Although India lost the First Test at Melbourne after a poor batting display on the fourth day, all wasn’t bad for the visitors as they had the Kangaroos under tremendous pressure right through the match. The fast bowling trio of Zaheer, Ishant and Umesh Yadav was superb. Most heartening was to see two Indian bowlers clocking around 150 kmph in the same match which probably was the first time ever in the country’s cricketing history!
Well let’s talks about all the 11 players’ performance on an individual basis and see what they have done and how they can do better...
1. Gautam Gambhir (Marks : 0/10) : The left-handed opener failed in both the innings to come up with good scores. Gambhir with scores of 3 and 13 was one of the factors in the Indian defeat. He also failed to hang in there to see off the new ball and make it easier for the rest of the batsmen.
Interestingly, in both the innings, Gambhir got out in a similar fashion, on the backfoot, dabbing well away from his body to get caught in the slips. In the first innings, it was a very poor shot from Gambhir, as he almost chased a widish rising delivery from Hilfenhaus to give catching practice to the slips. In the second innings, one has to say that Peter Siddle forced him to jab at a delivery that pitched around middle and kicked away. What Gambhir did wrong here was in not dropping his wrists down which could have helped him in avoiding the nick behind.
Gambhir first of all should know where his off stump is. He has to leave more deliveries outside off, especially with the angle when the quicks are bowling from over the sticks, the ball will go across his off stump unless its a rare late inducker! Gauti was also slightly late in playing the likes of Pattinson, so may be he will have to work a lot harder in the nets and especially against a bowling machine.
Gambhir’s strategy should be to leave most often with the angles, and bounce, and make the bowlers bowl onto his pads so that he can tuck them away for runs. He is also playing too square of the wicket on the backfoot and with pitches having extra bounce, it may not be a great idea. So he will have look to play in the ‘V’ especially in the starting phase of the innings.
2. Virender Sehwag (Marks : 6/10) : Its very difficult to write about Sehwag as he is very unpredictable with his batting. If he clicks, everything looks alright and when he gets out, it looks very silly at how he gets himself out. In both the innings, Viru got himself out, playing rash shots which obviously weren’t needed at that point of time, but that’s how he plays! And that is what we have to accept from this wonderful match-winner. One can expect Virender Sehwag to get out any ball because of the fearless and risky style that he adopts in his batting.
Sehwag overall didn’t have a bad match at all, as he provided the aggression at the top of the batting in the first innings with 67 from 83 balls with 7 fours before he dragged a rash drive on the up onto his stumps off Pattinson. Lack of footwork was the cause of this dismissal but that’s not something he cares about! In the second innings, Sehwag had a thin line between getting a boundary and getting caught at gully in a flashy cut shot off Hilfenhaus. Unfortunately for India, the second thing happened as he got caught by Hussey for a score of 7.
3. Rahul Dravid (Marks : 5/10) : The Wall scored 68 in the first innings, batting out for 187 balls and in the second innings made only 10. Like Sehwag, Dravid is perhaps the most important batsman of the Indian team! If Sehwag is to attack and make the bowlers surrender, then Dravid is the key to weather the storm caused by the red-hot pace attack of the opposition in the most difficult batting conditions.
Dravid might have scored a fifty in the first innings, but never did he really look convincing at all! He was often beaten in the corridor of uncertainty, with the bat pushing at balls sometimes well outside the line. That’s clear indication of not knowing were his off stump is. Dravid could do well by leaving on bounce in this series which will surely be there on the Aussie pitches.
Not once but thrice was The Wall cleaned up right through his gate in this Test match! That’s a technical glitch something Dravid will have to correct and look to play with bat pad very close next time onwards. Dravid also put down a crucial yet simple catch at slip offered by Michael Hussey in the Australian second innings during the fag the end of play on Day 3.
4. Sachin Tendulkar (Marks : 8/10) : The little master was without any doubt the only Indian batsman who looked comfortable and secured against a high quality bowling attack and on a seaming track. Everything was so right about Sachin, his footwork extremely good and his positive approach extremely refreshing. Sachin kept the scoreboard moving in both the innings and he was on top of the bowling really!
In the first innings, Sachin scored a superb 73 in just 98 balls with 8 fours and a six before he got an unplayable delivery from Siddle that cleaned him up through the gate. In the second innings, Sachin looked good again with 32 from 46 balls with 4 fours until he lost his morale because of losing three partners - Dravid, Laxman and Kohli in a very short time at the other end! Tendulkar is 38 years old but he still has enough time in the world and the reflexes to deal with bowlers of 150 kmph speeds on any sort of track!
5. VVS Laxman (Marks : 0/10) : The Hyderabadi excels against the Aussies whether it is back home or whether its on the pacy, bouncy Australian pitches. However, he has a jinx at the MCG which would never ever be corrected as Laxman at the age of 37 years has surely played his last Test at this venue. Infact his highest score here is just 42 and in eight innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in four Test matches including this Series match, Laxman has accumulated a patethic average of 14.25!
With single digit scores of 2 and 1, Laxman would be under pressure for his side in the place for the next Test, well no its only a joke! VVS Laxman should come good in the next three Tests and one will have to wait for that inevitable to happen...
6. Virat Kohli (Marks : 0/10) : This talented youngster is struggling to get going in Test matches. No doubt he is extremely good, consistent in ODI Cricket, no doubt he deserves the opportunities to become a part of the Indian batting line-up in Test Cricket but something is wrong about his game now. Looks like too much of T20 Cricket has spoilt the lad and he is playing at balls which he need not have in the longer version of the game. Kohli also played a rank bad flick across the line off Hilfenhaus in the very first ball he faced to be dismissed lbw in the Melbourne Test.
Guys like Virat Kohli should take time out to play in the Ranji matches to make it a habit of playing the long innings. The BCCI and the Indian Team management have to take care of him and ensure that he doesn’t become another Yuvraj Singh in Test Cricket!
Coming to his performance in the Melbourne Test, Virat Kohli was a dud! With scores of 11 and a first-ball duck, Kohli for all money is out of the playing XI for the Sydney Test and will most likely make way for Rohit Sharma!
7. MS Dhoni (Marks : 3/10) : The Indian Skipper didn’t lead from the front as far as his batting is concerned. In the first innings, it was an extremely poor shot to get caught at gully just when the second new ball was taken. In the second innings, it wasn’t a bad move from MSD in playing his natural game for a counter-attack. Sadly it didn’t work out as dreamt of.
Well Dhoni may be one of the richest cricketers ever but the truth is that he has one of the most poorest techniques in batting! The Indian Captain can get away with his lack of basic footwork in the sub-continental conditions but in countries like Australia, South Africa, he is bound to fail on a consistent basis! The only plus for Dhoni is that he is quite daring in playing the pulls and hooks to the short balls in any conditions.
Well MSD has to decide which way he has to play, scratch around with his poor technique or just play his shots like a Gilchrist, Klusener or for that matter like a Kapil Dev! There is no midway that Dhoni can approach, its best if he goes in the counter-attack mode unless he is required to bat for time to save a Test match. I wonder if he should have come up with lighter bats instead of the big heavy bats in these Australian fast and bouncy pitches. A little bit of discipline and hard work in the nets with Coach Duncan Fletcher could also make Dhoni a better player in Test Cricket. As far as his keeping is concerned, there should be no complains as he has been pretty safe.
8. R Ashwin (Marks 5/10) : The tall off-spinner had only played his first ever Test in this country and there is always plenty of room for learning which he does very quickly. Ashwin with the ball wasn’t impressive, he was often on the shorter side and leaking atleast one bad ball an over. If he can get his accuracy right and also slow things in the air, the results could be better. Ashwin will also have the advantage of the Australian grounds being bigger than normal which allows spinners to bravely flight the ball and hope for the batsmen to get caught in the deep. Despite bowling poorly, Ashwin still managed to pick up three wickets in the first innings and one wicket in the second innings which isn’t a bad contribution at all.
Ashwin’s batting was pretty good and he certainly is a better batsman than MS Dhoni if one has to consider the Melbourne Test. Looks like Ashwin is going Kumble’s way as far as lower order batting goes, risk-free cricket with good application could yield useful runs and kill time when it matters and yes, Ashwin has more shots than Kumble.
9. Zaheer Khan (Marks 7/10) : There wasn’t much expectations going into the First Test from Zaheer because of his fitness problems. Fortunately for India, not only did Zak last the entire match, he also bowled magnificently and made the ball talk with his fabulous wrist positions. In both the innings, Zaheer delivered crucial blows to keep India in the hunt. All one wants from Zaheer is to sustain 100% fitness levels to sit back and watch him puzzle the batsmen with his swing, seam and angles!
10. Ishant Sharma (Marks 7/10) : This tall lanky fast bowler has come back strongly in the Indian team after a recent loss of form and pace. Although Ishant didn’t take a bagful of wickets, infact just two in the match, he did bowl his heart out and most importantly sustained the pressure on the Aussie batsmen.
Like Zaheer, it was good to see Ishant last the entire match as there were lots of speculations regarding his ankle injury. Last but not the least, Ishant made all the Indian fans happy by consistently bowling around 150 kmph speeds! All in all, including his batting show as the night watchman, Ishant like always gives his 100% for the team.
11. Umesh Yadav (Marks : 10/10) : This Vidarbha boy is the find of the season for India! He has pace of around 150 kmph and at the same time has accuracy, which is a rare combination for an Indian bowler. Looks like he has corrected his wrist position recently as he had this tendency of pushing balls down the legside often. While taking wickets against a lowly rated West Indian batting line-up wasn’t a big feat, taking 7 wickets in a Test against the Aussies is indeed an achievement to be proud of for this 24-year-old. Most heartening was Umesh Yadav making the Aussies hop for his pace.
The ball that got rid of a well set Ricky Ponting in the first innings was only a dream for Indian fans in the past but Umesh Yadav has made this into a realty. Even an Aussie batsman will think twice now before lunging onto the frontfoot against this Indian pace duo of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. One name who could have done the same to the Aussies is Varun Aaron.
Looking at Umesh Yadav’s strides so far in International Cricket, one only hopes that he becomes the next bowling great for India after the likes of Sreenath and Zaheer Khan.
A feature by BV Swagath