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'India played like a No. 1 Test team'
Sanjay Manjrekar reflects on India's 2-0 victory over Australia to retained the the Border-Gavaskar series (13:17)
October 13, 2010
Related Links » Players/Officials: Nathan Hauritz | Zaheer Khan | Pragyan Ojha | Ricky Ponting | Cheteshwar Pujara | Sachin Tendulkar Matches: India v Australia at Bangalore Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of India [Sep-Oct 2010] Teams: Australia | India
India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 5th day
'India played like a No. 1 Test team'October 13, 2010
Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to ESPNcricinfo. India have completed a clean sweep in Bangalore and joining me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on the Test.
A 2-0 victory for India in this series. Mohali came down to a real sea-saw battle, but in this Test, especially today, it's been all India. What was the key difference between the sides?
Sanjay Manjrekar: Yes, you are quite right. In Mohali, although India won the game, there wasn't much to choose between the two teams, it was a pretty even contest. But at the end of the series, with the last day in Bangalore, India clearly looked the better side. One of the key differences was the consistency in batting from both sides: India had more batsmen in form in this series as compared to Australia. And in Bangalore, with Doug Bollinger not playing Australia was always a two-bowler attack, as compared to India, especially in the second innings where all four [India] bowlers chipped in to take wickets.
AR: A word on Cheteshwar Pujara - were you surprised when he came in at No.3? What did you make of Dhoni's tactics to send Pujara at No. 3? And secondly, he looked very assured for someone playing his debut Test.
SM: When I saw Pujara walking in at No. 3, my first reaction was: this is a mistake. With one wicket going down and a target to get on the fourth day, there is a different kind of pressure that one has to contend with and I thought experience should have come in. I could understand that Rahul Dravid, being slightly out of form, being pushed down the order, but I thought Sachin Tendulkar could have come in at No. 3 given he was the man in form. When you talk about experience, you won't get anyone better than Tendulkar.
But slowly it dawned on me that the logic was different. The logic was actually making sure that Pujara - after his failure in the first innings - got a less demanding challenge. As we have seen, batting earlier on in the match against the new ball has been easier. As the ball grows old it becomes softer and batting becomes more of a challenge. So what the team management was looking to do was keeping the experience of Dravid and Tendulkar to counter the more difficult situation that was expected later in the innings. That was the logic that dawned on most people later, but my first instinct was that India may have made a mistake.
AR: He looked remarkably confident didn't he?
SM: He played really well, especially after getting out the way he did in the first innings. He got out very early and though the ball kept low and the lbw decision was contentious, when you get out that early and you are a newcomer coming into a Test, you come with some self-doubt. You might tell yourself you deserve a place in the team but you also have the feeling, 'what if I am not as good as these guys I have watched over the years'. So there is always that doubt over whether you are good enough to be playing for India. And when you get out in that fashion it can really dent your confidence. So it was remarkable to see him come and bat in that fashion in the second innings.
I thought there were three things in his favour. His footwork is very good and traditional; he is very decisive with his footwork. He gets on the front foot and back foot and rarely did he seem hesitant with his footwork. His bat also comes down pretty straight on the ball. That is one good advantage to have. Finally, he has a calm temperament. So he has three very good aspects that will stand him in good stead if he is looking for a long international Test career.
|If you look at Australia's ability, you can see they were not the same team they used to be and they have got some work to do on their overall consistency of their batting|
AR: What did you make of Ricky Ponting's field placements today especially when Nathan Hauritz was bowling? Was he not backing his bowler enough?
SM: More than field placements, I think it was a clear case of over-bowling Hauritz in this series, especially in this Test. I wonder what the logic was. Once again Marcus North was not used at all. There were 12 overs bowled in the pre-lunch session and Hauritz bowled two overs where he gave away 22 runs. That was critical time in the Test and there would have been no harm in giving Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson six overs each. Knowing that they were the only two bowlers who could have put pressure on the batsmen, his keenness to go to Hauritz every time was something I could not understand. This modern phenomena of bowling short spells is something I cannot understand - exceptions have to be made, and Johnson and Hilfenhaus should have bowled longer spells than they did. Hauritz was clearly over-bowled. It was just a case of him being a release bowler for India; every time he bowled, the pressure was released.
AR: A word on Tendulkar - Man of the Match and Man if the Series; he seems to be getting better with age.
SM: We all age and that can be said about Tendulkar as well. But the fact of the matter is some aspects of his batting are getting better. One important element that is getting better is his defence. For a long time he was called the 'Master Blaster' and he was this gifted, attacking young player; then slowly he became this attacking batsman who played steadily. But now, at this stage of his career, if you look purely at his defence, you could see that he has the best defence that any batsman has ever had. I am including Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar and Geoffery Boycott in this category; looking at just his defence while batting, in this series especially, that stood out. Hardly anything passed his bat; the bat looked broader than ever before. Another change in the past two-three years is his calmness and serenity when he is batting in the final stages of an innings or the finals stages of a Test. There were times when you could see he was a little tense and anxious in these situations but that has changed. From that view you can say that Tendulkar is getting better as far as his batting is concerned.
AR: Looking back at the series, what would be the key areas of worry for Australia ahead of the Ashes.
SM: The big worry would be the overall consistency of their batsmen which has been a disappointing aspect. Generally we have had decent pitches; they haven't been bad for batting or the rank Indian turners that batsmen struggle on. So the form of their batsmen hasn't been good. Ponting found form but getting out in the 70s will be a worry. Their three seamers look quite good but spin could be a worry; whether Hauritz's confidence will come back quickly for the Ashes. He has had a very ordinary series and at the end of it, it seemed like his confidence was hitting rock-bottom and I wonder if that was the only reason Ponting kept going back to him, to keep his confidence going. It didn't quite help the match situation. Overall, if you look at their ability, you can see they were not the same team they used to be and they have got some work to do on their overall consistency of their batting. India had most of their batsmen in form, even though Dravid wasn't in the best of form he had a 70 to show. That was one advantage India had. Australia didn't have all their batsmen in form at various times in this series.
AR: A word in India's bowling effort - previously when we have discussed this Indian team, there has always been a question mark over the bowling attack. In this series they've bowled Australia out four times in this series and it has been an allround effort from the bowlers. Any positives to emerge from there?
SM: One of the positives would be Zaheer Khan, but lets not forget the contribution of the SG ball in this series. That ball has swung well for the seamers after it has become old so that was one of the reasons we saw such a great Test in Mohali. It has given people like Zaheer another string in their bow and has also helped the Australian seamers. So that has helped Zaheer come back strongly and go through the tail which has been one of India's problems. So that was an advantage that India used well.
Harbhajan Singh himself would say he could have done better in this series. Another find has been Pragyan Ojha. India have discovered a spinner who will keep pressure from one end; who can be steady and reliable in any conditions. He is the Venkatapathy Raju India had with Anil Kumble. So perhaps India need to find a spinner who can run through the opposition. Harbhajan has not been able to do that often enough. So if Harbhajan could become that bowler, then Ojha would be a great foil. But India need to find a couple of bowlers who can run through sides.
Sreesanth had a better second innings but he is not that bowler yet. Sreesanth looked quite ordinary in the first innings but in the second innings his game picked up and the ball started to swing for him. That is where he has one advantage over Ishant Sharma. Sreesanth has one stock wicket-taking delivery: when he is good rhythm he bowls a lovely outswinger and that gets him some good wickets, unlike Ishant who doesn't have that kind of a delivery. So it is high time Ishant develops such a delivery that will in time of crisis, when he is looking to get wickets, he could keep bowling that delivery to get a wicket. That is where Sreesanth is better off, but there is healthy competition for that second seamer's position along with Zaheer. So Zaheer and Ojha have been the positive developments for India.
AR: India are the No. 1 ranked Test team, but questions have been raised on that. Looking at the way India have performed, how do you think this augurs for them, given the hectic Test calendar ahead?
SM: India should be proud of their position in the ICC Test rankings because these are points given for performances on the field. India have performed well on the field. You can bring all the other elements in: whether the pitches were suited to India, they have played a lot of cricket in the subcontinent in the last 18 months so that has been an advantage. But for the moment India should be proud and celebrate the position they are holding. We all know the real test will be in the next 18 months; if India is still able to hold that position after the tours of Australia, England and South Africa. If India manage to do that, then it will silence all critics about the ability of the team. So that might be the acid Test. But for the moment they have every right to believe they are the No. 1 team and they played like a No. 1 team in this series. They looked a good batting unit, their bowling was good enough and their fielding wasn't too bad. And their performances on the field show these are points well deserved. So India should be proud of that.
AR: Thanks Sanjay for your views.
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