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August 22, 2014

66 for 6 and all that

Samir Chopra
If you stepped outside for a walk, it was likely you missed India's entire innings at Old Trafford and The Oval  © Associated Press
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Forty-two days of Test cricket ended so quickly; it was a bit of a blur. It ended with a long procession of batsmen, stretching as far back as the eye could see, their giant columns raising dust, taking guard, coming and going, their names going up and then down, on a giant scoreboard. Small numbers - very small! - appear next to their names. And then, finally, silence. How was one to make sense of it all? Especially as - when the smoke had cleared - it wasn't even 42 days. This is the era of unseemly brevity; of 140-character missives. Who has time for five days of a Test? Not the Indian batting line-up, eager to rouse the watching spectators from their indolent slumbers and send them, well ahead of schedule, back to work, back to reinvigorating national economies, back to reuniting families. Too bad for those selling beer at the grounds.

Sometimes catastrophes have to be approached gingerly. Tentatively. In small doses. So here go a pair of attempts at reckoning with disaster.

1. As parenthood has brought new responsibilities in its wake, my leisure and cricket-watching hours have undergone modification. I now spend Saturday and Sunday mornings taking my little daughter to the park, content to engage her in a ball sport or two. I leave behind my trip to the gym, my mornings in front of the cricket. When I return home, and touch the spacebar to bring the world of cricket to life, abbreviated scores spring into view, alerting me to all - the eventuation of cricketing fortunes - I have missed in my absence. Most notably, while I had been away these past two weekends, fourth innings began and went nowhere, sputtering in circles, before finally running aground on the shoals of deliveries that deigned to not maintain perfectly straight paths.

The second-innings collapse in the fourth Test caught me unawares, ensuring I would have no cricket to accompany my well-earned coffee after my return home. My little oasis of cricket-watching was nowhere to be found, a mirage in the shimmering heat of a rapidly disintegrating series.

The one in the fifth Test went one better: it ensured I missed the Test altogether. On Friday the 15th, seeking independence of another kind - i.e. not national - altogether, I was out of town, hiking in New York state's evergreen Catskills. On Saturday the 16th, I missed all of England's batting, and then on the 17th it was all over, the 94 all out sneaking up behind me, and with a little burst pulling away to leave me eating dust. Thus the Oval Test became the first Test played by India in a very long time of which I did not witness a single ball telecast live. I felt a curious sense of betrayal; I had not shown the fidelity required of a true sports fan; I had not stood by "my team". But I had not been alone in burning this bridge; my arson had been facilitated, almost gleefully so, by those who marched in toward, and then back away from, the hallowed 22 yards.

2. A few months ago, I wrote a post here at the Cordon, titled "Why India are not Brazil". In it, I suggested Ed Smith's analogising the Indian cricket team to the Brazilian soccer team did not work. But by one count, it most certainly does. Does 66 for 6 four innings in a row add up to 1-7 in a World Cup semi-final? At home? Perhaps not. But we're in the ballpark - literally - now.

For long, the most devastating batting collapse for a whole generation of Indian cricket fans was the one that gives the Summer of 42 its name. Later it became the house-of-cards tricks performed against Imran Khan in the 1982-83 series, especially the 1982 Christmas Day special in Karachi, India's birthday gift to the Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. India's collapse for 90 in Calcutta against West Indies during the 1983-84 series, the one that elicited, in time-honoured fashion, a shower of debris from Calcutta spectators, and the piqued pronouncement by Sunil Gavaskar that he would never play in Calcutta again, also finds honourable mention in this catalogue of disasters. And then were all of the nineties, of course. Oh, and 2011.

But 66 for 6, 66 for 6, 66 for 6, 66 for 6? There's enough numbers of the beasts in there to send even Satan worshippers running to the hills. The rest of us can only cower - under any furniture close by - in the face of such numerological terror.

Let me know when it's safe to come out and play again.

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

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Posted by   on (August 24, 2014, 2:43 GMT)

Dhoni has been successful in ODIs over the years by having a defensive bowler strategy - this does not work in Tests. This strategy has resulted in lot of average bowlers. Present day indian test bowlers are couple of best of those. Batters have been living in their stats of T20s or ODIs. None of these have the capability of some of the recently retired ones who could survive the onslaught of aggressive / ofensive bowlers. You need batters who have played more test cricket and also cricket in english / fast pitches environment and also bowlers who are succesful in test conditions at such pitches. Don't blame the individuals - its the indian market forces (IPL???) / which have resulted in this.

Posted by NOTTVENKAT on (August 23, 2014, 12:49 GMT)

Jonathan_E: Issue is not about lack or practice but the lack of time to recover or a time out if you may. When you have a bad test, you need time to mentally prepare yourself for a fight again. You also might develop certain technical chinks and find it difficult to remove them when there is relentless pressure of back to back tests. Even if there are no practice games, you need a 6-7 day gap between 5 day tests to do that. if you can get a 2 day practice game even if it is against bad opposition, it helps to get back in the zone. There is a reason why the last 2 tests ended so fast - The Indian team just could not recover.....

Posted by Jonathan_E on (August 22, 2014, 21:51 GMT)

The person claiming "lack of practice before and during the series" would have a greater point IF it wasn't for the fact that India started off perfectly well in the first two matches of the series - when lack of practice should have showed up most - and finished appallingly poorly, at the time when they had had the most practice of all.

Posted by UriGagarin on (August 22, 2014, 20:44 GMT)

@Anwar Ali Khan Hmm 70 against a weak county side isn't really much of a recommendation - although they get 230. Someof the others need a bit of a look though...

The bowlers did their jobs yet again and was an easy win in the end .

Do India have another game against a stronger side (fer instance Notts or Durham or Yorks ? )

I haven't checked the schedules

A decent test match beats 6 ODI's into a cocked hat ...IMO.

Posted by   on (August 22, 2014, 14:46 GMT)

Kohli just scored a fluent 70. Why is Test cricket important? Times have changed and it's time for the young generation to take over. Enough of India bashing already. Long live IPL, long live T20 and long live ODI.

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (August 22, 2014, 12:09 GMT)

To me, the lowest point in watching Indian cricket was 100 & 66 all out at Durban in 1996-97. Not until 2011-12 did India manage to sink any lower.

Posted by   on (August 22, 2014, 7:26 GMT)

When you see the schedule of a test match, you plan, alright Day 2 and Day 3 are weekends out ( I live in UAE) and when England win the toss and England bat, you are like, perfect..that gives me a day and a half of India batting to watch.. maybe a Virat or rahane special to displace the horrendous 2011 memories..to add to the Dravid classics.. and when you get 66 for 6.. It feels like someone kicked you in the gut.. it feels like the whole weekend has gone up in smokes..you are looking around scrambling for making plans, having turned down numerous requests for some other sport or movies... It feels like the 90s.. just that there is not even Sachin to keep us going..

Posted by   on (August 22, 2014, 7:19 GMT)

Dear Samir, it is lack of practice before and during the series that makes batting so poor by Subcontinent teams. Please remember series in 70s ,80s were all having matches against county teams.

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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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