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India v Australia, 3rd Test, Feroz Shah Kotla, 1st day
Ian Chappell: Lack of variety exposed Australia
October 29, 2008
It was all India on the first day, led by Gautam Gambhir, and with good spin bowling India might trouble Australia
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The partnership between Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman put India in a dominant position © AFP

There is no place like home, just ask Gautam Gambhir. On his home ground, the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, he scored a magnificent century, finishing on 149 not out.

He started the day cautiously and was probably a bit more cautious since India had lost a couple of early wickets. The Australians came out full of energy. Brett Lee bowled a beauty to get rid of Virender Sehwag and when Mitchell Johnson had Rahul Dravid fishing wide outside off stump, the Australians were cock-a-hoop with the score at 27 for 2. I am not quite sure why Rahul Dravid keeps falling for that wider delivery from Mitchell Johnson. There is no reason for Johnson to stop bowling it at the moment because Dravid has fallen for it a number of times.

As I said, that meant Gambhir had to play cautiously but whenever they gave him an opportunity he picked it off for runs. Sachin Tendulkar was in extremely good form. He looked like a player who had just broken a world record. He had the weight lifted off his shoulders and he played very confidently, both off the front and back foot. Couple of back-foot shots must have been bad signs for the Australians. A 130-run partnership developed between Tendulkar and Gambhir, with Gambhir becoming more and more confident as he went along.

The Australians bowled round the wicket at him a lot, especially the fast bowlers. I could see that being okay as a change-up tactic, but I thought they persevered with it for too long and he made them pay with shots through the on side. The only reason why the partnership was split was Tendulkar. As it happens with the older players, they start to get a bit conservative; as it got near tea, he started playing for the break and eventually edged one from Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin took the chance.

That meant VVS Laxman was in, and he and Gambhir did exactly what India wanted. They accelerated beautifully after tea. They absolutely got on top of the Australian attack and it wasn't long before the lack of variety in the Australian attack showed. It's very difficult to get by with just pure pace in India; it's got to be exceptional pace and we are talking about one team, West Indies in early 1980s. This Australian pace attack isn't good enough to be relied on solely and their lack of decent spin-bowling options hurt them badly. And Gambhir hurt them: couple of times the Australians had words with him, that did not unsettle him and in fact it just made him more determined. And it looked like he was sending his own message when on 99 he just wandered down the track and hit Shane Watson many miles back into the stand to bring up his second century against the Australians in this series, a vital one which has helped put India in a position of great strength.

Gambhir had a terrific partner in Laxman who played with his normal silky smoothness and reached a half-century. Their partnership came quickly enough to put India in a dominant position: nearly 300 runs on the first day batting on a good pitch. The pitch is already showing signs that it might help the decent spinners. Simon Katich, who should have been used much earlier in this series than he was, got a little bit of turn and one decent flighted spell from Michael Clarke could mean that with some good spin bowling India might cause Australia some real problems.

The biggest problem for Australia at the moment is that they are facing a huge first-innings deficit and they have got a couple of injured players; Michael Clarke with a bit of a back problem and Brad Haddin with a finger problem. So, it was all India on the first day, led by Gambhir.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

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Posted by Rahul on (October 30, 2008, 3:56 GMT)

Problem with Australia is their team administration. They did not cared about youngsters as long as their team was winning.They did not even gave chance to any other spinner other than warne,they wasted macgill,did not even try to change their 3-1,fast spin bowling combination. Whereas in the case of India they gave opportunity to lot of Indians. Murali kartik,mishra and h singh are many of the good spin bowlers whom india nurtured during the years along with kumble. Even when india has the world best opening combination of Sachin and Sehwag they gave opportunity to guys like gambhir and uttappa to open. Aus never even tried another combination. Even when Aus leads a series they never tried another youngster. Remember the oneday series which Aus lost to India in Aus. In that game india had only one player above 30. Hopefully Australian management will try to learn from India, or else they have the same situation as the current west indies.

Posted by prashanth kumar on (October 30, 2008, 3:44 GMT)

The way Sachin and Gambhir played today was really good and not to forget the contribution of Laxman as well.Hope Gambhir continues in the same way to double hundred.And i think these Australians never play cricket in the way it is supposed to be played. We Indians are never used to disturbing the concentration of the batsman with words, unlike the aussies. Might be,they fear for the loss. And they are not ready to take it back as well. They feel the presence of a match referee and other officials only when they are treated back in their own way. Now i am eager to see people who dare to say aussies play cricket in right spirit.

Posted by Peter on (October 30, 2008, 1:28 GMT)

So It appears Katich can extract spin and bite from the pitch with his part time left arm spinners. I do hope the Australian selectors caught a site of this and see their utter foolishness in not including Beau Casson in the squad.

Posted by Alex on (October 30, 2008, 1:13 GMT)

Merv Hughes must be throwing his weight around. It was surprising enough that Siddle and White made the tour - yet alone playing test match cricket. White self defeating comments in labelling himself a straight turner and not even bowling himself at state level (when he is the captain) should be enough of an insight into his mental apptitude for being a test match bowler for selectors to discount him (at least Katich can turn the ball). How many wickets to Noffke and Bollinger need - it was nearly another case of Peter who? They both must love the fact that they are Victorian!!

Posted by Daniel on (October 29, 2008, 23:16 GMT)

"Simon Katich, who should have been used much earlier in this series than he was, got a little bit of turn [...]"

Finally, the best spin bowler in the Australian team gets a bowl and what a difference it made. Clarke has been economical but non-threatening and White has leaked runs at a startling rate. But Katich was more economical than either. His second ball took the outside edge. He was unlucky to have an LBW turned down (that hawk-eye showed was out), and he beat the outside edge twice more in his 6 overs.

He was bowling well enough for Ponting to delay taking the new ball (which is saying something given the position of the game) but bemusingly their was little support in terms of field placement; first slip was the only catcher.

Ian, can you explain Ponting's thinking on Katich?

Posted by V on (October 29, 2008, 18:30 GMT)

Foolish Freddie Flintoff ignited a storm effect from Yuvaraj in SA and in Delhi it was the turn of Watson. the result was a huge sixer when Gambhir was on 99!

Posted by Davesh on (October 29, 2008, 18:15 GMT)

That Australia is loosing is not the surprizing thing but the kind of excuses Aussie players are coming up with is amazing. Its been close to 2 years since Shane Warne & Mcgrath played their last test match & still the captain talks about missing them. Clarke feels that he was concerned about the heavy cricket schedule ahead of the team and that affected his performance in Mohali. Border feels that none of the bowlers have ever played a test match in India is the reason for defeat. In 2004 in Adelaide, our bowling attack had Nehra & Pathan both of whom were playing their first test match in Australia. Yet they won us the match. In 2008 in Perth, RP Singh & Ishant Sharma were playing their first/second test match in Australia yet they performed. I think Australians need to be a bit more honest in accepting that they are playing a better team. Our batsmen score runs everywhere unlike ponting or Clarke who become ordinary cricketers once they land in India.

Posted by Shyam on (October 29, 2008, 17:10 GMT)

Ian spot on analysis the aussie bowling lacks variety. Dravid must be licking his wounds he should have made a century today this pitch was his best bet. He has shown that he is well past his prime and has to bid adieu to the game. Great ambassador for indian cricket but all good things have to end.

btw Gambhir is the true champion of this seris and tendulkar/laxman have always been at their devestating best against aussies. This is by far the worst aussie team to arrive in decades and the Indians will have to put them where they belong which is in the list of vanquished

Posted by PRIYANTHA on (October 29, 2008, 16:28 GMT)

There is no point in telling that Aussies lacked a quality spinner. These things should have been looked into long beforehand knowing clearly that Warne and McGill will be gone one day. Aussies arrived in India without a proper bowling attack to suit the conditions and now are paying a heavy price for that. Even when at times pace bowlers from overseas dominated against Indians a spinner was an absolute need to seal the issue. Take for eaxmple 1976-77 England tour which Engalnd won 3-1 aginst the might of Bedi, Chandra and Prassana. Pace bowlers did some major damage. But it was one quality spinner, Underwood who ended up as the highest wicket taker. His bowling was always required in second innings when conditions were favourable and also in first innings to keep one end tied down. It is ridiculous to see the frontline spinner bowling less overs compared to part-timers. Aussies cricket administration should take the blame. They were just basking around Shane Warne's past glory.

Posted by Rahul on (October 29, 2008, 16:23 GMT)

I don't understand one thing what's Cameron White position in the team? He bowled only 4 overs in the entire day. He is not a great turner of the ball. Is he in the team because of the batting? I think Australia knows that that they have very weak bowling attack so that they are getting batting stronger. But what White did in last two test matches while batting? Australia would have take Jason Kreza instead of White. They would have taken there chances. Gambhir, Tendulkar and Laxman plyaed good innings. Gambhir is the best opening batsman in the world in all 3 form of the game right now. I don't think anyone will disagree to this.

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