March 1, 2013

Madras state of mind

The first India-Australia Test was a hark back to old times in more ways than one
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As an exhihibition of character, of ambition and frailties, of opportunities and fears, the five days in Madras were enthralling. Yes, you read it right. At various times during the Test match, when I read that people were queueing up at four in the morning, when there was a decent crowd even to watch just an hour's play on the last day, when I had dinner with traditional cricket lovers who wanted to know about emerging young players in Australia, I found myself referring to the city as Madras. And I wondered if Chennai was Super Kings and Madras was Test cricket. And as I pondered that to write this piece, I realised that Test cricket addicts, as I know them, reside in the old Bombay and Calcutta. They, too, would have loved this outstanding Test match.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is, in many ways, Chennai's adopted son (there were even messages on the scoreboard for him in Tamil) but Madras would have loved the innings he played. By his own admission he is not the most technically adept cricketer, but the manner in which he reacted to the conditions and seized the moment in the game was what made this one of the finest batting performances in India.

Nathan Lyon, a spinner of considerable ability but uncertain self-belief, had just begun to make the conditions work for him. Tendulkar had been bowled by a ball that another Aussie spinner who did so well in India, Ashley Mallett, would have been delighted by. The drift towards off dragged the bat towards the ball and created space for it to spin back in through. It could have been one of the highlights of the game; in fact, it probably was, in spite of what followed. Virat Kohli had, in one over, got one that skidded through and another that reared fairly menacingly at him. With 380 given him by his batsmen, Lyon could have made a reputation and maybe, just maybe, even won Australia a Test match.

At most times Dhoni jabs at the ball. Soft hands weren't in vogue when he was learning his cricket; those belonged to VVS Laxman, now such an eager student in the commentary box. Dhoni wasn't going to play late between the short legs for one, or dab past third man for two. His style was to get into the boxing ring with him, and so, as Lyon tossed the ball up invitingly, trying to get it to land in areas that were powder-coated, Dhoni charged to the pitch. It is the first thing you learn about batting against spin: if you get to the pitch of the ball, it doesn't matter which way, or indeed how much, it is going to turn. And having reached the area - it is in getting there that most batsmen are deceived - he dealt with it mercilessly. This wasn't a rapier, let alone a fancy epee, he was wielding; he wasn't a swordsman. There was no fine cut, no delicate wound that made the point. He was looking for a knockout, and he hit every ball searching for that verdict.

He had realised that India's success lay in hitting Lyon off his length and, more critically, in denting his confidence, by making him wonder where the next ball would go rather than allowing him to skip in with visions of a dipping ball fooling the batsman into a mishit or a bat-pad. To his credit, Lyon kept at it, but it had become an unequal contest. Tactically Dhoni had delivered a masterclass, and that is why the innings was more than just a batting exhibition. It was an example of how to identify a game-changing moment and then to seize it. It could well have been a series- changing assault. We will have to wait and see. Adam Gilchrist's spectacular innings in Mumbai in 2001, the one that most resembles this, gave that impression too, but a young Sikh bowler and a delightfully self-effacing batsman (in commentary, he said he was "satisfied" with his 281!) modified the script. A couple of as yet unidentified Aussies could still do that. But if one of those is Nathan Lyon, he will have shown great courage and fortitude. It will be excellent for cricket if he has it in him to bounce back.

As Srinivas Venkataraghavan could tell Ashwin, it is not easy for a tall man to let the ball go high, unless there is a precision to his craft, for it must still land shorter than the batsman thinks it will

Ravichandran Ashwin is more a son of the soil than Dhoni. In his family and cricketing upbringing perhaps lies the transition between Madras and Chennai. He has made his name as a CSK man but when he bowled his offbreaks, tossing them, looping them, getting them to break back from outside off stump, he travelled back in time. The pause in the action, the quick ball darted onto pad, the rather too frequent carrom ball... they were largely absent - that was CSK. This was a Madras spinner going back to his roots to rediscover himself, even if so early in his Test career.

Just as Dhoni's assault was an exhibition of tactical acumen and skill, Ashwin's was a demonstration of his intelligence and his craft. He knew how he had to bowl on this track, and he ensured he was ready for it. His speed frequently dipped to below 80kph. As Srinivas Venkataraghavan could tell him, it is not easy for a tall man to let the ball go high, unless there is a precision to his craft, for it must still land shorter than the batsman thinks it will. Lyon, on the other hand, was pushed into bowling over 90kph; the ball had no time to hang in the air and dip. Ashwin's was as fine an exhibition of classical offbreak bowling as any you will see.

Both Dhoni and Ashwin kept at it for long periods, aware that a little burst of skill was not much use in a game that demands extended periods of excellence. Dhoni was at it for six hours and 265 balls, and late on the third day was charging back for the second run like a still-fresh young sprinter. And Ashwin bowled 444 balls in the game, more than he would in an entire IPL.

And yes, this Test match told us one other thing. Sometimes you can get too involved with the surface and end up playing the conditions rather than playing the ball. You can get out before you are in. Only Phillip Hughes in the second innings, and maybe Michael Clarke, were waylaid by the pitch. Some others were done in by the fear of what it might do. We in India know that well, often succumbing in the mind to the bounce before it has appeared. One thousand two hundred and forty-three runs were made on this surface at a runs-wicket ratio of 38.84. It wasn't easy but it wasn't impossible.

And if you wanted to show a young generation that wondered why ours was so in love with a game that lasted five days, this was the best gift Madras could give. I wonder if we can get a series with the class of 2001 all over again.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. He is currently contracted to the BCCI. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY xrocks on | March 2, 2013, 2:58 GMT

    I was lucky to have witnessed this test in Chepauk..What a lovely crowd!!!What a pleasure to watch Test cricket that too from the pavilion stand..The crowd had a lot of youngster's like me which was so refreshing in this IPL era..The crowd outside the venue on the fourth morning was amazing.. I have been to some IPL matches too but you can sense the difference in the crowd almost immediately when you step in to the stadium..Harsha's comparison between Madras and Chennai is really true..Test matches should be played in traditional venues where you get a huge crowd and Odi's and T20's can be hosted in other venues which helps cricket grow..We need to have a cricket season like Australia and England and can rotate the test matches among traditional venues so that at least once in two years Madras can host a test.. P.S: I was able to post a lot of comments in Cricinfo but don't know why EspnCricinfo is not allowing so..

  • POSTED BY Leggie on | March 1, 2013, 20:37 GMT

    Some of the most memorable Test matches in Chennai have been those where there was always something in the pitch fast & spin bowlers alike. As a child, I remember people lavishing praises on GRV's 97 against a super fast Andy Roberts and sweets being distributed when India won. And then there was this win against a second string WI where Sylvester Clarke headed the pace attack. The pitch had lot of seam and bounce and India stuttered along in a chase of 126 and still won. Neil Foster once shot India out for 273 on a wonderful track. Kapil has had a 12-for against Pakistan. The list can go on and on. Chepauk was always remained the best Indian track - one that aids fast bowlers on day 1, batting beauty with ball coming on to the bat on days 2 &3, and spin from tea day 4 on-wards. This test match is a disappointment in that the pitch was "doctored". Sad that even Madras had to give in to populistic demands. This is not to take away credit for India's victory. Its just not sweet enough!!!

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    As a lady who watches Test Cricket passionately - yes you read me right - it was music to the ears to know that Chepauk was hosting a Test match after a long, long time. And, what a match it was! A match that just revived the Test cricket fans in India and has paused its obituary writers! I hope teams play more Test matches here! As always, beautifully written by Harsha!! Madras, Chepauk and Cricket are just inseparable.

  • POSTED BY venkatesh018 on | March 1, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    As a man who travels 450 kms from my home town in Western Tamilnadu everytime Chepauk hosts a Test against a major country, I can really identify with the tone and content of this marvellously written piece. This time I was lucky and wise enough to get a Season Ticket for the Pavilion terrace(though I was there only for the weekend). Otherwise, it would have been impossible to get a daily ticket for any stand on Sunday with Sachin unbeaten on 70. It is absolutely true that on Saturday and Sunday people were queuing up from 4 AM for their tickets. Chennai (or is it Madras) is home for thousands of connoisseurs of this beautiful game and as Nirmal Shekar said in THE HINDU, Madras deserves much more than Brand IPL every summer. Chennai was hosting a Test against after almost 5 years(that one against England was a classic too). It is a great injustice both to Chepauk and Test Cricket to have such a long gap. BCCI please take note.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 6:04 GMT

    A brilliant piece of writing, but also a most thoughtful effort. As a former I have been struggling to describe the change I noticed in Ashwin's bowling methods at Chepauk, while Harsha has captured it perfectly in the words, "He has made his name as a CSK man but when he bowled his offbreaks, tossing them, looping them, getting them to break back from outside off stump, he travelled back in time. The pause in the action, the quick ball darted onto pad, the rather too frequent carrom ball... they were largely absent - that was CSK. This was a Madras spinner going back to his roots to rediscover himself, even if so early in his Test career." This is spot on, even if the bowler himself claims he he did nothing different. And MS Dhoni was perfect, wasn't he, turning the match on its head? He never did put a foot wrong, with his calculated aggression, and his complete control over the bowling. Yes, give us Test cricket anyday--cricket of this quality.

  • POSTED BY TRAM on | March 3, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    Yes Madras was and Chennai is very sportive and hosts lovers of good cricket. Probably the only Indian city where the performance of opponent players are applauded well as Gavaskar has also mentioned few times. I remember early 70's the people applauding loud when the touring WI, Eng fielders would throw the ball to the keepers gloves accurately from the boundary line. Such was their love for good cricket. Does not matter who performs. Such applauds of Madras have reduced some what in the Chennai, but still Chennai is way better than other cities in such appreciations. No wonder MSD is accepted as their son, does not matter if he can speak Tamil or not.

  • POSTED BY jadedfan on | March 2, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    One of the best things about Dhoni is he is not afraid of fast bowling. Swing is what has troubled him, but swing is a problem for everybody. Of course he destroyed Lyon, no surprises there. The only people who were surprised were purists who still can't bring themselves to recognize Dhoni as a batsman. That's because he is an original, he is not a product (shame he endorses way too many :) ).

  • POSTED BY Raghzzz on | March 2, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    Chennai has had more memorable matches than maybe all Indian stadiums put together.. Chennai's probably been the most ardent supporter of Cricket as a game.. And definitely the most knowledgeable crowd.. Dhoni's knock is the latest addition to a very long list of great matches.. Remember Chase 387 v Eng 2008.. Remember 2 wkt win to beat Aussies 2-1 in 2001. Remember Sehwag 155 in 2004. Remember Shane warne breaking world record for maximum test wickets when he took Irfan Pathan's wicket in 2004.. Remember Sachin's painful but masterly 136 against Pak in '99. Remember the standing ovation given to Pak in '99. Remember the Sachin 155* in '98. Remember the Sachin 165 vs Eng.. I have been fortunate to witness all these and more.. Arguably the Greatest Stage for Cricket in India.. Hail Chepauk!!

  • POSTED BY krahuls on | March 2, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Yes, i fully agree with Harsha on that MSD severe batting on Lyon could be series defining moment and as it turned out, Australia No.1 spin bowler was left out of the second test match. Nice article Harsha !

  • POSTED BY on | March 2, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    I remember hearing the commentary when Viswanath made that incredible 97. If memory serves, it had 21 fours in it and the unstoppable Andy Roberts met his match, at one end, at least! GRV added twenty one with Chandra for the last wicket of which Chandra contributed....zero. Indubitably, it was Chandra who was more crestfallen when he finally succumbed, leaving the original Little Master stranded on 97.

  • POSTED BY xrocks on | March 2, 2013, 2:58 GMT

    I was lucky to have witnessed this test in Chepauk..What a lovely crowd!!!What a pleasure to watch Test cricket that too from the pavilion stand..The crowd had a lot of youngster's like me which was so refreshing in this IPL era..The crowd outside the venue on the fourth morning was amazing.. I have been to some IPL matches too but you can sense the difference in the crowd almost immediately when you step in to the stadium..Harsha's comparison between Madras and Chennai is really true..Test matches should be played in traditional venues where you get a huge crowd and Odi's and T20's can be hosted in other venues which helps cricket grow..We need to have a cricket season like Australia and England and can rotate the test matches among traditional venues so that at least once in two years Madras can host a test.. P.S: I was able to post a lot of comments in Cricinfo but don't know why EspnCricinfo is not allowing so..

  • POSTED BY Leggie on | March 1, 2013, 20:37 GMT

    Some of the most memorable Test matches in Chennai have been those where there was always something in the pitch fast & spin bowlers alike. As a child, I remember people lavishing praises on GRV's 97 against a super fast Andy Roberts and sweets being distributed when India won. And then there was this win against a second string WI where Sylvester Clarke headed the pace attack. The pitch had lot of seam and bounce and India stuttered along in a chase of 126 and still won. Neil Foster once shot India out for 273 on a wonderful track. Kapil has had a 12-for against Pakistan. The list can go on and on. Chepauk was always remained the best Indian track - one that aids fast bowlers on day 1, batting beauty with ball coming on to the bat on days 2 &3, and spin from tea day 4 on-wards. This test match is a disappointment in that the pitch was "doctored". Sad that even Madras had to give in to populistic demands. This is not to take away credit for India's victory. Its just not sweet enough!!!

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    As a lady who watches Test Cricket passionately - yes you read me right - it was music to the ears to know that Chepauk was hosting a Test match after a long, long time. And, what a match it was! A match that just revived the Test cricket fans in India and has paused its obituary writers! I hope teams play more Test matches here! As always, beautifully written by Harsha!! Madras, Chepauk and Cricket are just inseparable.

  • POSTED BY venkatesh018 on | March 1, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    As a man who travels 450 kms from my home town in Western Tamilnadu everytime Chepauk hosts a Test against a major country, I can really identify with the tone and content of this marvellously written piece. This time I was lucky and wise enough to get a Season Ticket for the Pavilion terrace(though I was there only for the weekend). Otherwise, it would have been impossible to get a daily ticket for any stand on Sunday with Sachin unbeaten on 70. It is absolutely true that on Saturday and Sunday people were queuing up from 4 AM for their tickets. Chennai (or is it Madras) is home for thousands of connoisseurs of this beautiful game and as Nirmal Shekar said in THE HINDU, Madras deserves much more than Brand IPL every summer. Chennai was hosting a Test against after almost 5 years(that one against England was a classic too). It is a great injustice both to Chepauk and Test Cricket to have such a long gap. BCCI please take note.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 6:04 GMT

    A brilliant piece of writing, but also a most thoughtful effort. As a former I have been struggling to describe the change I noticed in Ashwin's bowling methods at Chepauk, while Harsha has captured it perfectly in the words, "He has made his name as a CSK man but when he bowled his offbreaks, tossing them, looping them, getting them to break back from outside off stump, he travelled back in time. The pause in the action, the quick ball darted onto pad, the rather too frequent carrom ball... they were largely absent - that was CSK. This was a Madras spinner going back to his roots to rediscover himself, even if so early in his Test career." This is spot on, even if the bowler himself claims he he did nothing different. And MS Dhoni was perfect, wasn't he, turning the match on its head? He never did put a foot wrong, with his calculated aggression, and his complete control over the bowling. Yes, give us Test cricket anyday--cricket of this quality.

  • POSTED BY TRAM on | March 3, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    Yes Madras was and Chennai is very sportive and hosts lovers of good cricket. Probably the only Indian city where the performance of opponent players are applauded well as Gavaskar has also mentioned few times. I remember early 70's the people applauding loud when the touring WI, Eng fielders would throw the ball to the keepers gloves accurately from the boundary line. Such was their love for good cricket. Does not matter who performs. Such applauds of Madras have reduced some what in the Chennai, but still Chennai is way better than other cities in such appreciations. No wonder MSD is accepted as their son, does not matter if he can speak Tamil or not.

  • POSTED BY jadedfan on | March 2, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    One of the best things about Dhoni is he is not afraid of fast bowling. Swing is what has troubled him, but swing is a problem for everybody. Of course he destroyed Lyon, no surprises there. The only people who were surprised were purists who still can't bring themselves to recognize Dhoni as a batsman. That's because he is an original, he is not a product (shame he endorses way too many :) ).

  • POSTED BY Raghzzz on | March 2, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    Chennai has had more memorable matches than maybe all Indian stadiums put together.. Chennai's probably been the most ardent supporter of Cricket as a game.. And definitely the most knowledgeable crowd.. Dhoni's knock is the latest addition to a very long list of great matches.. Remember Chase 387 v Eng 2008.. Remember 2 wkt win to beat Aussies 2-1 in 2001. Remember Sehwag 155 in 2004. Remember Shane warne breaking world record for maximum test wickets when he took Irfan Pathan's wicket in 2004.. Remember Sachin's painful but masterly 136 against Pak in '99. Remember the standing ovation given to Pak in '99. Remember the Sachin 155* in '98. Remember the Sachin 165 vs Eng.. I have been fortunate to witness all these and more.. Arguably the Greatest Stage for Cricket in India.. Hail Chepauk!!

  • POSTED BY krahuls on | March 2, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Yes, i fully agree with Harsha on that MSD severe batting on Lyon could be series defining moment and as it turned out, Australia No.1 spin bowler was left out of the second test match. Nice article Harsha !

  • POSTED BY on | March 2, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    I remember hearing the commentary when Viswanath made that incredible 97. If memory serves, it had 21 fours in it and the unstoppable Andy Roberts met his match, at one end, at least! GRV added twenty one with Chandra for the last wicket of which Chandra contributed....zero. Indubitably, it was Chandra who was more crestfallen when he finally succumbed, leaving the original Little Master stranded on 97.

  • POSTED BY pr3m on | March 2, 2013, 0:47 GMT

    I agree. Australians, and indeed Englishmen complain about the nature of the pitch, but it was a solid one that lasted five days with batting getting progressively tougher, but not impossible, as demonstrated by Moises Henriques' innings. A couple of wickets to the pitch in an entire Test is justified, cos otherwise how will there be a result? It might have not looked good (gleefully "tweeted" by Warne every morning) but it played well.

    As for Dhoni's innings, not only did he force Lyon to reconsider his lengths and pace, but what he also did exceedingly well in that innings was he negated Pattinson's plans by deliberately hitting him over the top in the first overs of his spells. It led to the bowler doubting himself, however slightly, and Dhoni getting an over with balls bowled at less pace than the bowler's capacity. Very well paced innings, with perfect balance of attack and defense.

  • POSTED BY Gopu84gk on | March 1, 2013, 23:13 GMT

    Chepauk is one of the beautiful ground in India whic hosts some wonderful test matches and the crowd is awesome.Luckily i got 5 day pass for this test match and i enjoyed every ball of the innings.Whatever Harsha told is right the Madras crowd is so crazy about test cricket and in weekends statdium is almost full.The most craziest thing i remember on final day when Shewag got out,Even though crowd is small the roar is high when 'GOD' came bat for India in second inings.Not only that time crowed cheered ever moment when he was in fielding.Crowd also cheered for clarke and warned for their gangam moments and their sportsmanshop.Simply this test match is a long treat for the cricket lovers

  • POSTED BY Leggie on | March 1, 2013, 22:25 GMT

    Some of the most memorable Test matches in Chennai have been those where there was always something in the pitch fast & spin bowlers alike. As a child, I remember people lavishing praises on GRV's 97 against a super fast Andy Roberts and sweets being distributed when India won. And then there was this win against a second string WI where Sylvester Clarke headed the pace attack. The pitch had lot of seam and bounce and India stuttered along in a chase of 126 and still won. Neil Foster once shot India out for 273 on a wonderful track. Kapil has had a 12-for against Pakistan. The list can go on and on. Chepauk was always remained the best Indian track - one that aids fast bowlers on day 1, batting beauty with ball coming on to the bat on days 2 &3, and spin from tea day 4 on-wards. This test match is a disappointment in that the pitch was "doctored". Sad that even Madras had to give in to populistic demands. This is not to take away credit for India's victory. Its just not sweet enough!!!

  • POSTED BY ARad on | March 1, 2013, 20:43 GMT

    A. I was good to see an enthusiastic crowd at Chennai. BCCI usually schedules Tests in places where they rarely attract a large crowd (in addition to scheduling them, sometimes, in the middle of the week!) Unnecessary rotation of Test centers is, well, unnecessary. Both players as well as the TV audience love an exciting atmosphere so traditionally strong centers should always host the Tests. B. Why were considerable parts of the stadium still empty when people outside, when they were interviewed on TV, said that all the tix were gone? C. I hope Laxman's delivery (stutter, level of enthusiasm, etc.) would improve over time but his analysis could use much improvement as well. I love his batting but good cricketers are not necessarily good comms. D. Bringing up the roots & family in certain ways is Roebuckian. It suggests that we ultimately expect people's interests & achievements to match types so we are glad or surprised when they don't. It feels anachronistic.

  • POSTED BY VMohan on | March 1, 2013, 20:22 GMT

    Hi everyone...first timer...Harsha, just could not stop registering myself here after ur article...test match magic aplenty at chepauk.....have heard people rave about GRV's 97...Dean Jones and my special favorite Kapil Dev first but then overshadowed by a Mathews moment leaving a stunned Shastri and Singh stranded in a stadium shocked into silence ...Tendulkar and Mongia weaving magic but letting Akram and Team run all over Chepauk when every Indian spirit in this splendid stadium became momentarily Pakistani at heart...andy roberts...afridi...cc lewis...hirwani...hayden...harbhajan...sameer dighe...sehwag scoring 257 in one day ...kapil and tendulkar's multiple miracles...tendulkar CLOSING a phenomenal run chase!!..dhoni now ...i believe there is no greater a contest of skill than a test match when both teams play to win......its so unfortunate DD has lost its recording of one of the greatest game ever - the Chepauk Tied Test..wonder if that spine chiller can be recreated digitally

  • POSTED BY vakkaraju on | March 1, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    Politics plays a major role in allotting test matches to various centers. The fan support should instead should be only criterion. Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, usually have the best turnout. It is discouraging to see just sprinkling of spectators in a test.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 18:13 GMT

    For me (and yes, I belong to you generation Harsha), test matches are infinitely more 'exciting' and 'entertaining' than a limited match over can ever be. It was my last chance to see the GOD in action and I am so happy I made it to the stadium. Will cherish the memory for a long time.

    But to think that this series can be anywhere near to what we witnessed in 2001 is unfair to the current players in both team. The 'quality' is several notches below in both teams.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 17:42 GMT

    Chepauk is synonyms of great test cricket. how many memories it has produced. this time also no different. You got to be in Chepauk to know how much Sachin is loved by the masses.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 16:55 GMT

    Clever article with a provocative subtext: that

    1. India displayed more Character and other psychological strengths than the visitors 2. That the Indian team are not just IPL cricketers 3. That India is more than an ODI/ T20 cricket country viz the attention to the crowd in he article.

    Well, let's see with 2 more tests to go, I hope you are right :-)

  • POSTED BY Angry_Bowler on | March 1, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    One thing is clear, Dhoni has to bat to his strength in tests as he did in this match. Given his technique is not great, but boy his brutal power hitting can tore apart the best in the world. As Dravid said, he should bat at 6, so he will have a set batsman before him and an alrounder after him to play and spend some time before holding on to the tail. He may not repeat the same innings every time, but even if he is consistent with his batting and this aproach, he will be very effective in over seas as well. He failed in tests overseas so far because, I think, of his restarined approach. Once he starts going it doesn't matter where is playing or who is bowling to him.

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | March 1, 2013, 16:30 GMT

    Good one there. But, I think people are unfairly bashing Lyon. Let's have him in our team and make him bowl to the Aussies during a test match. You see what I mean? He was up against probably the best team against spin. No mean task. He should be encouraged and appreciated for his efforts and courage. Not the other way around. Even the genius Warne suffered here. Lyon is new and he is learning. I'm sure by the end of this series, he will be a more cunning and confident spinner. The trick is to bring him back again on the next tour. Otherwise, he won't be able to implement what he learnt on this tour.

  • POSTED BY SasiGladi on | March 1, 2013, 15:51 GMT

    No wonder why people in chennai love Sachin as we have witnessed his great knocks like fighting inings agnst pak with back pain, his 25th century against Aussy in 2001 great series. adding to it entire chennai stadium applauded when walked out by himself in WC match against WI even after umpire given not out in Rampaul bowling. I felt reason for my birth fulfilled when I saw his 25th test century in 2001 its the way we love Sachin/cricket. Not only that we appreciate opponents effort too standing ovation to Anwar is one example, wade made diving save to avoid bias was well applauded I remember Steve waugh accurate throw in 2001 was appreciated....it will be very rare to find a person in chennai (entireTamil Nadu) questioning sachin's presence in team as we follow cricket right through to the core..It applies same to Dhoni not as a king of CSK alone we understand his real capabailities too.....

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    As many others pointed out, Yes, Chennai, rather Madras had a tradition - Test matches were usually played at Pongal time, (mid-January) where there will be three official holidays. And for some time the first day of the match was also declared an official holiday. Mid January was the best time to play in Chennai with the temperature hovering around 30-32 c. Of-course the humidity will still be the same but it will far better than in March or late Feb or even in Sep. There used to be an apocryphal quote attributed to Vivian Richards - Next to Antigua, the biggest cheers he had is in Madras. And who can forget the 1999 classic when Wasim Akram and Co was wholeheartedly cheered even though every one in the ground had felt the pain of ...so near and so far ...

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 15:19 GMT

    @Sameer Sharma there is a reason why people play at home and away and i am not sure about which south african pitch you are talking about . SA feels their strentgh is batting because they have only steyn and morkel these days to bowl out a team...so they prepare batting friendly wicket and any surface where 1100 runs are made is not spin friendly it is just that one team was very worried too much about the track and the other team just went about their task....and for the record Pattinson picked up 6 wickets against Lyon's 3. A bad worksman blames his tool....

  • POSTED BY thoughtheybered on | March 1, 2013, 14:47 GMT

    Thank you so much for saying what you did, Harsha, in what was a perfectly lovely article. For many of us that inhabited Madras, Calcutta and Bombay when they went by those names (and in fact still loyally refer to them as such, current political expediency notwithstanding), test cricket was and remains their inalienable associate.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 13:52 GMT

    I never missed a test match in chennai since 75 until 95 then i have to watch test match in sydney, again from 95 till now i am not missed single test match, wondering is that any kind of a record

  • POSTED BY nayonika on | March 1, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    Watching the test match was great and reading about it from Harsha Bhogle is reliving the match, especially the exploits of Dhoni and Ashwin. Once again Harsha your writing makes the game even more interesting.

  • POSTED BY Natx on | March 1, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    Good one. Chepauk has been and will always remain a ground for pure cricket lovers. I still remember the old days of watching cricket during pongal season here. The passion that the people has for test cricket, the amazing technical details that they go about discussing in depth, and the utmost respect that they have for the purest form is unmatched. It is also no coincidence that Chennai always had this unique and rich cultural taste that carries the tradition alive. Music season is one example. The appreciation for reading good books and writing well composed articles is another. If you take a closer look, all of these requires immense patience and interest to sit through, let the experience sink in and enjoy. In this mad max T20 world, this is a complete opposite.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 12:35 GMT

    O yes,it seems the sentiment of many true cricket fans who are addicted to watching test cricket from beautiful chepauk stadium.we are also one of the most knowledgeable and sporting crowds in India.Still,the last test was played way back in 2008,that too only because it was shifted from bombay!! all who are responsible should make a note of so many cricket followers request,to hold one Test at least every year.It was heartening to read,Ashwin say " I have never seen chepauk so beautiful" and said he loves to play in Tests.

  • POSTED BY Kemcho on | March 1, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    Let us not get carried away with one good innings, as we Indians always do. Dhoni played excpetionally well and won the match for India. But there is a long way to go team India. The bolwing is still very weak - Harbhajan was hopeless on a responsive pitch and Ashvin still has a long way to go. Even the batting - apart frpm Dhoni and Kohli and SRT failed miserably. It is only because that he Aussie team is inexperienced and unsettled that they lost. A team with quality players would have faily beaten India as England did it a couple of months back.

  • POSTED BY Idavai on | March 1, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    I do not know what is common regarding India - Australia cricket and Chennai ( Madras) . It has always produced riveting stuff starting with the tied test. The tie test was my first live experience of chepauk..with kapil going bang bang on the fourth day.then only understood the passion of chennai people towards cricket. I ws there in Chepauk for 1998, 2001 and 2004 as well. I missed this one as i am out of chennai..One interesting story regarding 2001.On the last day, I left Office to view India's victory bid from lunch onwards..Things were going smooth till Ramesh run out. As usual, stadium was abuzz with sachin entry. But, he was given a hell of a time by Gillespie specially and he fell cheaply. The whole stadium was down and some young boys wanted to leave. I shouted at them for not being patriotic and why they want sachin only to score for India. I asked them won't you be happy if the winning runs were scored by harbhajan? They reluctantly stayed and well, winning hit by bhajji...

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    @Vivek Singh: Its not about making turners or pitches for pacers, its about giving your best and making the best, do you really think that this is the best from Chennai pitch curator? Even in South Africa, they are not making pitches friendly for pacers as there have been higher number of runs from the opposition too, and when they make pacers friendly pitches, the opposition gets equal chance. Here, we know the opposition does not have quality team so we prepared the worst wicket where the oppositions are bound to fail.

  • POSTED BY ooper_cut on | March 1, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    I had the greatest shock of my life when I went to the stadium on the 2nd evening. The ground was full and all tickets sold out. This has never happened to me ever for a test match. I remember in 2005 when Aus was here, I went for the last 3 days and bought daily tickets without even having to stand in a queue. And those were equally fantastic games. I think BCCI, CA and the ICC have successfully marketed Test Cricket, cannot think of anything else.

  • POSTED BY The_Wicked_Wicket on | March 1, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    Fantastic article Harsha, very well articulated and as a chap that still refers to this city as Madras (even in communication at my workplace), it was sheer joy! No offense to the other locations, but BCCI needs to allot Tests only to Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, Delhi, Madras and Mohali. The ODIs and T20s attract crowds from other towns and will help promote the games there. Perhaps no ODIs/ T20s for the test venues! To all those who criticized the wicket, Chepauk has a red soil base. The deck always turns from light brown to red within the first 2-3 days as the pitch wears down. However, if you look at the stats (recent): Ind Oz 2004: Martyn scored a 100, so did Sehwag. Dizzy and Warney had a great time, Warney getting his first 5-for. Ind Eng 2008: Strauss scored 2 hundreds, Collie scored 1 in the second inns! 1999 Ind Pak: Afridi, Sachin scored 100s, Saq, Kumble, Akram had great spells! It is a good test wicket, earn your runs and wickets, though easier for spinners to succeed!

  • POSTED BY Shyam_Chepauk on | March 1, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    I traveled from a neighboring state to watch this game for 5 days; took my dad to the game and had a ball. If there is soul left in cricket, it really is due to the tests. Sachin's innings was an absolute gem, considering the state of the game on day 2; and I feel privileged to have watched him live in his (probably) last game at Chepauk. As Ashwin said in his presso, the air spoke to him; the stadium spoke to him, all the fans got right behind the action. The joy of watching at Chepauk can't be matched at any other venue. The sight of the MCC stand, the distinctive clock keeping a tab on time, and the serene pavilion maketh the stadium a beauty. It is a venue for the purists, none more than the lovers of the ball-tweaking, stroke playing generations of the past.

  • POSTED BY CricketingStargazer on | March 1, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    This is an excellent commentary piece. It was a fascinating match. As a neutral, I found it gripping. Some passages of good play and some of brilliant play by both sides.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    Why is there no mention of Virat Kohli's innings, he with Sachin gave the platform and the direction of the match changed in our favour, it was a classic innings from the talented youngster, please give him credit for that wonderful display.

  • POSTED BY Sir.Ivor on | March 1, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    contd. and debris of the two lost Tests to his full measure.He hit a big double hundred and India lost. And the series 3-2. A great result if I may say so.It was in that series that one Greenidge and another by the name Richards were baptised by the West Indies.Both in the Bangalore Test.The first one scored a 100 and 50 on debut and the other showed his admiration for an Indian tweaker by name Chandrasekhar.The last game I saw at the Chepauk was in 1983.The West Indies had risen to their fearsome level by then.There was Greenidge,Haynes,Richards,Gomes and Lloyd in the first 5. And Marshall Holding and Roberts in the last 5 ! I remember a day before the game these super humans practising and I was amongst a bunch of fans soaking in the awe.There was this little boy in specs also watching most seriously.He was irritated by an older chap who was repeatedly asking for the names of the players.The boy took their names one by but gave a stern look at the other who appologised earnestly.

  • POSTED BY Sir.Ivor on | March 1, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    I have greatly fortunate to have seen 3 tests at the Chepauk. They were in 67,74 and 83. All of them against the West Indies. Sobers,Lloyd and Richards were the captains in those years respectively. Pataudi led India in 67 and 74 and Kapil in 83. I remember in 67, how India came very close to beating West Indies. Both the teams were very good. In 74 before the Chepauk Test, India had lost at Bangalore and Delhi in that series but with Pataudi having been reinstated as captain India had won a good Test at Calcutta.India won a fabulous game at Chepauk. I recall Robert's fearsome bowling on the first day, Vishwanath's superb stroke-play when all else crumbled for India.Then the raw courage of a Baroda man was noticed. A commoner but just as fearless. Anshuman Gaekwad.Then of course Bedi and Prasanna who fooled many proud people in that game as only they could.India won a great match.And squared the series only to lose in Bombay.Lloyd rose to his full height from the dust of the ..contd

  • POSTED BY kharidra on | March 1, 2013, 7:27 GMT

    One just has to ask any cricketer past, present and future and they all concur that they would like to represent the country as a Test Cricketer. They all feel that their repertoire is incomplete without being hailed as a test cricketer of some repute. Inspite of all the noises that T20 premier Leagues have made and the youth routing a way from anonymity to some sort of limelight, it is these very cricketers who want the Test cricketer tag. The recent test matches both in South Africa and in India have seen keen Test match cricket even if the results at times turned out to be one sided. What one has witnessed is some high quality batsmanship, high quality pace bowling high quality spin and last but not the least some high quality intriguing sessions that turned the test match around. Moments where in AB, MS, Dale, Ashwin, Vernon etc have played stellar roles to inch their way in the sessions and create opportunity for an exhilarating test match contest. Test Cricket at its Very best!!

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    I dont think it was a doctored pitch but simply made to suit the Home team. If Australia had a single decent spinner or at least 2 average spinners it would have been a close contest if other countries can create seaming tracks then why cant subcontinent teams create spinning tracks. Teams which are good can win in any conditions case in point England won the series in the same conditions because they had 2 good spinners. Kudos to team India for winning the match after being 406-8 excellent knock from Dhoni. A Pakistani Supporter.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    @sameer sharma- Please ask South africa make pitches where even spinners can take 10 test wickets in a match, please ask New Zealand where spinner can take 10 test wickets in a match, please ask England where spinner can take 10 test wickets before talking of game spirit and tailor-made pitches. In chennai test, pattison took most wickets as a pace bowler. If you are good you will take wickets anywhere no matter what condition. For me a good test wicket is one that reaches Day 5, some 5 fors for bowlers. So please come of the cocoon foreign media says on sub-continent pitches, its brain-wash!!!!!!

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    Why is it that only Bedi and Chapell discuss the elephant in the room - the disgrace about preparing doctored pitches, selectively watered so it turns from day one. Appreciate Gavaskar and Shastri are on the BCCI payroll and will never discuss these issues, but where are all the other cricket writers. Have they got nothing to say on the ethics and morality of this practice.

  • POSTED BY cnksnk on | March 1, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    Traditional test centres viz, Chennai, Mumbai, Calcutta , Delhi and bangalore, is where you will get knowledgable crowds flocking in for test cricket. While BCCI has the noble intention of developing other centres will we get crowds for a 5 day match. I remember a test is Jaipur a few years back where there were less than 500 folks on the ground. With a number of India's test cricketers coming from Tier 2 and 3 centres there is a compelling reason for test cricket moving to lesser known towns.But will it give same crowds and passion for tests.may be BCCI must restrict test cricket to the major centers only.Atleastfortests with England, Pakistan.Australia and South Africa you will get full houses

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    This is an excellent piece of writing on the Chennai Test I was there on all 5 days bunking my office. I am a vivid follower of the game for 3 decades. This match was a tremendous exhibition of batting power of MSD, hitting the cherry all over the ground, especially the one through mid wicket. It was a scintilating knock from CSK, when the Sunday crowd swelled over the ground and everybody expecting Sachin's hundred. But MSD compensated that with his powerful hitting and that too a double ton in a single day (Schewag may envy about this). Hats off to him. And what a performance from the local boy, Ashwin, his tweakers and alluring batsman to hit. And he was getting lot of purchase. And Harsha you correctly said that if India wins test matches like this, definitely fans will throng the stadiums in India.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    It will always be Madras and Chepauk for me...What memories...Chandrasekhar bowling Greenidge with a ball that everyone in the stadium missed (including Greenidge !), Vishy square cutting and driving Andy Roberts for three fours between point, cover, extra cover and midoff respectively on his way to 97 not out and in IMHO the best ever innings played at Chepauk, the entire C stand switching to Vivid Bharathi and hindi songs on their transistors... Give me test cricket any time any day and burn up the color pajamas !

  • POSTED BY Semoli on | March 1, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    I am sorry, this was a bad exhibition of test match cricket. Half the bowling attack could not contribute, a promising spinner sat out and we played on a doctored pitch. I am an Indian fan from Madras and this test match did not feel good.

    I liked the SA-Pak series better.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    The only positive thing that I see from that test match was Dhoni's batting, otherwise all the things should not be of much importance. Its very hurting to see wickets like this are prepared just to make sure that home team wins. There has been lot a talk on game spirit. I dont think that by preparing wickets like this we are promoting the game. It was a one sided game from Day 1. In my opinion, it was another a lame and boring match in which result was decided even before the match begun.

  • POSTED BY 45runs on | March 1, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    Brilliant article Harsha. You won't find a more passionate supporter of Australia than me but I was thrilled to see the amount of cheering spectators that turned up to cheer India and see the greatest form of our game. If India winning means more Indians fall in love with Test cricket, and as a result Test cricket grows in stature and popularity, I'm more than happy. A wonderful Test match, and as the best always are, as much a battle of mind as technique. And after the events of 1986, for me it can only ever be Madras.

  • POSTED BY tickcric on | March 1, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    Seeing this innings one wonders how much the batsman Dhoni has been under utilized. I still think his captaincy responsibility needs to be managed. He needs to step aside from either Tests or ODIs as a captain. Dhoni is as big as Gilchrist and when you add in captaincy to the mix perhaps bigger. India needs him and that is precisely why his workload should be managed. It's basically a crime, so to speak, to under utilize an all time great wicket keeper- batsman, that Dhoni is.

  • POSTED BY Ramster60068 on | March 1, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    Madras test matches were great memories. @Anand Nandakumar has already stolen my thoughts!! Compared to those memories, CSK memories are not even close. Other Pongal memories include Vishy's 97 not out, Kapils 80+, and Venkat's 60+ vs NZ!!! I love Madras, Chennai somehow is not the same!!!!

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    Dhoni's innings was most Madras, for it was something that Madras' most famous batsman - Kris Srikkanth - would have been proud of. For all its old-world charm, Madras has produced some delightfully unorthodox batsmen like Srikkanth and S Ramesh. And, an unorthodox personality in T E Srinivasan!

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Watching test cricket in Madras is such a joy. the Pongal test match; D-stand with its Triplicane mamas discussing Shane Warne's action; the curd rice packet for lunch; the expectant walk from Marina beach to the stadium - so so many memories.

    The ones I saw - Vishwanath's 222, the horrible loss against England despite Azhar's 2nd of 3 centuries on the trot; the unforgettable tied test; the rollicking 200 run opening stand with a Srikkanth century; those 16 wickets by Hirwani and a WV Raman 83; Kumble's 7 for 48 and Sehwag's 155 in the test we should have won in 2004; and the fantastic chase agianst England in 2008 post 26/11.

    The ones I regret missing (as college/ work drew me out of the city) - Gavaskar's 236 coming in at 0 for 2; the England drubbing in '93; the Tendulkar 155 in 1998; the Tendulkar 136 against Pakistan in '99; the series clinching 2 wicket win in 2001; the Sehwag triple and Dravid's comeback century in 2008.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Astute as always, Harsha. A coming of age for two such different players, temperament wise, age wise and experience wise. Dhoni's technique might still be questioned by many as fit for Test cricket, but his Sehwag-like approach is working for him and the team. It was heartening to watch Ashwin looping the ball and more importantly keeping at it (somewhere Harbhajan disappointed). Your point of his maintaining a somewhat split personality for Test and IPL is a very interesting and valid point. What remains to be seen is if he'll be able to summon them as and when required to and keep entertaining us.

  • POSTED BY Malediction on | March 1, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    Forget about batting for a second Harsha. What about bowling? You can clearly see that the lengths on which fast bowlers pitch were almost undamaged across the entire match. Contrast this with the lines and lengths spinners bowl where the pitch fell apart from day1, and the curators own admission that he "selectively watered" the pitch to produce this. The best assistance crumbling pitches can give fast bowlers is uneven bounce, and the curator deliberately avoided this but ensured that spinners would get it, along with significant turn. You can talk Dhoni up all you want, but unless he somehow manages to roll this pitch up and take it with him overseas, he will remain overrated, and tactically naive.

  • POSTED BY Rahulbose on | March 1, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    These days I too wonder if this is the Aus vs India series or the Aus Vs Chennai Super kings.

  • POSTED BY Rahulbose on | March 1, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    These days I too wonder if this is the Aus vs India series or the Aus Vs Chennai Super kings.

  • POSTED BY Malediction on | March 1, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    Forget about batting for a second Harsha. What about bowling? You can clearly see that the lengths on which fast bowlers pitch were almost undamaged across the entire match. Contrast this with the lines and lengths spinners bowl where the pitch fell apart from day1, and the curators own admission that he "selectively watered" the pitch to produce this. The best assistance crumbling pitches can give fast bowlers is uneven bounce, and the curator deliberately avoided this but ensured that spinners would get it, along with significant turn. You can talk Dhoni up all you want, but unless he somehow manages to roll this pitch up and take it with him overseas, he will remain overrated, and tactically naive.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Astute as always, Harsha. A coming of age for two such different players, temperament wise, age wise and experience wise. Dhoni's technique might still be questioned by many as fit for Test cricket, but his Sehwag-like approach is working for him and the team. It was heartening to watch Ashwin looping the ball and more importantly keeping at it (somewhere Harbhajan disappointed). Your point of his maintaining a somewhat split personality for Test and IPL is a very interesting and valid point. What remains to be seen is if he'll be able to summon them as and when required to and keep entertaining us.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Watching test cricket in Madras is such a joy. the Pongal test match; D-stand with its Triplicane mamas discussing Shane Warne's action; the curd rice packet for lunch; the expectant walk from Marina beach to the stadium - so so many memories.

    The ones I saw - Vishwanath's 222, the horrible loss against England despite Azhar's 2nd of 3 centuries on the trot; the unforgettable tied test; the rollicking 200 run opening stand with a Srikkanth century; those 16 wickets by Hirwani and a WV Raman 83; Kumble's 7 for 48 and Sehwag's 155 in the test we should have won in 2004; and the fantastic chase agianst England in 2008 post 26/11.

    The ones I regret missing (as college/ work drew me out of the city) - Gavaskar's 236 coming in at 0 for 2; the England drubbing in '93; the Tendulkar 155 in 1998; the Tendulkar 136 against Pakistan in '99; the series clinching 2 wicket win in 2001; the Sehwag triple and Dravid's comeback century in 2008.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    Dhoni's innings was most Madras, for it was something that Madras' most famous batsman - Kris Srikkanth - would have been proud of. For all its old-world charm, Madras has produced some delightfully unorthodox batsmen like Srikkanth and S Ramesh. And, an unorthodox personality in T E Srinivasan!

  • POSTED BY Ramster60068 on | March 1, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    Madras test matches were great memories. @Anand Nandakumar has already stolen my thoughts!! Compared to those memories, CSK memories are not even close. Other Pongal memories include Vishy's 97 not out, Kapils 80+, and Venkat's 60+ vs NZ!!! I love Madras, Chennai somehow is not the same!!!!

  • POSTED BY tickcric on | March 1, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    Seeing this innings one wonders how much the batsman Dhoni has been under utilized. I still think his captaincy responsibility needs to be managed. He needs to step aside from either Tests or ODIs as a captain. Dhoni is as big as Gilchrist and when you add in captaincy to the mix perhaps bigger. India needs him and that is precisely why his workload should be managed. It's basically a crime, so to speak, to under utilize an all time great wicket keeper- batsman, that Dhoni is.

  • POSTED BY 45runs on | March 1, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    Brilliant article Harsha. You won't find a more passionate supporter of Australia than me but I was thrilled to see the amount of cheering spectators that turned up to cheer India and see the greatest form of our game. If India winning means more Indians fall in love with Test cricket, and as a result Test cricket grows in stature and popularity, I'm more than happy. A wonderful Test match, and as the best always are, as much a battle of mind as technique. And after the events of 1986, for me it can only ever be Madras.

  • POSTED BY on | March 1, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    The only positive thing that I see from that test match was Dhoni's batting, otherwise all the things should not be of much importance. Its very hurting to see wickets like this are prepared just to make sure that home team wins. There has been lot a talk on game spirit. I dont think that by preparing wickets like this we are promoting the game. It was a one sided game from Day 1. In my opinion, it was another a lame and boring match in which result was decided even before the match begun.

  • POSTED BY Semoli on | March 1, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    I am sorry, this was a bad exhibition of test match cricket. Half the bowling attack could not contribute, a promising spinner sat out and we played on a doctored pitch. I am an Indian fan from Madras and this test match did not feel good.

    I liked the SA-Pak series better.