India v West Indies, 1st Test, New Delhi, 2nd day November 7, 2011

Sehwag blames 'soft dismissals' not pitch

Virender Sehwag said the Test against West Indies was evenly balanced, despite India collapsing to 209 and conceding a first-innings lead of 95 on the second day

Unlike India's innings, which went around in dizzying circles, Virender Sehwag's explanation for the failure did not. What transpired on the second day against West Indies at the Kotla looked, on scoreline alone, a repeat of what kept happening on the tour of England. This time on supposedly friendlier and more welcoming territory.

In their previous 15 innings India have scored more than 300 only once. During the collapses in England, only one at Trent Bridge was shorter than the 52.5 overs India's batsmen faced at the Kotla. In Delhi, they got to 100 in the 16th over and then lost 9 for 109.

For the first hour it looked like normal service was restored: Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir took their chances, flayed the bowling, and the crowd at the Kotla kept building. In the two-and-a-half hours following Gambhir's departure it was as though the England tour was being relived, but without dangerous swing or chest-high inquiry from an attack capable of aggression and control. The pitch played slow and got lower, and while West Indies' bowlers were energised, they were far from their lethal forefathers of a few decades ago. It is why 109 for 9 is a reflection on India's batsmen, and not the wicket they batted on.

Sehwag, India's top-scorer, tossed aside all crutches of comfort about the performance. "The wicket was good. Nobody got out because of the wicket. A lot of the dismissals can be called soft dismissals. It's a good wicket to bat on, keeping a bit low, but it's still a good wicket to bat on."

Praise be for Sehwag's plain speaking. He may have said it to stay confident about batting last, but a reality check never hurt anyone. India had begun before lunch as though the pitch was one of the many toll roads being built in Delhi's National Capital Region, scoring at just under eight an over, lashing boundaries and splitting fields. Sehwag, who only just fully recovered from his shoulder surgery, warmed up well for the season and, with Gambhir, turned over the strike and the scoreboard. "We were not forcing ourselves to play quickly, it just happened," Sehwag said. "They were bowling on our legs and sometimes outside off-stump, we were just hitting normal shots."

Gambhir's dismissal, run out while backing up too far, was unfortunate but everything that followed, as Sehwag said, was just soft. "It happens in Test cricket. Suddenly Gautam got run out and then I got out, and then Tendulkar and Laxman. All are soft dismissals. When one wicket falls, you sometimes lose concentration and you get out, and then it is not easy for the middle order. They don't know what's happening, how much bounce there is in the wicket. There was a little bit of reverse-swing. So it will take time." Collapses, he said repeatedly, happen, except India must prove that this repeated occurrence is not a 1990s rut they have fallen into.

Playing crowd-pleasing shots at the Kotla, Sehwag said, was difficult once the ball got softer. "In India, you will get wickets like that. We are not complaining about anything. We have to be patient. Wait for the bad ball and put it away for four." The India batsmen made that rudimentary instruction appear like rocket science all afternoon.

Any criticism of the pitch must be tempered with the fact that West Indies, with inexperienced batsmen in opposition conditions, hung around for 108.2 overs to scratch their way to 304. India's batsmen, however, did not hunker down long enough to wear out the bowlers, barring, of course, the habitual redeemer Rahul Dravid, who along with Sehwag and Gambhir, was the only other India batsman past 25. As partner after partner arrived and departed, no one would have blamed Dravid for closing his eyes and dreaming of England.

This Test is India's chance to renew its bouncebackability, which was flattened in England this summer. Just over a year ago, that quality was India's fingerprint in Test cricket. The last time they won a Test at home after trailing in the first innings and batting fourth was against Australia in Mohali. Eight men from that team are still around and cricketers never forget their best jailbreaks.

India are not in jail yet, but are not completely free from their shackles either. "We will have to be careful in the second innings, and we will not repeat the same mistakes, and chase whatever target they give us," Sehwag said

When Sehwag was told West Indies wanted to set 400, he said with scarcely disguised disdain: "We thought we would make 1000 runs in the first innings. But to say and to do are two different things. Anyone can say what they want."

India would want to dismiss West Indies for fewer than 150 to set up a chase of around 250. "I think the match is evenly balanced," Sehwag said. "It's not as if the wicket is very bad for batting. Even now it is a good track but to score runs is not very easy, when the ball is reversing a bit or keeping low. Therefore the batsman's thinking becomes a bit defensive because the ball doesn't come off the wicket as well as he would expect it to. If tomorrow we can get them out quickly, then I will say we perhaps have the upper hand."

India must now bridge the gap between saying and doing. There is time and there is capability. At home, they always have belief. What they need is a result to reinforce it.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • L on November 10, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    I am not saying test cricket is for no one, I think a 3 day version is much more interesting, maybe, try variations with two half innings each time.. kinda like baseball... that will also eliminate the condition of the pitch affecting the outcome of the match too much... which is why I think the innings should be split because sometimes its all about the winning the toss.

  • L on November 10, 2011, 19:46 GMT

    thanks for all the nice replies to my comments. here's what I am saying (I am not saying this on your behalf, everyone is only saying what they think) there needs to be a balance. for me T20 games suck, I hardly even watch it, but there is a market for that.. I do love watching ODIs and not because India won the world cup but because it provides to me the right balance, it has the ideal number of overs for the batsmen to set in and feel the pitch it has a good number of overs for a bowler to play with the batsmen's minds... it has a good variations of field restrictions, power plays etc... and it last 7 hours, infact, I watch most of the game when I watch and ODI

    but I think test is a little too long (its 5 days) and it gets very very boring most of the time... tour de france and marathon is not same, it's the not the same logic, those things are only about persistence and longevity, in cricket, every bowl is being bowled differently, not in marathon,... contd...

  • Manesh on November 8, 2011, 12:35 GMT

    @sabee66. At the end of the day, India bolwed them out less than 200 and going to win the match. Is it enough?

  • cool on November 8, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    @MENDIS_Forever: So where was the Pak-SL test series played, on bouncy-swinging pitches?

  • cool on November 8, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    @Mitcher: 2007 Sydney test, more than bad umpiring, the behaviour of OZ players was disappointing. For eg. Ponting claiming the bump catch, Ponting signalling the umpire out & umpire accepting it without referring it to third umpire when Clake took a low catch. BTW if Aus were world beaters, why they have won just a single test series in India since 1996. Can we call them "Fast track bullies"?

  • Srinivas on November 8, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    @Mitcher, I completely disagree with you. What happened in Sydney wasn't cricket. It was a disgrace to cricket and Kumble didn't mix his words. Rightly so. Oh yes, that was a win, a win for Australia which they would do better without. It's not just the Indians, many in Australia were genuinely concerned with that thuggery and cheating. Wonder how pointing at the incidents in that disgraceful test match is moaning?! I just think you are being very cold and irresponsible there. As a cricket fan, that win will always be a black mark in the history of Australian Cricket and Ponting. It surprises me that, to put India down, a disgraceful test match is being compared with a couple of bad decisions (that went against both the teams) in the ongoing test match. Wow!

  • Stefan on November 8, 2011, 8:35 GMT

    @goinguns: with this rationale, Tour de France (cycling) should also be scrapped - it is too long and nobode can follow it; sorry there is many sports that go for more than 1 hour; take also example of marathon running - this is also boring to watch, but it is an achievement to win, so I hope it will be continued, with cricket any overdose is killing the game and it applies to all forms; for test cricket - you do not have to see every bowl bowled to understand and follow the match; I would still seek solutions to reduce number of games being drawn with negative tactics and flat wickets just as in the last Pak-SL game

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    @ Eliya Abbas Syed: mate, may i remind u ......Pakistan is playing in DEAD Batsman pitches!!!

  • mayank on November 8, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    @sabee66: I guess you missed the series in the West Indies :D

  • Ravi kumar on November 8, 2011, 7:27 GMT

    Varun Aron has to wait for 7 test matches to his test match debut... he did the same for ODI debut...

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