Thank you for what you wrote

Thank you for returning to my blog. Never knew it would be such a busy place! Thank you indeed, if you have posted a comment on what you felt on my lil’ run in with Ricky Ponting.

Ideally, I should be responding to each one of the comments but on such a happening tour, I am not going to have the time to write back to everyone personally. I hope to do that over a period of time.

If you have supported the fact that Ricky Ponting did ground the ball when completing the ‘catch’ off Dhoni, I will break into a smile. Just because the umpire ruled him not out does not mean that the appeal was justified. Not from someone who professes to the patron saint of sporting spirit.

And if you haven’t felt that I did right by asking him a question (so that I would understand his psyche better), I will still smile. Not for a moment was I in doubt that I should not be asking him to explain his dual-approach to cricket.

I intend to keep this simmering not because I want to hear him express remorse for the manner in which he responded to my question. It doesn’t make a difference to my life or to how I am going to practice my journalism. My idea is to keep a debate going on. I wonder if I should ask when is a catch complete or if the Indian team (or anyone else, for that matter) should trust Ponting’s word anymore.

Not a few Indian cricketers liked the fact that one of us asked Ponting some questions and riled him enough. They asked me why I hadn’t asked him to go watch replays. My response to that is simple: I was only doing a job and I had to ask without losing my cool or feeling offended. If I could ask Harbhajan Singh — at a press conference — if he had become a defensive bowler in the recent years, I could ask Ponting about his varied reactions in one game.

And if you who have been critical of me asking the question, all I have to say is that only two days earlier, I had asked Brett Lee to explain if there was a team philosophy about these things since Andrew Symonds hadn’t walked when he had nicked RP Singh but Ponting had allowed Dravid to continue batting after taking a catch on the half-volley.

Even at the press conference, I started off by congratulating the Australian captain for his team’s 16th Test win in-a-row. I then said I understand that various players have different approaches but I don’t comprehend how one player could have two different philosophies in the span of one game.

All said and done, I feel humble that I have received such attention and support.

20 comments for “Thank you for what you wrote

  1. Ottayan
    January 10, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Good work. His answer exposed his self- absorption.

    I am sure on reflection it will bring him back to earth.

  2. Abhishek
    January 11, 2008 at 1:58 am

    Hi Raj – I was grinning manically when I read about how you questioned Ponting – partly because it was a lesson in professionally grilling a sportsman and partly because Ricky Ponting takes me to my dark place where I start losing my objectivity. Either way, it was a good read for an aspiring sports journalist. Hoping for more updates soon!

  3. Akash
    January 11, 2008 at 3:42 am

    Kudos for asking THE tough question, and at least giving Ponting the chance to address the issue. And his behavior was shocking. My point is that why has the Indian team reported Ponting to the match referee. There is video evidence all over the internet showing Ponting directly looking at the ball FIRMLY against the ground, and he still gets up and appeals.
    Remember Mike Proctor, yes the very same Proctor banned Rashid Latif for 5 matches for claiming a dodgy catch.
    Proctor’s logic: Rashid Latif was the captain and hence had greater responsibility.
    Now why is Ponting’s case different?

  4. rahul n
    January 11, 2008 at 7:44 am

    keep up the good work. hope you continue to ask the tough, pointed questions. especially since, from what has been reported thus far, ponting and his team still refuse to admit that they did anything wrong and against the spirit of the game.
    also, as an aside i had posted a comment on your previous post 2 days back. it was rather long, but it hasnt appeared so far. was wondering if there what could be the cause. thanks.

  5. Naked Cricket
    January 11, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Hi Raj,
    That’s a nifty thank you note, sir! Just struck me that your Ponting-interview and the Outlook start-of-the-year holiday coincided. Do you feel there was a case for an early midweek issue with a focus on the interview – or will the next issue pack the same punch?

  6. Ajay
    January 11, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Before posting this comment here, i just read an article in the SMH by Paul Marsh (CEO of Australian Cricket Association) titled ‘A team second to none, on and off the field’.

    He has put across his thoughts and facts as to why the Australian Cricket Team is ‘A team second to none, on and off the field’. If this article would have been written before the Sydney Test (read ‘The Biggest loss by Australian Cricket Team despite the Win’), i would have agreed a 100 percent, but i am afraid, now i don’t.

    Here are a few facts that Paul highlighted:

    Fact 1: The Australian team was one of four nominees for the ICC’s own Spirit of Cricket Awards at the September 2007 awards ceremony. With Ireland being one of the other nominees, the Australian team was considered to play the game in a better spirit than at least seven other full ICC members.

    Response: I can’t really believe that these nominations were based on clear and precise facts, rather just what a few judges believed was correct, and what they must have been influenced by for sure, is the way Australia has dominated World Cricket in all forms of the game for the past decade or so. When a certain Mr. Gavaskar says on TV that “almost all the times, invariably, it’s the champion team that gets most of the decisions made by an on-field umpire in its favor”, why cant a decision at the level of ICC be biased by who is a champion team and how dominating they have been in terms of winning the games they play. Was their any consideration to an opinion of the genuine cricket fan while deciding the nominations? Well, I don’t think so. We all know how a big award like the Oscars can be influenced and are sometimes far-far away from what the people’s choice would be. So why can’t that be the case with ICC?

    Fact 2: The Australian team is the only team in international cricket that has taken it upon itself to introduce and live by its own Spirit of Cricket pledge.

    Response: Yes, and what a truly wonderful idea that was by this very champion team to show that they played the game in a real spirit. This after so much criticism in the media about how the Australians were getting away from being a real champion team purely on the basis of the “hard and fair” way of playing cricket, because of their not so sportsman like on-filed behavior. They were criticized by all the greats and people who understand cricket for their on field behavior and that’s exactly what came to the fore in the Sydney Test. Though we did not see any Australian cricketer pointing fingers or shouting obscenities at the Indian players, but it was quiet evident that their was a huge difference in how a Ponting led him champion team in Sydney test and how a Steve Waugh would have lead this team, had he been the captain.

    Fact 3: Brad Hogg’s report in the Sydney Test is the first time an Australian player has been charged under the ICC Code of Conduct in 13 months.

    Response: And this is exactly what I want to say, the players of a champion team are hardly reported for any bad behavior or a thing like excessive appealing. Most of the time, it’s the team from the sub-continent that gets reported first. A glaring example was an incident in which Ponting pointed his bat at Srinath and probably mouthed a few obscenities at Srinath, after being hit by his bouncer. And he wasn’t even reprimanded by the umpire for that. And to this day I haven’t really understood the logic behind an Andre Nel for example never catching the eye of a match referee despite his antics on the field, whereas a Sehwag gets reprimanded for excessive appealing.

    Fact 4: Ricky Ponting has actively sought to introduce a practice among all international teams where the word of the fielder is accepted in instances of close catches. This has been largely rejected by other international teams, though it must be noted that the Indian team has accepted it for this series.

    Response: And this was probably the only mistake that Anil committed saying yes to what others denied correctly. Ponting was heard in the press conference trying to justify Clarke’s catch (believed to be a clean one) based on this but shouldn’t it be noted that he made no effort to appreciate the very fact that Anil said okay to this. And the reason why I believe Anil committed a mistake was for every body to see when Clarke himself didn’t walk when he edged one to first slip. What kind of double standards are those. How can you trust one for calling a catch clean when he himself doesn’t walk while batting?

    At the end i will have to say, that yes we all agree that Ponting and his men can be termed as champions when it comes to team that dominates the opposition by the way they play, but I have serious doubts now as to whether they really play it fair. I for one had tremendous and I repeat ‘tremendous’ respect for champion players like Gilchrist along with his team mates, but the very way in which this victory was celebrated by him and his team mates including Ponting in the fading sun of Sydney, knowing that India had been done-in by the umpires, I lost almost all my respect for this team that Mr. Paul describes as ‘A team second to none, on and off the field’.

  7. Prasad
    January 13, 2008 at 3:20 am

    Actually there are so many things involved here that in the madness we tend to clutter things and it is difficult to come to any sensibility. So I will try to break it down to few things we need to deal with from both sides.

    1) Decisions: The umpiring has been in shambles in the entire match. This is where India and ICC and even ACB erred. Knowing the history of atleast Steve Bucknor, he should not have been standing in this series and should have retired long time ago. But that does not give us (India) to change the rules of the game in between the game. India and rest of the world should have removed Bucknor before or after series but not in between the series. And I personaly believe we erred on taking the high ground here. I am sure many Indians will disagree.

    2) Racsism vs Sledging: Let me categorically say that if it is proved that Bhajji has said monkey and knowing what happened in India, he will have to cop it. But there is where all the complex arguements begin. Problem is, before we get to it Mike Procter will have to explain how he was convinced without reasonable doubt that Symonds was telling the truth and Bhajji was a liar (lets just say what we wanted to say all along , shall we). Based on what proof Mr. Procter?
    But even if Bhajji did say that, it wasn’t without Symonds having said something as was admitted by him. Racism is not about racism, it is about being offensive of the highest degree. So if Symonds said something offensive, then there goes all his excuses. He started it and Bhajji finished it. He cannot complain now. And that is what every team out there is saying about Australia, they can give it but can’t cop it. But they don’t need to, they are talented enough to win games on that itself. Its a pity really! Its time to come down on sledging…. and hard…

    3) Catching agreement: I saw the catch by both Ricky and Clarke. According to the rules that I know and I have played and I have a 1st level umpiring, that is not deemed a clean catch. Clarke’s catch was lot more difficult to judge. The replays were not conclusive. But there is a problem here. They had an agreement on catches. Now I have played enough competitive cricket to know that there are times when you might not have taken it cleanly yet in the heat of the moment you will go up in appeal immediately. It is only after about 10 minutes or so, after you have rerun every action, feeling, instinct in a replay mode in your mind you might give way to doubt. Even then you might not get it right. Knowing this, it was not the right thing to have the agreement. Because at worst, fielders will be called cheats and at best they didn’t realize it. Then you add all the walking stuff it becomes more complex. Why get into such a situation in the first place?

    4) Sprotsmanship: I heard so many Ausralian greats criticising the Aussies. And we Indians need to look at the Indian team calmly and be able to do the same when it is appropriate. So when India accuses the Aussies of unsportsmanship like behaviour, they have to be ready to take the same questions. Does everyone in the team walk? To me edging it to a keeper and not walking is the same thing as hitting a catch to deep midwicket and waiting for an umpire to give him out. If we don’t do it then we don’t have the right ask the same from anyone. There are videos on the net showing Dhoni going up for a catch which clearly bounced and Bhajji staying put for bowled. Point is we need to clean up our house before we start with the others.

    5) Leadership: Between BCCI and ICC they don’t have a clue about the meaning of Leadership. BCCI should have been looking at things like why there was time only for one tour game? Can they not have planned the previous itenary better by having only 5 ODI instead of 7? Were they sleeping on the umpiring issues befor the tour started? Why are their future tour plans always in chaos? Why can they not plan them ahead? Englands Ashes plan was ready 2-3 years before it happened. I doubt I will ever see organizational skills from BCCI. And I will need as long a note as this one just on whats wrong with ICC. I will keep that for another day.

    In the words of Raj Kapoor “The show must go on”. I expect leadership from two people, Kumble and Ricky. I hope they don’t disappoint us by just being Captains of their teams. There is a difference……….

  8. Prasad
    January 13, 2008 at 3:31 am

    Oh, BTW forgot to mention in the previous post. India lost the match when they lost 9 wickets in 2 sessions irrespective of the controversies. We will need to play much better than that to have any chance of winning the remaining 2 games.

  9. rahul n
    January 14, 2008 at 4:06 am

    hi raj
    it seems from pansy sharad pawar’s latest statments that bcci is trying to bury the issue and will let the bhajji hearing get postponed to after the series and then work out some sort of suspended sentence where he’ll be put on probation.
    this is a total cop-out and if we dont take a stand now incidents like this’ll keep hapenning.
    i was wondering if u could let the team members know that the indian fans are totally with them and they should push for a quick and complete overturn of the ban or follow up their threat of calling of the tour. let it cost 25 mill or 125 mill. they have to show bcci and icc that they wont cower down any longer. though i’m afraid thats whats going to happen once again.

  10. smale
    January 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    A fair resolution: 1) declare the second test between Australia and India played at Sydney during January 2 – 6, 2008 to be NULL and VOID on legal grounds, 2) cancel the ban on Harbhajan Singh, but punish him along with Andrew Symonds, Michael Clark and Brad Hogg for conduct unbecoming of players of test cricket, and of representatives of their countries.

    Explanation: The umpires officiating for the test match (Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor) and the captains (Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble) of the two playing sides have some legal grounds to enter into an oral agreement about umpiring decisions that AUGMENTS the ICC rules which provide for the umpires’ current decision making capabilities. However, under no circumstances do they have the jurisdiction to enter into an agreement between themselves that SUBVERTS the current rules of the ICC. To make this point clear, consider the incident involving Saurav Ganguly’s dismissal in his second innings. Ganguly (a left-hander) had nicked a ball, and the ball was supposedly caught by Michael Clarke in the slip position. Under normal circumstances, if the fielder (Clarke) was not in the direct line of sight of the umpire (Benson), or if the umpire was not sure if the catch was clean, he would consult the square leg umpire (Bucknor). If the square leg umpire also could not deliver a clear verdict, then the third umpire, who has the benefit of the TV replays, is referred to. This is the procedure for determining the dismissal of the batsman, as provided by the rules of the ICC.

    Now, there is definitely the possibility that, when the third umpire is called in, the TV replays also could not determine the verdict clearly. This might be the case, for example, if the TV cameras could not provide the complete information on the position and the movement of the ball and the fielder during the catch. Currently, in international cricket, the batsman is usually given the benefit of the doubt, if the third umpire also could not reach a clear verdict. In this second test match, if the captains and the umpires, in this particular situation (where the third umpire is inconclusive), had agreed that to resolve the ambiguity in a more transparent manner, they would take the word of the fielder who caught the ball (to be conveyed to the umpires through the captain of the fielding side), then they are on a relatively strong legal ground. However, in the case of Ganguly’s dismissal, the umpire, Benson, decided to directly ask the captain of the fielding side, rather than first ask the square leg umpire and the third umpire. Thus his action amounts to subverting the decision process provided by the ICC rules. At this point, perhaps it is worth interjecting that there is no need to ascribe any sinister motives to the umpire. He must have simply gone by the earlier ‘Gentlemen’s agreement’, and possibly, he might not have understood the legal implications of his actions. Also, it is worth explaining the seriousness of this issue with an example here. In a game of cricket, if the umpires and the captains, on their own, could make agreements that subvert the ICC rules, then there is no guarantee that what is played at the venue is cricket. Just imagine, years later, the record books would specify a certain result, but what happened on the field, might be a game of gilli-danda, or football, for that matter! Thus it is very important to understand that the umpires and captains can only augment the decision making procedure provided by the ICC rules for the purpose of transparency, but they can never subvert the ICC rules. If they do, it could not be considered a game of cricket. Thus, the second test match between Australia and India played at Sydney, Australia during January 2 – 6, 2008 is NULL and VOID on legal grounds.

    Note that this legal implication is also a happy consequence for all fair-minded followers of the game. Australia would still have the chance to go for their 17 straight test wins if they won the remaining test matches at Perth and Adelaide. Moreover, this would nullify the accusations of cheating that the Australian team has been hearing from many of their own countrymen. On the other hand, for India, they could still win the Border-Gavaskar trophy if they won the remaining two tests. Moreover, for Cricket Australia, BCCI, ICC and the media, the fact that the series is still undecided and kicking, would mean more revenue, and hence a welcome resolution. Thus this is the best outcomes for all parties involved.

    (The grounds for my conclusions on the Harbhajan Singh ban, and punishing Singh, Symonds, Clarke, and Hogg will be explained later, in a subsequent article).

  11. smale
    January 17, 2008 at 3:58 am

    India Australia Third Test Match, Perth, Australia, January 16 – 20, 2008

    First Day Report:

    Part I. On the Bowling
    I will let the Indian sports journalists comment, with the benefit of hindsight, on the pre-match build-up of hype and hyperbole about the cricket pitch and Shaun Tait. In fact, Sidharth Vaidyanathan had done a good job of commenting, tongue-in-cheek, about it even before the match started, in his match preview report on Cricinfo titled, ‘India face a uphill task in the Wild West’. It is also instructive for readers to look at another Cricinfo article, ‘West side story’, Dileep Premachandran’s account of the fearsome reputation of the Perth cricket pitch, particularly Curtly Ambrose’s divine spell of fast bowling in the 1992-93 season at Perth that took down seven wickets, all with conceding just one run. Apart from these two articles, the enthusiastic cricket fan should avoid taking the match reports in the media (print, websites and TV channels) seriously. The media has decided, unanimously, that Australia has gained the upper edge in the match because of two late wickets in the day. There are even some journalists taking Brett Lee’s figure of 3 wickets for 64 runs at the end of the day, in spite of a costly opening spell of 25 runs in 4 overs, as signs of a maturing bowler. The fact is that, to the last man, the media has missed one of the most important lessons in the history of cricket, as will be explained in my arguments below.

    The level of fast bowling skills that were on display from the Australian team today is one of the most telling evidence that, in spite of winning 16 consecutive test matches twice, Australia could not possibly claim to have ever equaled the dominance of world cricket that the West Indies side achieved from the mid-70s to the early 90s. It was under Clive Lloyd that the West Indies perfected the strategy of employing a sustained pace attack using a quartet of fast bowlers. Before that, there were the famous Lillee-Thompson duo, but otherwise, fast bowlers relied on their individual skills and efforts, rather than operated as a multi-pronged pace battery. With their new approach, the West Indians elevated fast bowling to a world of soulful artistry. At an elementary level, it required fitness and endurance to consistently run in to bowl at speeds upwards of 140 kmph. However, it was much more important that it required graceful body movements and a natural sense of rhythm to be able to do it with the minimum of effort. It was this grace and rhythm that made possible two crucial elements of the West Indies pace attack that the current Australian team lacks. The first of these two elements was sustained intensity of fast bowling for a full session of play. The second was to bowl accurately at high speeds without sacrificing variety.

    The West Indies bowlers were natural athletes, the Caribbean being always famous for sprinters. In addition, they had grown up to think of fast bowling as an high art, an expression of their soulful Calypso rhythm. It was this combination that teased out their natural abilities to focus their mental and physical energies on the bowling. As a result, they brought a deep sense of professionalism to the craft of fast bowling. The first spell of overs for a team batting against the West Indies was played out in a world entirely different from the physical one. It required the greatest of concentration on the batsman’s part to counter their pace, accuracy and control. As an analogy, one might say that getting through the first hour of play required the same intense concentration as listening, in pin-drop silence, to Bach’s Gospel music in a chapel. The readers are advised to learn about the skill and concentration required for an opening batsman to face the West Indies fast bowling successfully by reading the famous trilogy of books by Sunil Gavaskar, namely, Sunny Days, Runs ‘n’ Ruins and Idols.

    In contrast, the current Australian fast bowling strategy is to hurl the ball at a fast pace, hoping that the sledging and the pre-match hyperbole would intimidate the batsman and the umpires enough to get them the wicket. To be sure, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee have pioneered some interesting techniques, as will be explained below, but on the whole, it is their brute-force, soul-less approach which often brings them success, and this is how they have won many of their tests, starting from the captaincy of Steve Waugh to his successor, Ricky Ponting. What they lacked in their professional abilities to examine the batsman’s technical skills and concentration, they made up for with their hunting-in-a-pack, sledging tactics. Whereas the West Indies bowlers worked on the mental disintegration of the batsmen, who were often of world-class reputation, purely through their expertise in fast bowling, the Australians have come to rely on sledging on the field and propaganda through the media.

    Now, I must interject to say that the Australian fast bowler who comes closest to the famed West Indian bowlers of the 70s and 80s, in terms of professional expertise, is Glenn McGrath. His approach to fast bowling is worth examining here. A fast bowler typically has a long run-up and there are lots of body movements involved before he delivers the ball. In contrast, the batsman has relatively little movement of his feet, legs, arms, wrists and torso. On the other hand, the batsman has only a split-second to react to the fast ball coming at him, and as a result, he is definitely going to make very minor mistakes in his posture, balance and stroke-play. Thanks to the high pace of the ball, these minor faults could be exploited and amplified. With this rationale, McGrath developed the strategy that the bowler did not need to place the ball at different places while bowling at high speeds. In fact, this would often lead to mistakes, in view of the large number of body movements involved. Instead, he figured that the bowler should stick to a narrow, nagging line just outside the off-stump. This provided for great accuracy, while maintaining high speeds, and offered scope for varying the bounce and the length. The punchline, however, was that since it was just outside the off-stump, the batsman could be induced to play away from his body, and the ball could go for a catch if he didn’t play the shot correctly, or it could crash into the stumps if he missed completely.

    As part of the industrial approach to cricket pioneered by the Australian team, McGrath’s bowling strategy was a cornerstone. However, one must note that the West Indies bowlers were able to maintain variety and pace as well as accuracy. In my mind, the quintessential personification of this skill is the picture of Curtly Ambrose flaying his arms and cursing loudly in the rare occasion that he made a mistake. By the end of his career, Ambrose was the world’s premier exponent of the fast bowler’s art. He could quickly gauge the batsman’s weaknesses and he could place the ball precisely on the pitch with the design of exploiting the batsman’s mistakes — mental disintegration at a very sophisticated level. Invariably, he knew immediately after releasing the ball, if he had aimed it right or not. He made mistakes rarely, but when he did, the spectators witnessed his loud cursing. I must mention here that Curtly Ambrose was just one example in the long tradition of the West Indian art of fast bowling. Remember the Whispering Death? The point is that this type of professional expertise in fast bowling could not be expected from this so-called world champion Australian cricket team of today.

    Coming back to the sorry state of the current Australian bowlers, their litany of woes does not start with Ponting’s decision to go in with four pace bowlers, but it is definitely a milestone. Having built-up huge physique and arm power by pumping iron regularly, these bowlers simply lack the natural grace for serious fast bowling, and it tells in their inability to bowl with sustained intensities at the rate of 13 to 15 overs an hour. A fielding team is expected to bowl 90 overs in a day of test cricket. But, by the time this ‘fearsome’ quartet of Australian pace bowlers had bowled the half-way mark of 45 overs, they had already run more than half-hour over time. Even worse, they simply could not sustain the intensity of fast bowling for prolonged periods. Either they could not control the ball at such high pace, or they became too tired in the heat (36 C to 39 C) to bowl at high speeds for long duration. When they strayed even a little, they were hammered for boundaries, since the Indians had gambled on opening their innings with Virender Sehwag. After the first ten overs, the score read like that of a one-day match — 50 for no loss. This Australian team simply lacks the technical proficiency and the many years of training required to elevate fast bowling to an art that the West Indians had done so beautifully in their prime.

    In spite of the two wickets that fell late in the first day, that of Dravid and Laxman, rather unnecessarily, the Indian team must realize that the Australian bowling attack simply barks and does not bite. The Australians also could not possibly get through another full session of sustained fast bowling. So, if the Indians survive, without losing a wicket, during the first hour on the second day, keeping in mind that weather predictions are for a hot day, there is simply no way the Australians can bowl over 145 kmph consistently through the rest of the day. Moreover, this effort of surviving the first hour would also serve to take the shine of the second new ball. Only an occasional ball would be really fast, but otherwise India is looking at a real good scoring opportunity. The Australians don’t have a professional full-time spinner, and they could be made to pay for this error of judgment if India’s tail of experienced cricketers — Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan — wags defiantly. If the Indians keep their wits about them, there is no reason why they cannot reach a total of 400 in their first innings.

    (Part II on the batting would follow later)

  12. smale
    January 19, 2008 at 6:11 am

    India Australia Third Test Match, Perth, Australia, January 16 – 20, 2008

    First Day Report:

    Part II. On the Batting
    As in Part I, Sunil Gavaskar’s success with facing the quartet of West Indian pace attack remains the defining characteristic for the senior batsmen in the current Indian side — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. It was Gavaskar’s mastery of his batsmanship, along with his talent for good prose writing which he employed to write books about cricket that were the most important learning experience for a generation of aspiring school children growing up before today’s ubiquity of television sets in Indian middle class homes. To really understand the current Indian batting line-up, one must keep in mind a very deep and fertile observation that Sir VS Naipaul, the 2001 Nobel laureate in Literature, had made about the former colonies of the British empire. Naipaul’s thesis is that the countries that evolved out of the British colonies are half-made societies, societies that are constantly trying to adapt to their colonial legacy from the past, but never really achieving a true sense of their own identity in the modern world. This is precisely the case with how each of the four senior batsmen came to be shaped by Gavaskar’s legacy. Sachin Tendulkar was the first whiz-kid out of the block, getting to play test cricket for India at a young age of 16 in 1989. He is also the most accomplished, with 38 test centuries, career test runs exceeding 11500 runs and a batting average above 55 runs per innings. Among the four, he has the sharpest cricketing brain and the most athletic body. Rahul Dravid, through sheer will and persistence, trained himself to reach Gavaskar’s level of concentration and patience, and his ability to play marathon innings. VVS Laxman inherited Gavaskar’s mastery of technique, his knowledge of facing fast bowling of the highest class and his appetite for big scores. Saurav Ganguly picked up Gavaskar’s competitiveness and his quick temper, along with playing certain shots on the off-side well.

    For all their promise, none of these four would go onto make major advances beyond Gavaskar, purely from the perspective of developing expertise as test batsmen. Ganguly and Tendulkar would soon establish themselves as indispendible members of the one-day team early on, and after some struggle Dravid followed them to fame on this new arena of one-day cricket, which was becoming more and more popular in the nineties. Laxman would be a late addition to this journey, and an early exit from one-day cricket. Having spent large parts of their attention on the quick-scoring demands of the one-day game, they could hardly expect to better Gavaskar’s achievements as a test batsman. This can be clearly seen by the paucity of triple centuries from the Indian side. Their frame of mind is simply not meant for such prolonged demands on their concentration. Multi-tasking between test cricket, one-day cricket and appearing in media endorsements did them in. Laxman would display significant promise once, during his epic innings of 281 in the Kolkatta test against Australia in 2001, but he would never get the recognition and encouragement from the selectors and the team to establish himself as a successful batsman. If he was lucky enough to be selected, he would still have to bat at the sixth position, salvaging what he could with the batting abilities of India’s tail. As a result, today, whereas he has the technique for it, he simply lacks the will and motivation to play another massive innings.

    I must also mention another important phenomenon here which turned out to be a severe blow to the collective will of the Indian team to perform at high standards of professionalism. This was the match fixing scandals they were hit with from the mid-to-late 90s. It took enough character and sincerity from the Indian team to put those nightmare days behind them, that they could hardly be expected to focus solely on winning test series against the then powerhouse test playing countries. On another note, these four senior batsmen were, of course, also influenced by other batsmen of earlier times from India. Gundappa Vishwanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Dilip Sardesai, Vijay Manjrekar, Sandip Patil and Mohammad Azharuddin have left their marks on these players purely in test cricket. In addition, Krishnamachari Srikanth, Mohinder Amarnath and Kapil Dev were also major influences on their one-day careers. Moreover, the junior batsmen in the current Indian side — Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Mahendra Dhoni, Wassim Jaffer — have grown up idolizing these four senior batsmen, in particular Sachin Tendulkar. Virender Sehwag, who scored India’s first triple century in 2004, has fashioned himself after Tendulkar, with an attacking instinct and quick hand-eye coordination. But, his technique lacks footwork, and his temperament lacks patience. With this test, he is making his comeback to test cricket after being sidelined for over a year. To his credit, he has worked hard on his fitness level, and from watching his interview with Harsha Bhogle on TV, I would say that he seems genuinely motivated to make his mark. This, then is the historical background of the famed Indian batting line-up, before the start of the third test between Australia and India played at Perth, during January 16 – 20, 2008.

    As I explained in Part I, the much hyped Australian pace bowling failed to live up to the propaganda. The first over from Brett Lee cost them 9 runs. If one saw the ball-by-ball commentary on Cricinfo, one could ascertain that Sehwag was showing virtually no footwork, but was simply utilizing his quick hand-eye coordination. Whenever the bowler gave him enough width, and he managed to connect, the hit was clean and the ball didn’t fail to get to the boundary. At the end of the tenth over, Sehwag had made 23 runs off 37 balls with 5 boundaries. Wassim Jaffer, batting from the other end, had made 15 runs off 26 balls with 2 fours. Extras accounted for 12 runs (5 wides, 3 noballs, 4 legbyes). The score stood exactly at 50. In the first five overs, both Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson hit the 150 kmph consistenly, nearly 10 kmph above the speeds that the Indian bowler can bowl. It was when the much slower, but accurate Stuart Clark (135 – 140 kmph range) came in to bowl the sixth over, that the Australian bowling strategy gained a semblance of order. Sehwag departed in the 17th over for 29, caught behind by Gilchrist off Johnson. Dravid came in to join Jaffer. But, Jaffer had been simply taking his cue from the non-striking batsman through out his innings. If Sehwag attacked, he attacked. If Sehwag remained quiet, he did the same. When he got out, driving away from his body, in the 20th over off Lee, he had played out 25 consecutive dot balls! Next, Tendulkar came in to join Dravid, and they managed to play out the few overs remaining before lunch. Notably, Shaun Tait was introduced in the 21st over, and he bowled a maiden first over to Dravid. However, in the 23rd over, he gave up 8 runs, a 2, a noball, a boundary and a single. He did manage to hit speeds upwards of 154 kmph, but Tendulkar had had the measure of him by the end of the over. At lunch, India were 74/2 in 24 overs.

    After lunch, Lee and Tait continued to bowl. However, this time, their speeds were much lower (140 – 145 kmph). Tendulkar and Dravid managed to bat the entire post-lunch session without losing a wicket. Dravid was dropped off Lee in the 28th over by Michael Clarke, but otherwise the session belonged to the Indians. At the end of the 32nd over, Johnson and Clark replaced Lee and Tait. Symonds replaced Clark with his medium pace in the 42nd over, and Tait replaced Johnson in the 45th over. Symonds made a loud appeal for lbw against Tendulkar in the 45th over. The 51st over was bowled by Michael Clarke. But, none of these changes stopped the steady scoring. At tea, 51 overs had been bowled (nine over behind schedule) and India had made 177 runs for the loss of 2 wickets, with Dravid on 52 off 99 balls and 8 fours, and Tendulkar on 59 off 102 balls and 8 fours. India had made 103 runs in the 27 overs after lunch, and Dravid had batted himself out of his poor form.

    If the post-lunch session exposed the weakness of Australia’s bowling attack, as I had explained in detail in Part I, the post-tea session exposed the weakness of India’s batting line-up. They simply lack staying power to produce a massive innings, as I have explained above. One after another, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman got out by the end of the day. Some credit must be given here to the bowlers. First, Brett Lee plugged the run leaks with more accurate bowling right after tea, and he got Tendular lbw in the 58th over. Tendulkar had made 71 runs off 128 balls with 9 fours. Clark from the other end had been steadily leaking runs. When he was replaced with Johnson in the 61st over, he got Ganguly within four balls, caught by Hussey, trying to hit a wide delivery. But Tait replaced Lee in the 62nd over, Dravid and Laxman regained control of the game, and they managed to make Johnson ineffective as well. In the 8 overs between 61 and 69, they took the score from 215/4 to 253/4. Symonds and Clarke came on to bowl spin from the 70th over. They managed to contain the boundaries for 5 overs. But, Dravid forced himself onto them by hitting two more boundaries, and got out to Symonds in the 78th over to a poor shot. Ponting, the captain, brought Lee right back in the 80th over, and the second new ball available in the 81 over. Rather than handle the situation carefully, Laxman also got out to a poor shot. Pathan and Dhoni got together to hit two more boundaries, before the day’s session closed out after 84 overs.

    The lesson of the last session of play was that India simply lack the will to become a major contender to be the best test playing nation in the world. Right now, the Indian team is banking on its considerable experience, given that there are five senior players. Subconsciously, they are trying to get through the series by cruising along, without the will or the vision, at the fag end of their careers. A word on Laxman’s performance. Perhaps he may be forgiven for a lapse of concentration in his batting that cost him his wicket, when one considers the rude manner in which he was shoved down the batting order from his favorite position at Number 3 to Number 6. He had made an elegant 109 in the Sydney test just ten days ago. For the first time, an Indian batsman had played convincingly against the Australian pace attack, and the other top order batsman didn’t even have the forthrightness to accomodate him higher up in the top order. This shows the level of insecurity that actually lies behind the aura of invincibility that the Indian public has come to associate with Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly. It is clear that Laxman would not get any recognition or encouragement to play another grand innings like his 281. The only option for him is to forget his team’s performance, and to challenge himself to meet personal goals. If he takes this approach, he could, for example, open the batting with Virender Sehwag. Finally, the captain Anil Kumble must be commended for a number of bold decisions he has taken during this series. He is working relentlessly to eliminate weakness from the team. Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh were dropped, giving place to Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan. Kumble has wisely decided against going in with two spinners on the Perth pitch which was supposed to favor pace bowling. In any case, Harbhajan Singh has been shown to be ineffective in India – Pakistan series in 2005 on pitches that did not offer any help to spinners. In the next match, Wassim Jaffer should also be dropped, and Laxman asked to open the batting. This might provide a personal challenge to Laxman, which might interest him enough to go for a big score, knowing that he could forge partnerships with the others in the top order.

    Finally, the readers from Australia, may be wondering about the approach of the Indian batting during the Melbourne test, when Dravid and Jaffer simply played out maiden over after maiden over, scoring just 6 runs and losing a one wicket in the first ten overs. Tendulkar and Ganguly were supposed to have played fighting innings, but they only made 62 and 43 respectively. India’s batting strategy would have seemed bizarre and self-defeating. That is why it is important to realize the role of Gavaskar on the Indian batsmanship. All these strategies were forged at the time Gavaskar had faced the truly fearsome West Indies pace attack. The current batch of senior batsmen in the Indian side were behaving like Naipaul’s ‘Mimic Men’ when they simply copied the strategy pioneered by Gavaskar two decades ago, and they failed to adapt it intelligently to the fact that Brett Lee’s pace quartet was bowling many loose balls.

  13. Mudit
    January 19, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Waiting to read your post regarding the Perth win 🙂 Yippeeeeeeee :-)))

  14. Peter Vasey
    January 19, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Congratulations to the Indian team on winning today. They played well at the WACA and the Australians had to work very hard for most of the their runs.

    Pity though, that Hussey’s LBW was too high and Symonds’ LBW included an edge off the bat. Without going back on past wrongs these two poor decisions clearly affected the Australian team’s ability to score the runs. However, they didn’t sulk, I doubt they will ask for a change in umpires and they wont threaten to withdraw from the series. The same can’t be said for the Indian team when things didn’t go their way. And as for excessive celebrations at the end of the match… well, I wont comment on that one.

    From all of this it appears that Indian cricketers are happy winners but are clearly poor and sore losers.

  15. Satya
    January 20, 2008 at 4:49 am

    There is no doubt in my mind that you did the right thing by asking that question to Ponting. Appealing for that catch is not the bad thing, what is worse is that even when there are conclusive evidence against them, still they are defending their actions. All said and done, it’s time to move on and enjoy the Perth victory. Below I’m pasting my piece on the Sydney controversy. I would appreciate any comments I could get in my page (

    “We play our game hard but fair” seems to be the tag-line of CA. Their administrators, national captain, players, ex-players all seem to repeat the same line in their defense after the Sydney disaster. Australia is the world champion cricket team of the past decade. Many of my friends and I are in awe of the amazing consistency they are able to maintain for more than 10 years. They have almost changed the definition of cricket that it is a game of uncertainties at least when Australia team is involved in it.

    Right from our childhood we are taught to look at successful people and follow them to bring success in our careers. In school, we look up to the successful seniors and try to mimic them for our own accomplishments. Other than the national figures, who are like universal heroes every region has local heroes who people look up to for inspiration. After the television revolution, as a kid when you follow sports you try to mimic your heroes’ styles, their body language and their actions when you hit the ground in your backyard. Cricket is no different. Kids try to match the bowling styles of Murali, Kumble and Warne when they try to bowl spin or try to follow Sachin, Lara when they bat. Although India has many cricketing icons, which school kids try to follow, the national team has not been as successful as we want them to be. So, you can’t fault anybody if they look to the champion side Australia and try to do what they do to win games.

    Here comes Australia’s responsibility as the champion side. So, other than their work ethic, what kids do try to learn is their “hard and fair way” of play which includes sledging. There is no doubt that guys like Sreesanth and Harbhajan would have tried to learn this hard way to gain the competitive edge in their age groups. Kids try to match them so much that a teen-ager like Parthiv Patel sledged a legend like Steve Waugh in his farewell test. And remember English is not our first language and especially now when players are coming from all corners of India they might be refining their English skills only after joining Team India. So, being provoked in the heat of a battle by players from the English speaking countries, the non-English speaking guys can utter the first word which comes into their mind irrespective of racial or non-racial relevance of the word. Remember, how Pakistani captain Shoaib Malik apologized to all the Muslims of the world after loosing the T20 world cup, when the winning team had a Muslim as their Man of the Match. Most of us believe that Malik had a slip of tongue especially talking in English which he is definitely uncomfortable with. Austarlia’s hard and fair way of play is responsible in creating sledgers like Sreesanth, Harbhajan and co. in the Indian team as this new generation of cricketers wants to match everything they get from opposition.

    By all means you want to unsettle the opposition players in the field. But sledging is not the way. The champion team has great batsmen in its rank who can hit the bowlers out of park and bowlers who can easily take opposition wickets. Having said all that, I still believe that racism is not acceptable in any realm of society, forget about sports. Harbhajan deserves the harshest punishment if he has crossed the line. But for that to happen the match referee or the judge whoever it is has to have concrete proof before declaring the verdict. Because, racist is a very cruel tag to carry with for the rest of your life. But if the evidence does not come from the umpires or any audio or video recording of the match, then I’m sorry the Australian players’ words can’t be taken as evidence after we saw what happened on the field. Ricky Ponting definitely exploited the loophole in the verbal agreement he had with Anil Kumble before the series started regarding taking players’ word for disputed catches. What is shocking is that Ponting tried to scare an Indian journalist that he is honest even when there is clear video evidence of the ball touching the turf (unsuccessful appeal for Dhoni’s wicket). Same with MJ Clarke’s catch of Ganguly. Ponting is referring to his denial of Dravid’s catch in the first innings to justify his honesty. Do us a favor Mr. Ponting, please do not force your honesty on us. If the umpires would have referred your first innings claim to third umpire, that incident would anyway have been awarded as not out. You might be the captain of a champion side, but your side has no morale. You don’t need to look beyond Clarke’s dismissal in the second innings to understand their hard and fair game. Knowing Bucknor’s bad form in the match Mr. Clarke tried to take him for a ride even after edging to the first slip.

    Sledging, mental disintegration or a crack at the opposition or whatever you want to call it, you are setting a wrong precedent as a champion side to follow. ICC must have a zero tolerance policy for sledging now onwards; otherwise storms like this will become regular occurrence. I won’t be surprised if it is not stopped here, teams will go on to have secret coaches for sledging as the game progresses.

  16. Karthik
    January 27, 2008 at 1:03 am

    nice & simple ….KEEP ROCKING DOWN UNDER 🙂


  17. Prasad
    January 28, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Peter Vasey, with all due respect, you brought up the Hussey and Symond’s decision, would have appreciated if by the same token you had mentioned the same umpire’s (Asad Rauf) decision against Sachin’s and Dhoni’s LBW. You didn’t see India complain either. Asad Rauf had consistently given LBW to both teams although he will never convince me how he gave them on a Perth pitch. In fact Ian Harvey (Aussie commentator) mentioned that he would have deemed that as injustice if Hussey wasn’t given out by the same token Sachin and Dhoni were given out.

    Symonds was not out, period. But the same guy who said he had no problem accepting umpire decision in Sydney since he had copped it a few times showed his bat and almost (left to interpretation of Mike Procter) showed dissent. You see where I am going with this? So Australia didn’t sulk because both them and India copped it fairly even unlike in Sydney where India copped 8 against (if you don’t count the No Ball that Wasim Jaffer got out to Bret Lee in the first innings) as against 3 by Australia.

    Warne used to get away with dissent when the umpire turns him down, Ricky takes the mickey out of umpires. If you don’t believe me search on youtube for Ricky and Asad Rauf (yep the very same). They are masters at pressurising the umpires.

    At the end of the day, I don’t believe that any team in the world are saints. But what I saw in Sydney clearly shook my confidence. But hey then that’s me, because unlike some of the cricketers who commented that without sledging the game will be dull and played by robots, I don’t believe that for a moment. Otherwise I will have to question whether guys like Sir Don, Neil Harvey, Aurther Morris, Sir Gary, the three Ws, Dennis Compton, etc. ever played any interesting criket at all or were just zombies on the cricket pitch.

  18. port
    January 30, 2008 at 4:14 am

    Wow, you never cease to amaze… still supporting the Indian way despite the shame the BCCI has bought about in the handling of the racism charge. You sir think too highly of yourself. I suggest you take two doses of reality and see how you feel in the morning.

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  20. Ayesha
    February 28, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Kudos to you for asking Ponting the question for which he had no answer……now that the finals are approaching, they are just mounting their off field offensive…….now if they do not feel threatened by the Indians why would they do that in the first place!!!! Now which Aussie player is an “Obnoxious Weed” in the real sense of the term????

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