Lessons from an Australian summer
Mark Taylor said it was one of best summers of cricket he has seen in a long time. Others have been claiming that Australia V India is the new Australia V England, which isn’t saying much given those weren’t ever in the vicinity of being contests barring 2005. The long-drawn Commonwealth Bank Series is over and apparently India have had their best overseas tours in history. A 1-2 loss in the test series and winning the ODI series (which is how the marketers would prefer it anyway). Creditable results, those of a dramatic bent of mind can even see signs of an inflection point in the dynamic of the cricket world that is no longer dominated by default by Australia. For me however, the cynical yet idealistic observer, things don’t seem quite right.
Felicitations by senior politicians and stadiums filled with delirious spectators watching cheques for obscene amounts of money being handed to the team have seem to become the norm since the T20 world cup. The day after Dhoni held the trophy aloft, I was desperately scouring news sources to see a mention of where the team would be touching down on their return trip and heaved a sigh of relief only when I saw mention of the Pherozeshah Kotla. After all, the T20 victory parade in Mumbai cost two (additional) hours of my life during my morning drive to work. The GABBA in Brisbane was not at capacity during the 2nd final because of the fact that it was a working day. Here, you get packed stadiums for a 4 hour presentation ceremony.
Talk is cheap, wickets aren’t
If cricket writers are to be believed, India is going through an economic resurgence and that is evident in the behaviour of its young cricketers. They say the new Indian does not back down and gives as well as he takes. And this explains India’s success. Hence the glorification of every act of pettiness, and of its worst perpetrators. Every news channel currently shows Harbhajan Singh giving lessons in the art of winning. A comparison against Australia’s beleaguered spinner Hogg shows the turbanator to be behind on every parameter except the economy rate. Maybe chest-thumping and flag-waving do not necessarily lead to sporting success.
|Bowler||Test series (wickets)||Test Series (Runs/wicket)||ODI Series (wickets)||ODI Series (Runs/wicket)||ODI Runs/Over|
What’s that saying about form and class?
As far as Dhoni and his ‘young brigade’ theory goes, the Indian batting looked like a house of cards till its most senior member found form and scored 48% and 35% of the teams runs in the two finals. Apart from Gambhir, the rest of the batsmen looked like walking wickets for most of the series. Allowing an adjustment to the average for not-outs, the averages and strike rates of the ‘brash new India’ was not anything to do cartwheels for.
|Batsman||Runs||Average||Strike Rate||Not outs|
India played some stirring cricket through the tour to run the hosts close in almost every match barring the first test and an ODI. But how much of it was enabled by Australia’s shortcomings? Their top five batsmen with the exception of Hayden and Symonds in the tests had a largely forgettable summer.
|Batsman||Test Series||ODI Series|
Did India close the gap between itself and the world champions or did the world champions slow down? Not to say that the Indian bowling did not have anything to do with the meager returns, but a few of the dismissals were more batsman error than sustained pressure from the fielding side. But then a flashback to several of Shane Warne’s dismissals (especially against teams like South Africa, England and New Zealand) would show good batsmen playing daft mows at rank long hops and holing out at deep square-leg. Point is that I had never seen as many, to use tennis parlance; ‘unforced errors’ from an Australian team as there were this summer.
It was said that cricket needed a strong West Indian side to flourish. I think cricket needs a strong Australian side to even survive. One can hope that this summer was an aberration and not an indicator of decline in their superlative standards. I for one fervently do so.