India v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 5th day December 12, 2007

Kumble the captain let down Kumble the bowler

Anil Kumble should have perhaps backed himself, and the rest of the bowlers, and declared half-an-hour earlier

After tea, Anil Kumble discarded his legbreaks and resorted to bowling seam-up © AFP

A Test that seemed destined to a draw at tea ended with Anil Kumble bowling seam-up with nine men close in as India strove to beat fading light and pick up the three Pakistan wickets that would have given them a 2-0 series win. They failed to pick up those wickets when Pakistan were offered the light with 11 overs left in the day. The immediate, and thoroughly appropriate, reaction would be to commend India and Kumble on a spectacular sprint for victory in the final session. A more considered opinion would be that Kumble the captain let down Kumble the bowler by leaving the declaration too late.

The timing of the declaration will have its share of supporters and detractors. Those in favour will echo Kumble, who said India "had to get to a situation where we could absolutely ensure a series victory." India were, after all, defending a 1-0 lead and were justified in wanting to shut the door completely. Another argument is that the poor light was unforeseen and, but for it, they would probably have comfortably picked up those last three wickets given the speed with which the first seven fell.

Convincing, but not as emphatic as the counter to those arguments. India's lead was 310 by lunch and the probability of Pakistan chasing a target of such magnitude, on a pitch where the bounce was getting lower by the over, was almost zero. Importantly, had the declaration come ten overs earlier, at the cost of 35-40 runs to the target, India would have had a buffer against the weather. The timing of the eventual declaration, little more than an hour after lunch, leaving Pakistan 374 to chase and 48 overs to save the Test, betrayed a defensive mindset.

It was the second time this year that India settled for 1-0 when a little more aggression and confidence would have secured a 2-0 scoreline. At The Oval in August, India left the declaration until an hour after tea on the fourth day, when they had accumulated a lead of 500, after having earlier decided not to enforce the follow-on. England finished the fifth day 131 short of their target with four wickets in hand.

"In hindsight I probably should have bowled medium-pace in the first innings," Kumble said after the draw. In hindsight, he should have perhaps backed himself, and the rest of the bowlers, and declared half-an-hour earlier

This aversion to risk becomes more significant in the context of India's next opponents. What if India are faced with a similar situation on the final day of the first Test in Melbourne in December? Will they sit back and ensure the match is completely safe first and give themselves a smaller chance of bowling out Australia? Or will they be brave and back themselves to overcome the challenge? Australia cannot be beaten by playing conservative cricket and the clever gamble could be the difference between a draw and a win.

Kumble the bowler was outstanding in the final session. Pakistan went in to tea at 23 for no loss. After tea, he discarded his legbreaks and resorted to bowling seam-up, a masterstroke on such a wicket. "Yes, it was planned before I went out," Kumble revealed. "There was no spin or bounce on the wicket and the only way to get people out was through balls that kept low and you had to bowl a bit quicker so that the batsmen didn't have enough time to adjust."

When Kumble brought Yuvraj Singh into the attack, replacing Harbhajan, with seven wickets to get it appeared that India were running out of options. However, Yuvraj's left-arm spin and his arm-ball made for a deadly combination on the track. The fields employed created immense pressure on the batsmen for it told them that the runs they scored and the boundaries they hit mattered not a jot.

"In hindsight I probably should have bowled medium-pace in the first innings," Kumble said. In hindsight too, he should have perhaps backed himself, and the rest of the bowlers, and declared earlier.

George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alok on December 13, 2007, 10:03 GMT

    Right, a series win is a series win. Right, it does not matter if it is 2-0 or 1-0. However, we must play with an attitude which only wants to win, if we wish to be the 'Numero Uno' team. A genuine effort in this regard mostly prevails. We upfront announced our intention to draw. We were defensive, unwilling to win hence without ambition, and maybe even doubted our ability to win - all too bad before the trip 'Down Under'. So, the delayed declaration has no justification! A team game, where a nation is being represented, deserves keener intensity to win, and lesser individual laurels. Sadly, test match cricket was toyed with and test match #1852 has gone down as a draw, with the usual few lessons to learn from ...

  • SRINIVASAGOPALAN on December 13, 2007, 8:29 GMT

    It is easier to make comments after the sunset. Look it from his angle. His newball bowlers are as new and not so were not effective in the first innings. Harbhajan is no longer the turbanator, the threat. The pitch was behaving well and not that much demons were visible when India was batting second. So why to give a chance? Atlease now we are able to talk with confidence. It is always easier said than done.

  • Jay on December 13, 2007, 8:27 GMT

    India has always had a series ideology. I guess it comes from history as India had very often had series victory more than 2 decades back. It is the same story for India every time a situation like this arises in the last test when a series victory has already been secured. What contributed more to the decision was opportunity to Karthik. If the skipper really wanted to give Karthik the opportunity, he could have sent him earlier. Summing up, when the series starts, the mindset is for a series win and a big margin. With this mindset, India will never be able to go all out for a big series win. Forget about being number 1, number 2 looks a distant possiblity.

  • Suraj on December 13, 2007, 8:00 GMT

    Well critizing and cricket are two things which always come in a package. Here we are talking about Kumble declaring a few overs earlier, lets leave this and take another example once, the famous shot of Misbah in the 20-20 final. He as well was critisized for getting out on that shot, but what if he did hit it for six? The same goes here, as AugiTh said, with nothing to loose, what if Pakistan went for a slam-bang situation. Kumble was right on his side for going for safety first but with proper calculation he should have left it at when the required rate was around 6. It is a 5th day wicket afterall and is not that easy. Overall i think that from now on India should take each and every game for itself but not the series as a whole. Same thing they do in the ODI where after winning the series they weaken the team for the last game and most of the time loose the game and the winning streak. Well, anyways, its India after all. What can we say...

  • manish on December 13, 2007, 7:59 GMT

    i don t think kumble was a bit late in declaring the inning s he played it safe,374 run s was the target for pakistan which i think was a very safe score for india to defend knowing what our fast-medium bowler s are,the declaration score was the rigth score but it was just the time which our batsmen took to get those 276 run s of 76 over s i think dravid ganguly and even karthik n pathan they all played too slow and i think that s the only reason why kumble had to delay the declaration

  • Shashank on December 13, 2007, 6:36 GMT

    Hindsight is 20/20.

    Indian bowlers in the first innings weren't exactly of a caliber that would inspire confidence. Kumble played to his strengths and weaknesses, and it seems many don't notice that in doing so, he very generously gave Karthik enough time to make his half century. What an astute and kind captain, and a fantastic cricketer to boot.

    The rapidity with which the Pakistani batsmen disappeared from the field when offered bad light was an eloquent demonstration of who "won" this game. Well done, India!

  • Ankit on December 13, 2007, 6:22 GMT

    330 in 60 overs would have left a zero chance for Pakistan, and about 50% for India. So really no point defending Kumble's decision.

  • Naval on December 13, 2007, 6:19 GMT

    It's not only in hindsight that the delayed declaration can be criticised. The situation clearly required just a little courage, not that there was the least real chance that Pakistan could make anything above 275 on such a wicket with the team they have at present, but to repel criticism of timid members of the public. Read similar views from Mr Gavaskar in the Times of India today.

  • Raja on December 13, 2007, 6:16 GMT

    Compare the situation with Rahul Dravid's case in England, he was pilloried from all and sundry for not going for jugular , where as Anil is being dealt with kid gloves ! Who was behind Rahul's ouster from the helm ? There was such wide spread cacophony for everything Rahul did whether opting to bat first or chasing - everything was wrong according to Experts ! This has resulted in checking the captaincy and inconsistent form which appears to be more due to his mental make up. He stays at the wicket longer (EX: At Bangalore he faced more balls then dada) but fails to make head way after that.

  • Sajish on December 13, 2007, 6:06 GMT

    The Declaration delay was there...He defended his decision in order to win the series...That is not good...We have enough runs on the board, we could have asked Pakistan to chase at least when 60 overs left...then they could have chase 321 in 60 overs @ 5.35 per over, which is impossible for Pakistan. It is very difficult to bat on any Indian wicket on Session II. Kumble should have declared the Innings when Ganguly out for 91 and Karthik was playing then on 27...He waited and waited for Karthik to Hit a fifty atleast...Because He want him in the team bound to Australia instead of Parthiv the selection for the Test team was around the corner. Kumble's captaincy overall was very good...But he is defensive captain like Dravid, Gavaskar, etc...To win a match you should take courageous decisions...It is very important for Australian Series...

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