The experts review the action

Manjrekar: 'Match is heading towards a draw'

Sanjay Manjrekar reviews the action in the first Test between India and Australia in Mohali (11:49)

October 3, 2010

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India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 3rd day

Manjrekar: 'Match is heading towards a draw'

October 3, 2010

Rahul Dravid batted watchfully on the third morning, India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 3rd day, October 3, 2010
Sanjay Manjrekar: "Once you talk about tough opposition, players like Rahul Dravid feel more confident about themselves" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo. Joining me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on the action on day three of the first Test between India and Australia in Mohali.

Sanjay, it's been an interesting Test so far … both teams have had their moments where they could have taken absolute control of the Test, only for the opposition to strike back…

Sanjay Manjrekar: Yes and I think it has been a pretty absorbing Test so far. The pitch has been pretty disappointing, so it has been more advantage India than Australia. Australia with their inexperienced bowling attack in Indian conditions have done quite well. I like the way they stuck to their plan today. Right through the day they had a plan for every batsman and they worked at it doggedly. Their spinners did a decent job considering their limitations and considering this is the first match in the series for them. So on that front you have to appreciate Australia's performance more than India's; they have just come into this series and they are working in alien conditions with a pretty inexperienced attack, so from that standpoint they have done quite well.

AR: A word on Rahul Dravid - he may have struggled in Sri Lanka and there would have been some pressure on him going into this Test but he looked very assured and confident making 77 today…

SM: I watched Rahul in the Champions League Twenty20 and his form looked good. Twenty20 cricket is a completely different ball game, but looking at the way he was stroking the ball and playing the on-drive - one of his favourite shots; when that starts coming through you realise that he is feeling mentally and physically good about himself. The cover-drives also were flowing nicely in South Africa. So from those innings' he would have felt good about himself getting into this series. And once it is Australia, once you talk about tough opposition, players like Dravid feel more confident about themselves. Their value in the team rises so getting into that first Test his confidence must have been pretty good. What happened in Sri Lanka would have been forgotten purely because of those little innings in South Africa and because the opposition was Australia.

AR: Talking about confidence, it has been a wonderful last 12 months for Sachin Tendulkar. Though he fell agonisingly short of yet another Test century, he's started off this series in the same rich vein of form…

SM: He is having a tremendous run averaging close to 80-85 in his 21st year at the international level which is quite brilliant. What was striking was the ease with which he was playing out there. His defence looked very solid. One of the things Australia does best is that they look to exploit your weaknesses and look to attack your strengths by their field settings. They looked to all that against Tendulkar; they bowled on the middle-stump line to him as well because there have been occasions where he has been lbw or bowled, missing straight deliveries. But he looked very sound in defence. It was another clinical effort from him.

Looking at him closely, when he was in his 90s it looked like he was just starting to tire a bit. So I wonder if he is thinking had a played a little more freely post reaching his 60s, then that moment would have come a lot earlier and he physically would have been fresh. So whether that thought would cross his mind is something I am wondering.

Sanjay Hazare, the third umpire, is a decent first-class player and umpire but how much knowledge does he have of TV angles and camera frames? A TV director in place of Hazare would have said not out

AR:At the start of this series you had said this would be a test for Suresh Raina, and so far he has passed with flying colours; the crucial run-out of Ricky Ponting and then a very entertaining half-century today…

SM: I am very happy for Raina because this is an opportunity for him to enhance his reputation. He has had a good start to his Test career and that is a huge bonus because if you are young and you get a hundred in your first Test, then you get a good seven-eight Tests after that to make a mark. So he will not feel insecure in this team because he has a Test hundred. He played really well today; he was attacked with short deliveries and he got one on his Test but he is a guy who will not be a sitting duck. Even when he was hit, you could see he was willing to take the blow on his body and not fend it and get out. So he will look to somehow preserve his wicket which is his strength.

You feel that this guy wants to make it at this level just to prove to everyone that he is something special. There were some lovely drives of the back foot and the front foot from him. On a couple of occasions you could see the instincts of T20 come into his play but that is something he will have to work on. It is a tough one because it is one of his favourite shots: the lofted shot. But there is so much risk attached to it in Tests, if you mis-time one you can miss a huge opportunity unlike in T20. So that is an important decision he will have to take.

AR: A word on Shane Watson and Tim Paine…they displayed tremendous amounts of concentration…

SM: Watson at the top has been phenomenal for Australia. He has come to India and got a hundred in each innings of the warm-up game and now one in the first innings of this Test. That just shows his mental side: he is hungry for runs and it is tremendous for someone who came in as a bowling allrounder. While Ricky Ponting was out there, he was playing well and attacking the loose balls, but after Ponting went, he slowed down a bit and then just seemed to give up on scoring quickly, because the conditions were such that, unless you were really gifted like Ponting, it was really difficult to keep scoring at a healthy rate. He decided he was going to play within his limitations which was about holding one end up. He did that beautifully but for a while it looked like it may backfire but Paine and Mitchell Johnson came in at the right time and played attacking cricket. So Watson's innings was around which the whole innings revolved and in the end 428 is a pretty good performance.

AR: What did you make of the way Mitchell Johnson bowled? There were questions about his form leading into this series, but he's pegged away with his five-for … what did you make of the way he bowled especially the length he bowled…

SM: By now people would know I am a huge fan of length. And with Johnson, you could see the length working for him. We saw on many occasions, the batsman getting a healthy edge, only for the ball not to carry to the slips. To get an edge on a wicket like this is really difficult and once you get it and it doesn't carry it has to be really heartbreaking. You saw with Johnson, in the dismissals of MS Dhoni - although I don't think Dhoni was out - and with Harbhajan that those edges carried. With the length that Johnson bowls it becomes an attacking length on that pitch. And on pitches like this, when the batsman is driving, there is a good chance of the ball being edged to slips. And when the batsman is defending, even if you get a healthy edge, won't carry. So that is the advantage that Johnson will have on a pitch like this.

AR: A word on the performance of Zaheer Khan and especially Harbhajan Singh .. you had spoken earlier about Harbhajan lacking a Plan B … did you see any evidence to the contrary?

Suresh Raina made his third 50-plus score in three Tests, India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 3rd day, October 3, 2010
Sanjay Manjrekar: "You feel that Suresh Raina wants to make it at this level just to prove to everyone that he is something special" © AFP

SM: I saw an effort in the later spells that Harbhajan bowled, where he was looking to bowl a bit fuller and a little slower through the air. But I think it is something completely alien to his nature. The time has come for us to perhaps expect that Harbhajan will not change too much as a bowler. And because he doesn't have a Plan B or C, to rely completely on him in Tests, especially on pitches that are decent and not rank turners, India will carry that risk. So it is important that Zaheer is a bowler that India has to look to, to take wickets along with Harbhajan. To expect Harbhajan to be the lone man to do it would not be wise.

AR: How crucial was the decision to rule Dhoni out?

SM: I would not like to believe it was a match-changing one but a lesson for the ICC. Sanjay Hazare [the third umpire] is a decent first-class player and umpire but how much knowledge does he have of TV angles and camera frames? A TV director in place of Hazare would have said not out. He would understand the evidence he got, the limitations of the cameras he works with that work at a speed of 25 frames/second; the ball evidence of the ball bouncing would have been lost between two frames.

Looking at the picture of the ball before it gets into Shane Watson's hands and then after, when it is lodged in his hands, the trajectory and the evidence around, the people who understand TV, cameras and angles, would have deduced that the ball would have bounced before it went to Watson's hands. These are the problems when you have a third umpire in charge of technology who doesn't have too much of experience with it. A mistake may have been made there but you can't blame Hazare because he is an umpire and not somebody who knows everything about cameras. It is important they are all briefed properly about technology and instances like this, on how to interpret the video evidence they get in quick time. This may not be a match-changing decision but who knows about the future.

AR: You are disappointed with the way this pitch has played ... with that in mind, what sort of scenarios are we looking at?

SM: Just looking at the way the pitch has played, the spinners are getting some spin but it is not really life-threatening. The only advantage the bowlers had is the reverse-swing that comes into place. That is why you saw reluctance from both captains to go for the second new ball because they reckoned there was more with the old SG ball rather than a new one on this pitch. It is only the evening session that has some surprises in store for us. At this stage it looks like it is going to be a draw because the pitch is playing nicely, it is becoming more and more dead. So unless the evening session provides a few more shocks, I see this Test petering into a draw.

Posted by shri1234 on (October 6, 2010, 8:07 GMT)

THINK before you speak, Sanjay. Thought you learn your lessons after your 'Elephant in the room' comment. But looks like some people will never change.

Posted by   on (October 4, 2010, 11:46 GMT)

Sanjay seems to give some pretty lame excuses for Australian bowling line up and pitch favoring Indian line up, Sanjay seems to have forgotten the test series is being played in Indian not in Australia,You cant ponder about players who are not in side, I wish we had Bedi and Kapil dev playing in the 11 today dosent make any sense today, again Sanjay was proved wrong in calling early on where the match was heading,I am sorry to say he is still in the learning mode as far his commentary is concerned although Sanjay started off well and modeled himself on the great Gavaskar but seems to drifting somewhere for the past 1 year.

Posted by tendlya14 on (October 4, 2010, 11:06 GMT)

well...u must be thinking twice about ur estimation now Mr Manjeraker....coz aussies got got only 192....there will be a result either way.....u underestimated india nd overestimated aussies.

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