August 13, 2002

India must learn from their past

After the demoralising Test defeat at Lord's, I expected India to come out fighting at Trent Bridge. Regaining lost pride is something that Sourav Ganguly must have deeply desired. But despite rain washing out almost a day's play, India almost contrived to lose the match.

Matthew Hoggard
© CricInfo
Ganguly's decision to bat first in conditions favouring swing bowling showed the amount of trust he has in the inexperienced Indian seam attack.

Matthew Hoggard relishes bowling in such circumstances and he was soon making the Indian batsmen dance to his tunes. The prodigious movement that he extracted from the pitch and those wonderful outswingers proved why he has strong claims to being the best swing bowler in world cricket today.

Moving on, the manner in which Wasim Jaffer got out, playing away from the body to drag the ball back onto the stumps, is precisely what every opening batsman must avoid. Granted that Jaffer's technique has a major flaw but even more annoying is his lack of will to survive. In comparison, a great opening batsman like Sunil Gavaskar always had both the technique and will to survive. Sunny simply hated to lose, and it is precisely this attitude that the present cricket team should try to acquire - the sooner, the better.

One other Indian cricketer whose name and deeds should be remembered by every Indian player is Mohinder Amarnath. Jimmy was a born fighter; his performances during the great tours of Pakistan and West Indies while making a comeback to the national side are now part of our cricketing folklore. I do not know how many people remember the fact that he was the Man of the Match of the World Cup final in 1983. But, before that famous World Cup, Jimmy amassed runs in Tests against Pakistan and West Indies - against what should only be called as top-class bowling. Imran Khan was in his prime and so were the Windies pace battery.

Why I am mentioning these heroes of yesteryears is because I would like the current crop of players to look back and understand the legacy these great players left behind. It hurt those great men to lose a Test match - it hurt their pride and they fought hard. I expect our current players too to show the same fierce desire to do well everytime they step out on to the field.

Returning to the match, the Indian batsmen, after their dismal performance at Lord's, showed greater commitment at Trent Bridge. To score 350-odd runs in the first innings in not-so-suitable batting conditions is indeed an achievement. The resolve they showed in the second innings to save the Test match was particularly laudable. I am glad that Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar fought hard to avoid defeat. A draw is far worthier than meek surrender. Now that they have survived, India can plan and play for a win.

The Achilles heel of all touring Indian sides up to now has been their fragile batting against the opposing pace attacks. At Trent Bridge, however, the willow-wielders were not to be blamed. If there was any let down in the second Test, it came in the failure of the pace bowling attack of Nehra, Zaheer Khan and Agarkar. They were most disappointing in favourable conditions.

It shocks me that someone like Agarkar who has the ability to swing the ball couldn't do anything at Trent Bridge. The two left-arm bowlers were also a big let down, bowling too short and never at full pace. It is not the kind of effort that you expect to see from an Indian player; you need guys who are willing to give more than 100%. It is appalling that they allowed Craig White and Hoggard to add 103 runs for the ninth wicket.

Harbhajan Singh
© CricInfo
Harbhajan Singh, for his part, had an opportunity to prove that he is the number one spin bowler in the country. His line and length, though, was a huge disappointment. I would be surprised if he is played ahead of Anil Kumble in the next Test match - that is if indeed India decide to play a spinner at Headingley.

I still have hope for this Indian team. Look at the spirit of someone as young as Parthiv Patel. The kid has loads of talent and I hope that the team management persists with him. He has also shown enough skill with the gloves to prove that he is worthy of his place in the team. And if there was any doubt about his batting skills, watching the last one-hour of the Test match was simply good enough. Now, if only the bowlers showed the same level of application and commitment.