India v Australia, 3rd Test, Delhi, 4th day November 1, 2008

India's efforts fail to match aspirations

Cricinfo staff
India failed to stay switched on and allowed Australia's batsmen, who batted resolutely, to save the game

India's bowling and fielding effort was shoddy, until Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag wrapped up the Australian innings © AFP

For seven days during this series there was a sense of the baton being passed. The champions had weakened and their inconsistent challengers were raising their performance. Australia were outplayed on all five days in Mohali in every aspect of the game and the same plot seemed to be unfolding on the first two days in Delhi. Until the Australian batsmen, fighting for a grip on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, changed the script. They were resolute and prevailed in a situation that separates the great Test teams from the merely very good.

Great sides hang on in such situations. They stay switched on, they keep coming at their opponents relentlessly, they create opportunities and they take half-chances. For one day, the third, India tried to be that team. Although their bowlers were ineffective on a flat and slow pitch they continued to persevere. Their bowling attack was depleted by an injury to Harbhajan Singh before the match, and one to Anil Kumble on the third day, but Virender Sehwag stepped up and, thanks to his canny offspin, Australia still had work to do on the fourth day to ensure safety.

India, too, had work to do and needed more of the same perseverance to bowl Australia out in a session and a half. However, they lacked the urgency in their pursuit of greatness. The reward for yesterday's efforts and this morning's tight start came in the form of a regulation catch at mid-off but Ishant Sharma parried the offering towards the long-off boundary. Michael Clarke was 21 at the time of his first let off - he would get two more in the 90s - and Australia were still behind by 263. Amit Mishra, the bowler who lost out on the wicket, bowled many loose balls later on in his spell.

Gary Kirsten, the India coach, admitted India's intensity dropped a few notches. "You have to create a lot of opportunities and I don't think we bowled well enough today to create those opportunities," Kirsten said. "We didn't build pressure for long enough, there were a lot of four-balls at crucial times. And when you rely on one opportunity, without creating more opportunities, guys are going to make mistakes on the field."

The situation was brought under control by Kumble, who contained despite his left-hand being heavily bandaged, and Virender Sehwag, who finally reached his maiden five-wicket haul by bowling Cameron White after being denied twice by dropped catches.

India's mindset was further revealed during the 13-over passage before stumps. They'd barely added to their first-innings lead of 36 before losing Sehwag, at which point they sent in a nightwatchman. Ishant Sharma was duly dispatched by an accurate bouncer from Stuart Clark.

The double-blow late in the day and an injured Kumble in the tail gave Australia bragging rights, which Michael Clarke was quick to exercise. "I think we can bowl them out tomorrow," Clarke said. "India won't set us a target, they showed that by sending out a nightwatchman tonight. We know only one team will be trying to push for a result tomorrow."

Kirsten, however, defended the decision to send in Ishant. "Certainly, in all the cricket I have played in my time, and it's no different here, we always ask the No. 3 or 4 batsman if they want a nightwatchman. And it was requested that a nightwatchman be used. This is what happens every single time, in every situation, and there are very few batsmen who don't want a nightwatchman." But in following the norm India had put two men who had bowled 65 overs between them at No. 2 and 3.

Clarke was correct in assessing that, the final result notwithstanding, there was only one team harbouring thoughts of winning going into the final day. "We are 79 ahead. We've to go and bat for a session and a bit tomorrow to get ourselves into a strong position and see what happens," Kirsten said. "But the wicket hasn't done too much, and it's been good to bat on. So we are running a little bit short on time."

Over the last two years, India have had important triumphs away from home. They have also been the only team to consistently challenge Australia. They now have a bowling attack with depth and variety: they can even think of playing only one spinner in India and still be effective. This team should be striving to be No. 1 before all their great batsmen retire. Idiosyncratic brilliance has often been India's strength but, on a day like today, they needed regimental discipline to stay switched on and fulfill their aspirations.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajen on November 2, 2008, 7:39 GMT

    Tactically India lost their best chance to win this match on the evening of day 2. Having seen Gambhir and Laxman putting up over 250 run partnership it was evident the pitch had nothing in it for the bowlers. They should have batted through the day and scored another 60 to 70 runs so that batting again had been ruled out. India should have reached close to 700 runs and that would have put pressure on the Aussies of following on even if they scored close to 500 runs in the first innings. Instead they gave Aussies a chance to score 50 easy runs on day 2 evening and pile up more the next day. The cumulative effect of this was a potential reduction of more than 100 runs in lead. Consistant pressure is the only way you can tame a strong outfit like the Australians.

  • Jake on November 2, 2008, 7:25 GMT

    This Indian team [like the ones before] gives the impression that they sometimes forget how to win a game. A little 5th day pressure from Australia and they could all start crumbling, e.g. 4th test 5th day this year in Adelaide -if it were not for sehwag, it would have been a hiding. You also cannot drop catches at this level and then complain umpiring was not good enough. Great teams make their own luck. Unrelated to the article and maybe controversially I feel there are now suitable replacements in India for Kumble and Dravid.

  • Akshay on November 2, 2008, 5:34 GMT

    The dropped chances lost India the chance to force defeat on the Australians. However, this match is heading for a draw unless the Indian batsmen collapse in a heap. Michael Clarke, after getting a scratchy century seems to have gotten carried away bragging they might even win the match. Somebody should remind him that this isn't an English team to get frightened of Warne (even if he would had played) nor there is no Bucknor and his cronies of Sydney test.

    Enjoy the rest of the series.

  • Sreekumar on November 2, 2008, 5:13 GMT

    It is not the indians who are lack of aspirations it is kumble who is on the defending attitude. As per my suggestions kumble is not a good or aggressive captain. Rahul dravid also lacked the same. By winning one match don't say that we won the series. Be on them always which breaks their confidence and that is what australia always do and that is why they are still framed as no.1

  • Dibbu on November 2, 2008, 3:25 GMT

    henchart, don't forget that in 2003-2004 in the SW's last match the umpiring was as shoddy as the sydney test last year. billy bowden refused to give even plumb lbws including that of SW on day 5 morning. now, grante that australia is a better test and odi side than india, but it is also a fact that umpires have contributed their share in oz favor at critical points, and in critical games.

  • Peter on November 2, 2008, 2:54 GMT

    I doubt if Ponting was in the Indian's poistion he'd do as henchart suggests. It's up to Australia to try and win this test. The Indian's couldn't expect to bowl the Aussies out in 45 overs and wouldn't want to risk a lost test. They have a right to be cautious.

  • Roger on November 2, 2008, 2:20 GMT

    It is always hard to beat India in India but the most frightening aspect of this series is that with Australia rebuilding and feeling for new players with not much experience at International level they cannot put the Aussies away and give them a really good decent hiding say 3-0 or 4-0 even. With Langer, Martyn, Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne gone Australia has basically lost thier 5 most experienced players, A great opener, Good middle order bat, Our best WK batsman, The greatest leg spin bowler ever and probably one of the world's best fast men. Take 6 players of that caliber out of India all of which are well into thier 30s, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble and they'd be absolutely shocking and i'd dare to say that they will lose alot more in India once those players are gone. If i was India i would'nt be too concerned or honoured to beat THIS Australian side, They had numerous chances to beat our best and failed except for one series.

  • KISH on November 2, 2008, 2:14 GMT

    It was foolish to send a night watchman. I have been supporting Kumble until now. But, this was poor captaincy. Was he copying what Dhoni did in Mohali in a different situation? India needed quick runs. Instead of sending VVS or Dhoni, Kumble opted for defense. The captain should think how to win a match from any situation. India should have easily won this match if the fielders held on to their catches or if Billy Bowden was willing to show correct judgment even if it was against the Aussie batsmen. That LBW decision when the ball hit Clarke's pad first and then bat, would have turned the match. If it was an Indian batsman, it would have been an easy OUT decision by Bowden. Indians are partly to blame as well. The appeal wasn't strong enough either. If it was Australian fielders, they all would have gone up in unison and in the unlikely event, if the decision went against them, Ponting will be talking to Bowden furiously and Hayden or Watson will be sledging the batsman.

  • Peter on November 2, 2008, 1:05 GMT

    Sadly, I think that India was in defensive mode from day 1. Having convincingly thrashed Australia in the second test, and consolidated from losing 2 early wickets, to go to the end of day 1 with such magnificent batsmen as Gambhir, Tendulkar and Laxman rampant but with the score at less than 300 showed they were convinced the Aussies would fall apart and there was plenty of time. India should have been looking at 350 or more on this pitch by the end of day 1, with a declaration midway between lunch and tea on day 2 so they would have plenty of time to bowl Australia out twice on a good batting wicket. India may well win the series - they are deservingly 1 up and will be hard to beat. But they have yet to show the killer instinct of the team that has dominated for the last decade or more. You don't win 16 matches in a row (twice) by going one up then just trying not to lose. Come on India, show us you can fulfill the promise of the strong side you have.

  • Girish on November 1, 2008, 20:38 GMT

    I think it was more due to the difference in the pitch that has brought match into this state. If it were regular Kotla pitch, it would hav deteriorated and India would have been on top by now. Anyway, at this point, I feel laughing at Clarke's comments where he thinks of an Aussie win. If anyone is going to win, its India. Just watchout Aussies. You will have around 200 to chase in 40 overs and you are likely to be dusted by spin triplets in this match. Beware!

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