a win is a true part of a champion team... Australia under Mark Taylor made a name for themselves as an aggressive team that always went for a result, that's why they were so respected as a cricket team. India and MSD have a long way to go to be regarded as true champs. But please don't give excuses for not having the confidence in your abilities to go for a win. And don't critisize the author for doing his job. His points are valid and said with the best interest of Test cricket at heart, and with no malice whatsoever...

Posted by Diwakar on (July 13, 2011, 4:55 GMT)

@ajay: Dravid can wring a draw out of a T20 game. And everyone knows that! Dhoni himself should have come in before Dravid and run the singles hard. Less than 6 an over with 7 wickets in hand, however slow the wicket, is gettable. This is not 1982 for God's sakes when an asking rate of over 4 was Himalayan.

Posted by Samir on (July 13, 2011, 1:35 GMT)

Come on, don't be stupid. It took them 105 balls to get the No. 10 out on a day 5 pitch. You cannot win with that kind of loser play.

Posted by Hidustani 007 on (July 13, 2011, 0:34 GMT)

India have let slip an opportunity, fair enough on the last day of a test match it is never easy to chase and hence some consideration to the fact the team opted for safety, but the no 1 team in the world should be going for victory in these circumstances, playing a pathetic WI team with average bowling at its best. 180 in 47 overs not easy but a better effort needed to be made at least continue the chase until the fall of 5 wickets. Poor effort!! Also I think it is time Dravid said goodbye and we give Kohli a chance at 3, yes sure Dravid made runs in the first test leading India to victory but he no longer looks like the wall too many easy dismissals and his slip catching and general fitness no longer looks upto the standard of the past, time for him to go!

Posted by hunks on (July 13, 2011, 0:20 GMT)

Virendraji by any chance are you from Sehwag family??????

I sincerely believe Samir is right in criticizing as India did not even try to win

I wish Sehwag (Most destructive test opener of modern era-The Game Changer) was available for selection

Posted by sachin parekh on (July 12, 2011, 23:49 GMT)

People here keep saying no 1 test team nit going for the kill but please take a look at the team Which did not have Sehwag Gambhir Sachin Zaheer Yuvraj

Well to me it was an india a team pkaying this series and for an india a team to get such results means we have a pretty good back up team so you party poopers cheer up

Posted by sachin parekh on (July 12, 2011, 23:43 GMT)

Please for a moment leave the indian team alone They just won the world cup by hitting a last ball 6 and deafting australia , pakistan and sri lanka back to back The india a team won the t 20 and one day series and won the first test from 80 for 6 In the second test rain saved the west indies Agred that they could have gone for victory in the 3 rd test and they were trying to do it with raina but wi raina gone and west indies bowling leg stump wides that had to be chased to make the runs i felt dhoni made a very informed and pragmatic decision. The win hungry people of india willl always crib for a win in every match even if india is trying its bench strength and looking to develop players for the future

Posted by ajay on (July 12, 2011, 18:03 GMT)

well written article! I think apart from Dhoni, Dravid too should be criticized foor the way he was batting. It was anybody's guess that Dravid was playing for a draw. No intent or desire to win was displayed by him. Dhoni should have sent Kohli at No. 3. The entire innings should have been converted into an ODI kind of format.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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