Worst fears, nagging rival trap Australia

For well over a decade, Australian teams led by Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting have been helped in some measure by fear in the opposition hearts. For the first time, the shoe appears to be on the other foot. In the wake of its sixth defeat by India this decade, we are watching Australia scratch its head like never before, unsure of how to stop the home side.
Not even during the 2005 Ashes series which England won 2-1 did Australia look so out of depth. It simply had no gameplan – barring defensive field placements masquerading as innovative settings – to check the Indian strokeplayers or to respond to the searching questions that the Indian bowlers consistently asked of its own batsmen.
Matthew Hayden is searching for form. And the other batsmen appear to be stressing themselves by expecting to be harassed by reverse swing or spin – and, despite that, not being ready enough to answer the challenges. Its bowlers seem so eager to generate reverse swing that their quest has been fruitless. The fear of failure has made the team look quite non-competitive in Mohali.
Australia has a lot of work ahead in the run up to the third Test, mending bridges within the team and looking for solutions to its myriad other problems – especially at the top of the batting order and with the new ball. Much as Ponting may claim that the problem is not skill-related, there is no doubt that one of Australia’s biggest concern areas is the lack of reverse swing for its bowlers.
It will have to learn from the lengths that Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have bowled and will have to find the reverse swing magic that works for the Indian bowlers. It is not as if visiting fast bowlers have not had success in India. Australia will not have to look too far behind for inspiration than 2004 when Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillspie and Michael Kasprowicz shone.
Its batsmen will have to clear their pre-conceived notions about Indian pitches and learn to play the ball on merit. Michael Hussey and Shane Watson as well Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin showed in either innings that staying at the wicket was not all that tall an order as some of their team-mates made out to be.
Of course, India’s bowlers were far from monotonous and pretty creative. Yet, there has to be some reason for the manner in which Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich and Michael Hussey threw their bats around at just about everything that came their way on Monday afternoon. Australia will have to put its finger on that reason and strive to eliminate that from the mind set.
As for India, when it does recover from the party mode, the team will do well not to be lulled into complacency by the enormous victory. There is much cricket left in the series and any Australian side can be expected to come back strongly. The big challenge before India will be to stay focused and sustain the momentum, sparked by Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan’s reargaurd action in the first innings of the Bangalore Test.
Just a couple of months ago, the Indian Test team returned from Sri Lanka after a 1-2 defeat, its middle-order batsmen bamboozled by the ‘mystery spinner’ Ajantha Mendis and frittering away the solid starts afforded by Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. But now the batsmen have regained their touch and their ability to pace their innings.
Sourav Ganguly has batted with refreshing freedom. Sachin Tendulkar has been most competitive. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have not joined the party significantly yet but Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return has provided the team the kind of muscle and impetus that it sorely lacked in the Tests in Sri Lanka.
With the third Test more than a week away, India deserves to celebrate a famous win while the Australians lick their wounds, thinking of how to get out of the situation they find themselves in. They could start with a simple exercise: kick themselves for not adapting to the conditions in Mohali and for believing that they could actually chase 516 runs to win the Test match!
The Australians have had such a strong sense of history that it came as a surprise that its thinktank seemed unaware of how Abdul Razzaq and Kamran Akmal held on to a draw at the venue in 2005. Indeed, India was helped considerably by Australia’s own fears and disappointment at being unable to control the ebb and flow of the Test in Mohali.

1 comment for “Worst fears, nagging rival trap Australia

  1. @lankr1ta
    December 22, 2008 at 1:13 am

    A soupcon of appreciation on my blog for you, please claim your award!

Comments are closed.