November 19, 2001

Logic takes a beating

The Indians are once again in a familiar situation with their backs to the wall. At the moment, they can only hope that rain will save them from defeat in the second test at St. George's Park. The ordinary performance notwithstanding, the team management faltered from the very outset with regard to the team composition. Logic and common sense were put on the back burner before the final eleven was picked. Being diplomatic is one thing, but being wishy-washy is another thing altogether, and a reluctance to take tough and hard decisions cannot be deemed as diplomacy at any point of time.

John Wright
© CricInfo

The explanation of John Wright that the best four bowlers were played was about as convincing as the Indian batting. It appears that Wright has adapted himself very well to the Indian way of thinking and the prevailing system. Regardless of whatever explanations he dishes out, the think-tank has failed terribly in its moment of reckoning. The game plan was very obvious, with the Indians determined to field on winning the toss. What was inexplicable was the decision of playing just the two seamers; after all, playing two spinners can be fully justified only if the Indians were to bowl in the second and the fourth innings.

The decision to drop a spinner was always going to be a tough one, but the conditions warranted the inclusion of a third seamer. I hasten to add that I am not being wise in hindsight; I had written about this in my earlier article. It would not be unfair to presume that the team management was weak-kneed and did not want to ruffle any feathers, and hence took the easy way out. They had a choice of five seamers, and the reason they are in the squad is that they are required on South African pitches.

VVS Laxman
© AFP

The shuffle in the batting order had mixed results; to be fair, the young stumper Deep Dasgupta acquitted himself rather well, bearing in mind that he had kept wicket for a day and a half. Sourav Ganguly kept shouting wolf and threatening to open the innings, but it was fairly certain that he would not. One should make some allowances for him, though, as he is not among the runs in a big way. Rahul Dravid yet again became a yo-yo by acceding meekly to the wishes of the team management. He should remain at one particular batting slot, simply because he has such a good record abroad. VVS Laxman batted much better in this Test, and it is good to see that he has altered his approach towards batting. He was more at peace with himself, and his shot selection was percentage-based rather than mere flamboyance.

Javagal Srinath
© AFP

Javagal Srinath was the only real silver lining in the cloud, and his bowling in this Test was probably his best. His discipline was excellent, and when he bowls like this, he is on par with any top performer in the business. But he has been given an excessive workload, and he will be better off when used in short bursts.

Returning to the strange decisions involved in team selection, it was even stranger to see Anil Kumble hardly being pressed into service. It is normally difficult to see a leading wicket-taker for the country under-bowled and that too with just four bowlers in the ranks. If that is the confidence level of the captain, then all the more reason for him to have left Kumble out and played a third seamer. India might still have been in a similar situation with three seamers playing, but whatever happened to that element of strategy?