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Australia's batting a worry

Sanjay Manjrekar looks back on India's thrilling one-wicket victory over Australia in Mohali (11:28)

October 5, 2010

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India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 5th day

Australia's batting a worry

October 5, 2010

VVS Laxman shapes to play through the off side, 1st Test, Mohali, India v Australia, 5th day, October 5, 2010
Sanjay Manjrekar: "It was tremendous batting from Laxman, firstly, on the pure quality of shots and the batting mechanism we saw and also his batting mindset" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to ESPNcricinfo. India have just completed a thrilling one-wicket victory over Australia in Mohali and with me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on the Test.

Sanjay, when we had spoken on the third day and you had said that this Test looked like it was heading towards a draw. But really, this has turned out into one of the most exciting Test finishes that we have seen…

Sanjay Manjrekar: Absolutely. When a team bats first and gets 428 and then team batting second also gets past 400, you start looking at the pitch conditions and just applying cricketing logic - and I think most people at that stage thought that both teams were even after the innings and most likely the Test would end in a draw. But this is another thing about the game; it is not always correct to apply cricketing logic because there always has to be a disclaimer that something like this would happen.

It was a tremendous turnaround in the second innings. Both sides didn't bat that well, but it provided a brilliant finish to a Test and this is the beauty of Test cricket. It is a bit too long for modern audiences but the drama that it creates over the five days is just brilliant. I am hearing fireworks outside my house and that is something you don't get to hear too often in a Twenty20 win or the ODI games that we play. This Test has shown that Test cricket gives us something very special and even the modern audiences would have been hooked onto this Test.

AR: Today was all about VVS Laxman. Two back-to-back match-winning knocks from him; he batted with a bad back today and with a runner, but he held his nerve, scored at a tremendous rate and rotated the strike perfectly…

SM: Next I would really like to see Laxman bat blindfolded against Australia, and even then the Australian bowlers would be wary of him. Nothing much was expected from him because a back problem for a batsman nearly paralyses you. You can perhaps work around say a hamstring pull as a batsman but a back problem is a real handicap. Perhaps that was what allowed him to be calm and play like he had nothing to lose. That may have been the feeling he had when he came into bat and just watching some of the back-foot drives he played, he was just very composed knowing that whatever he got would have been a bonus. So that would have helped him.

But it was tremendous batting, firstly, on the pure quality of shots and the batting mechanism we saw and also his batting mindset. On occasions he lost his cool a bit with the runner situation, but the moment he faced the ball, you could see that he was well in control of his emotions and very calm. To have two such innings, in two consecutive Tests and with no cricket in between - remember, this is a guy who plays no Twenty20 or 50-over cricket. I have been a situation like that where you play just Test match to Test match and it is not easy. And every time I meet him or communicate with him on the phone I keep telling him how amazing it is that he can provide such quality innings playing international cricket after such long gaps.

AR: The Sachin Tendulkar-Laxman partnership got things going for India but the Ishant Sharma-Laxman partnership would have really frustrated the Australians. Ishant really played his part in India's victory, today, with the bat…

SM: Tendulkar looked very good and I thought he would be the man to take India through because Laxman came in with a bad back. So the security of the win would have to be provided by Tendulkar which he was doing quite well. It was unfortunate, the way he got out, but he looked like he was in his zone.

Ishant's three-wicket burst was unexpected and that was what brought about the unexpected turnaround in this Test. But we are not seeing him bat this way for the first time. He has got a defensive technique that a batsman would be proud of. He has a short back-lift, he is good in front-foot and back-foot defence; on a couple of occasions he was troubled by the short-pitched delivery just like the frontline batsman were. He also has the temperament to go with it. When a tailender hangs around for such a long time taking on the fast bowlers, I feel for the them. This is the kind of evidence, when guys who show grit and courage become borderline selections, that the selectors should keep in mind, to keep them in the team.

AR: It was Ishant's spell before lunch on day four that was critical wasn't it? The Australians had started off positively through Shane Watson and it looked like they were set for a huge lead. But after a disappointing first innings, Ishant found some rhythm before lunch and picked up those three crucial wickets that swung the momentum towards India…

 
 
"But Ishant's spell was the turning point in the second part of the Test. And after that the other Indian bowlers didn't allow the Australians to rise back. Harbhajan Singh got two wickets, Pragyan Ojha got two wickets and Zaheer Khan finished No. 9, 10 and 11. So India were relentless in the field and it was just the kind of reply they had to give to show that they were still in the game"
 

SM: That was the turning point of the second half of the Test. This was a Test of two halves. The first was in the first innings was where the batting of both the teams clicked and bowling was hard work. The second half was the low-scoring one where runs weren't really coming easily. Though the pitch wasn't too bad till the end, run-making was difficult because the bowlers were charged up and the SG ball was a great friend for the bowlers. Without the SG ball we wouldn't have had this kind of a Test because it gives something for the seam bowlers when it gets old as well on these Indian pitches. So we have to note that.

But Ishant's spell was the turning point in the second part of the Test. And after that the other Indian bowlers didn't allow the Australians to rise back. Harbhajan Singh got two wickets, Pragyan Ojha got two wickets and Zaheer Khan finished No. 9, 10 and 11. So India were relentless in the field and it was just the kind of reply they had to give to show that they were still in the game.

AR: Let's spare a thought for Australia. Now in a previous discussion, you and Ian Chappell had said that Australia had the best bowling attack under all conditions. Now even though they lost today, that attack allowed them to come very close, especially their fast bowlers…

SM: We have a right to celebrate an Indian win and the Indian team should be congratulated but we should also bear in mind that this Australian team is relatively inexperienced in these conditions as compared to the Indian team and that pitch in Mohali was a typical Indian pitch. From that standpoint you have to admire the fight that Australia put up. Doug Bollinger pulled his weight, Ben Hilfenhaus was getting the ball to swing, Mitchell Johnson was always going to be the strike bowler, Nathan Hauritz got wickets on a few occasions and I thought Marcus North was quite impressive.

The only problem I see with Hauritz and that is a problem that a lot of overseas spinners have when they come to India is that he is not accurate enough to really put the pressure on the Indian spinners. Now because the pitch offers a little more for spinners in India, it is very important for them to be accurate. The overseas spinners should watch the Indian spinners of the past who have been brilliant on Indian pitches and it is not just the big names, but even the local domestic spinners. All they did was bowl accurately on one spot and let the pitch do the rest. Shane Warne started doing that on his later trips to India and Hauritz should learn to that. So that is perhaps a little weakness in the spin department, but overall, a great example of never-say-die and ability from their faster men.

AR: But Hauritz will be that area of concern going into the second Test in Bangalore. We saw Ricky Ponting use North and Hauritz in the final stages of this Test, so do you see a change there, for Bangalore?

SM: I am not sure because I think it will depend on the pitch. If they realise this pitch has nothing for the spinners they might be happy playing Marcus North and getting in another seam option or an additional batsman because their batting has been the slight concern. Watson has got runs and so has Ponting but they haven't all clicked together. That is the reason we had this exciting Test with that second-innings collapse. The batting may be a slight worry but they will pick their final XI after looking at the conditions on Bangalore. I am sure Hauritz will be someone Ponting will look at; don't forget he started off with Hauritz today, so he is looking to give Hauritz all the confidence that he needs. It is just a matter of Ponting deciding whether Hauritz is the long-term solution and so he needs to be backed, and if so, Hauritz might still keep his place.

AR: Ponting and MS Dhoni both said that this has been one of the most exciting Tests they have been part of. Using this as a starting point, what do you think we can expect in Bangalore?

SM: This has been a great curtain-raiser to the series. When you have India and Australia playing a Test series what is the logic of having two Tests? It is a shame. It is like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal playing a best-of-two-sets Wimbledon final. It is a missed opportunity for the administrators. This should have been a minimum three-Test series or even five Test matches. This is something the administrators can learn from because this battle between India and Australia could continue in this fashion for a while because both teams have a great attitude towards the game. It is shame we have just the Bangalore Test, but let us expect another thriller. I wonder if it will live up to the expectations after the kind of start we have had but we can only be grateful to both teams for providing such a great Test at a time when people are sceptical about the future of Test cricket.

AR: Thanks Sanjay for your views.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2010, 5:48 GMT)

Dear AR, try talking to someone else other than Sanjay Manjrekar for the pre-match analysis. He was always wrong in analysing things, because he is a failure crickete. But one thing he can be 100% correct is, post match discussion.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2010, 4:10 GMT)

I hate him, not only because he insulted Sachin Tendulkar during World series against Australia, but too because he thinks he is the best commentator and predictor around which is not true. I would like to suggest cricinfo to stop taking views of him. I don't know why he is in your panel, go for either Harsha, Ravi or Sunny best known for their positive comments rather than this stupid commentator's views.

Posted by Raju_Iyer on (October 6, 2010, 2:46 GMT)

Akhila Rangannah gets 10/10 for her great sounding voice, keen observations and ability to extract the best out of the people she "interviews" whether it is Sanjay Manjrekar or Geoffrey Boycott. Can we have her on Video / TV , would make for great viewing

Posted by Doctor-Googly on (October 5, 2010, 17:39 GMT)

Manjrekar is what we call in the US an "armchair quaterback". He stupidly predicted a draw after day-3, thinking it was still him, Gavaskar and Shastri in the Indian team. While Sunny and Shaz are still some of my favorite people, this Indian team is a winner, and more ruthless than the ones before.

Posted by Gopes_On_Dopes on (October 5, 2010, 15:13 GMT)

Great Match, Kudos to the Aussie team for taking it this far. I watched the entire days play today ball by ball and left for office only after it was over. Time well spent :-)

Posted by Meenarpit on (October 5, 2010, 14:52 GMT)

Our unsung hero. VVS has done it again. Back in the days, in 1999, in Australia, India lost the test series 3-0. Before VVS went out to bat in the second innings, he told his mates in the dressing room that it might be the last time he is going out to bat for India. And the rest, they say, is history!!! Let us not only acknowledge this knock but acknowledge the man who i feel whose contribution to India in tests has been instrumental in taking us to the No.1 spot.

Posted by primal_d on (October 5, 2010, 14:43 GMT)

Dear Sanjay, Harsha:

How many more all-time greatest clutch innings should VVS have to play for him to be included in the all-time great Indian test XI ?? Guys, he is performing miracles with a bad back now. Please, please give him his due!

This batting combination is probably the best in the history of indian test cricket at this point. Let's enjoy it while it lasts. In two years, when they retire, Test cricket in India is going to be dead.

Posted by TestCric on (October 5, 2010, 13:05 GMT)

Team India and BCCI is madly obsessed with Stupid, Rubbish, Non-Sense, Obsolete, Betting & Commercial event IPL, which is selling 6s and 4s on Lifeless Pitches. IPL-Mad Team India is losing Skill, Inspiration, Motivation, Hunger, Determination, Committment and Fitness to play International or Test Cricket on lively Pitches. Curators, Commentators and BCCI Officials are working for IPL growth rather than Cricket growth. Until IPL is not thrashed, Team India is not going to perform well in International Tournaments. Test, ODI & T20 Cricket is great to watch at International level on lively pitches, unlike IPL Teams which looks like club cricket and played on lifeless pitches.

Posted by anoopshameed on (October 5, 2010, 12:16 GMT)

You guys are worried that Test Cricket would die? For the love of God, I could have died today!-and I am just 26. May be I will take up something like Yoga or Meditation, just as a preperation for the second Test!

Comments have now been closed for this article


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