Saturday, January 28, 2012

Adelaide test.....end of the Agonypath test series for India.....

The writing was on the wall....loud & clear.....the Indian Cricket Team was heading towards a complete demolition Down Under & today the test series ended with a 4-0 whitewash. A series that was touted as Agneepath, turned out to be Agonypath, something I was foreboding from the beginning of the series, contrary to the cricket experts all over, who had predicted a possible Indian victory in the Kangaroo land !!! The best batting side on paper against an inexperienced Australian side.....

The final test match at Adelaide, with possibly the best batting track for the Indian batsmen, ended today, the 5th day, in the first session, with Aussies wrapping up a whitewash winning by 298 runs. This was the only test match in the series that went into the fifth day, thanks to Aussie Captain Michael Clarke showing mercy on the hapless Indians by not forcing a follow on.....arguably giving India a faint chance of salvaging some pride !!!!
But this Indian side strangely lacked any desire to perform, leave alone attempt a win.....the famed batting line up was dismal & out of sorts to say the least, the bowling was unimaginative or penetrative, the fielding was pathetic & the captaincy was simply incomprehensible, as the team registered its 8th straight loss overseas.
The batting crossed 400 runs in an innings only once in the series & had only one century from Virat Kohli to show.....all stalwarts from Sehwag to Gambhir to Dravid to Sachin to Laxman to Dhoni....all failed to make any mark. Sachin did show promise early on, batting with poise & Virat Kolhi towards the later part of the series.....but  all in all, they were blips in an otherwise utterly forgettable series.
Michael Clarke was justifiably the Man of the Series......

Would India be able to salvage some pride in the three team One day Series ahead ?????? I really have my doubts.....they are against a resurgent & a confident Australia, & Sri Lanka who have fared rather well in their just concluded series against South Africa.
India will have to look up to young rookies & one day specialists like Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Manoj Tiwari, Rohit Sharma to make any impression, but somehow the body language of the team uptill now has been far  from inspiring.....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

15th January' 2012 : Day 3, Perth

Nothing changed from my match reading at the end of play yesterday. The pair of Dravid & Kohli, did put up some resistance today morning & delayed the inevitable beyond lunch. But that was all they could muster.....a stand of 84 runs. The first hour saw dour defence by the two batsmen, scoring runs as well, as the sunny sunday morning lazed open. But then, Dravid, The Wall over the years for India, has been gradually going the 51st over of the innings, with the score at 135, Ryan Harris bowled him yet one more time !!!......gone for a struggling, but well grafted 47 runs. The Indian tail had opened up & the end was well in sight. Dhoni has always struggled in seaming conditions & his stay at the wicket was predictably short. At lunch, Indian score card read 165 for 6, with Virat Kohli fighting at 69 not out, the only interest in the match was to see if India could avoid innings defeat & if Kohli could get to a well deserved hundred. None happened, as after lunch, it was all over in a hurry, with the last 4 wickets gone in a space of just 8 deliveries. India all out for 171 runs....Kolhi the last man out for 75 runs. Australia victorious by one innings & 37 runs !!!. The match over in less than 3 days...... perished & pulverized at straight overseas loss for Dhoni & team....Is India advocating for 3 day test matches !!!!....going by their recent performances, it looks like a good case study. The Indians are looking fatigued mentally.....just giving in without a fight....
With the last test coming up in Adelaide on 24th Jan, India now has to play for pride the series already lost !!! Is that what will motivate India....Sachin's 100th ton, a swansong innings by Dravid or Laxman...return of form by Sehwag & Gautam, a zipping Zaheer ????........too many dreams.....too many hopes & hypes....all possibly ending in ignominious nightmares !!!!!!

For Australia, Hilfenhaus once again had a 4 wicket haul, Siddle took 3 & Starc chipped in with 2. In batting Warner was in his unbridled best.....he certainly is a special talent & an extremely good mix of Hayden & Gilchrist up the order....fearless & powerful in his approach....a joy to watch. An automatic choice for the man of the match. Michael Clarke would certainly be a happy Australian  skipper......celebrating over beer Mate !!! truly deserving.
For India, the only gains were Virat Kohli putting up fighting knocks in both innings & Umesh Yadav getting a 5 wicket haul. The batting has been dismal to say the least......time has come for a shake out....heads have to roll...Laxman, Dravid, Sehwag, Gautam, Dhoni & even Sachin.....all have to face critical long can be continue with this ageing line up & look for personal glories, rather than Country's pride ????  There are good players waiting in the wings.......Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwari, Manish Pandey, even Shikhar Dhawan, & many dearth of talent for sure !!!....its a question of breeding in talent & allowing them to settle down. Coach Duncan Fletcher also is a question mark....he has neither being inspirational nor tactical.....though to fair to him, its the players who are on the field, & its their performance that determine results.
Dhoni has a unenviable task ahead of him......Captain Cool, just a few months back, lauded as a hero back home, after lifting the World Cup, is right now under tremendous pressure to perform, both as a batsman as well as a Leader.....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

14th Jan' 2012 : Day 2, Perth

There was a hint of fightback by the Indian fielding side, as they clawed back in the game to some extent... though by the end of day's play the batsmen had already frittered away the initiative. 

Resuming at 149 for no loss, Warner & Cowan started from where they had left & runs flowed with ease. However, there was discipline in Indian bowling today & with score at 193, Zaheer forced Warner to nick a rising could have been an early & much needed breakthrough but Virat Kohli spilled the chance. Cowan at the other end reached his second 50 of the series, & Australia were looking good for a very big score. 
But India did fight back & commendably....for once the match looked evenly poised. Hard working Umesh Yadav bent his back & got rich rewards, as Zaheer lend excellent support. Cowan was the first to go & after that the brittle Aussie batting line up crumbled slowly but surely. Once Warner got caught out in the deep for a brilliant 180 runs, the rest caved in quite tamely. 10 wickets gone for just 155 runs.....Umesh Yadav picking up a well deserved 5 wicket haul. The 1st innings lead which looked like going beyond 300-400 runs at the end of yesterday, had stopped at 208 runs...... a thin life line for India to claw back in the game. A huge lead certainly, but in the context of the game thus far, India had done well to breathe a comeback. But sadly, that's all the Indian dream could stretch to. The 3rd session of the day, simply decimated any chances that India might have created. 
Coming into bat for the 2nd innings, it was expected that the Indian batting line up will finally live upto the reputation. But it was all pipe dreams.....there was simply no desire to build. Gambhir, Sehwag, Sachin, Laxman gone....the top order crumbling yet again with a mere 51 runs on board. At the end of days play, Dravid & Kohli were hanging on to dear life, with score at 88 for 4, needing another 120 runs to make Australia bat again. The match certainly out of hands. Its now a matter of time tomorrow. Dravid & Kohli may delay the consequences for a while tomorrow, but I don't see anything else happening, other than an Indian defeat....question is, whether it will be an innings defeat or get Aussies to bat again !!  
So tame & insipid has been the batting in this series, against an inexperienced Aussie attack, that questions would certainly come up on the future capabilities. For certain heads would roll.....Laxman...maybe Dravid too....look like staring at the exit door of their illustrious career........

Friday, January 13, 2012

13th January' 2012 : Day 1, Perth ......Friday the 13th....

Mauled at Melbourne & smashed at Sydney, in the current series, it looks like India would now perish at Perth. The 3rd test match, started today, amidst a lot of media bantering, quite expected after the toothless performance by the Indian contingent thus far. Over the last few days, there have been jibes between the players on either sides, trying to gain a psychological advantage of sorts, but the Indian side looked quite deflated from the beginning.
Toss was won by Michael Clarke & he promptly put the visitors in to bat, on a green wicket, that promised pace & bounce.....obviously wanting to take advantage of the early seam movement. The famed (or shall we say, by now the defamed !!) Indian batting line up meted out abject surrender one more time. By lunch the score read a dismal 63 for 4, with Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid & Sachin all back in the pavilion.....a brief resistance by Virat Kohli & Laxman, stitching a partnership of 68  runs was all that India could muster, in an otherwise insipid display of batsmanship. The side was all out for 161 runs, the innings lasting a mere 60.2 overs. Hilfenhaus had taken 4 wickets, while Siddle took 3, & Starc wrapped the tail with 2.

If the Indian batting made you feel that the Perth pitch was too fast & unplayable, the Australian reply removed doubts of any demons on the 22yards. David Warner & Ed Cowan simply tore into the Indian attack & the ball just flew from the blade to the fence time & seemed more like T20 batting. It was carnage to say the least, as Warner simply shifted gears beyond the control of Dhoni & his hapless men. At the end of the day, the Australians were at 149 for no loss, in a mere 23 overs. Warner having gone past a scorching hundred in a mere 69 deliveries, the fourth fastest ever in test matches, & the fastest by an opener. Immediately after being hit by Umesh Yadav on his helmet, Warner, just took guard & then smote the bowler for a boundary & a six to go past his hundred.....such was the bludgeoning !!! Ed Cowan on the other end kept piling runs quietly, having complied 40 & looking good for a big score.

With Ponting, Clarke, & Hussey to come tomorrow, all having blasted the Indian attack in the last test, it surely looks like a long long leather chase ahead for India. To add to that is the unruffled free flowing & childlike exuberance of Warner's batting......a nightmare for any bowling. A lead of 300-400, maybe more before India comes into bat again.....the script seems very very familiar......Friday the 13th....its all going Down Under for Dhoni & his men.....too fast & too furious

Friday, January 6, 2012

6th Jan' 2012 : Day 4, Sydney

Yesterday late night, I was flipping through news channels & in one of them, got to hear Harsha Bhogle evaluating India's chances in this match. Smiling ruefully, he said, "While I would want India to bat into day 5 & maybe save the test match, it looks highly improbable as of now. Its pouring right now in Sydney, & I only hope it continues to do so tomorrow as well, to lend India support !!!...hehehehehehe, maybe a Sachin hundred....maybe a fighting knock by Laxman, but the series is well & truly buried for India."
Guess the same sentiments were being echoed by all cricket pundits in unison.
Yesterday, in my match coverage, I had mentioned of possible special knocks by Gambhir or Sachin or Laxman or maybe a century by one of the tailenders or maybe rains !!!!.....trying desperately to believe that miracles of such proportions do happen. Well, all of that happens, when pigs will fly,....dreams unbound.... hahahaaaa !!!!
This series was touted as the best chance for India ever, to defeat Australia Down Under...critics from all over were more than assured,..... almost certain, as Australia got butchered by England in Ashes, lost to South Africa miserably, got beaten by New Zealand just a month ago. The team going through a building process under new Captain Michael Clarke....the batting brittle with Ponting & Hussey struggling to regain form, others being rookies in squad....the bowling ever so inexperienced.......It all looked perfect setting for India to gain the upperhand.
Indian contingent, under Captain Cool Dhoni, with such an invincible batting line up, Zaheer back in action to bolster the bowling attack along with Ashwin, Ishant & Yadav, ......people were even dreaming of an Australian whitewash !!!!
In only eight days of cricket, Michael Clarke's Australian unit has flattened & decimated India to lead 2-0 in the series & now on the contrary, an Indian whitewash Down Under looking a strong possibility.

The day started well for India, in slight overcast conditions, as Sachin broke shackles with fluent drives on the off, & Gautam middling as well. The run rate was more than healthy, as both Hilfenhaus & Pattinson kept leaking runs. I quickly brewed up a strong cup of coffee to beat the early morning yawns & settle down to watch an absorbing battle....but then pipe dreams are sweet but short lived !!! Siddle replaced Hifenhaus in the 8th over of the morning & immediately Gambhir edged to Warner at point....gone for 83 runs, just when he was looking good for a long haul century. Laxman in next was tentative in the beginning, & survived a close call, as Haddin behind missed another sharp chance off Siddle. However, thereafter, both the batsmen started to milk the bowling, showing signs of a probable fightback....At lunch India were a resolute 243 for 3, with Sachin on 70 & Laxman on 44....both looking good & settled in the middle, despite overcast conditions.
So good was the batting, even after lunch that Clarke brought himself in to try & break the partnership, which had already added 100 runs. Sachin was looking all set for his 100th ton & Laxman, having completed his fifty as well was flicking & driving with disdain. Finally the Indian batting was living upto its name...the Aussie bowling was getting tested......if these two could bat out the day, with Virat, Dhoni & Ashwin to follow, a turnaround in the making.......Hmmmm, dreaming again !!!...
In the 79th over the inevitable fall happened. Just when, everyone was warming up to the prospect of Sachin's hundred, Clarke looped one that spun slightly to take the outside edge of Sachin's defensive prod, fly off to deflect keeper Haddin's surprised gloves & nestle in the caving fingers of Hussey at slips. Dreams shattered, as Sachin walked back, out for 80 runs, century yet again elusive & defeat all but certain for India. Everything that Clarke touched in this match was gold & he had got the big man !!!! That was all the Aussie attack needed, & the Indian batting caved in. Next to go was Laxman, bowled by Hilfenhaus for 66 runs, & two overs later Dhoni spooned a catch back to Hilfehaus. Virat Kohli was consumed by Pattinson almost immediately & India were reeling at 286 for 7.
With the match most certainly over now, Ashwin & Zaheer went for some lusty hitting, as sixes & fours rained for a while, before Zaheer got caught by Marsh at point off Siddle....the score zoomed 342 for 8. Tea break was a formality, though Ashwin continued to delay the end with some aggressive hitting. He was the last man out for 62 very well made runs, as Indian innings finally folded for 400 runs. Australia was victorious by an innings & 68 runs. Hilfenhaus had once again picked up a 5 wicket haul.
For India, there were positive batting by Gambhir, Laxman, Ashwin in this innings, while Dravid, Kohli & Dhoni scratched around. Sachin was probably the only one playing comfortably. Bowling looked jaded & out of ideas & fielding, the weakest link, looked tired & blunted. For all the speculations, this Indian outfit, strangely has not displayed the hunger to win. Its surprising to see Dhoni being so meek on the field, the Captain Cool, seems to be running out of ideas & inspirations, as his record in test overseas gets another battering, having lost all the last six matches on the trot, three of them being innings defeats.
For Australia, there were records galore, as Ponting & Hussey stuck form with brilliantly grafted centuries. Skipper Clarke got to his maiden triple hundred unbeaten runs......there were two 250 + runs partnerships in the innings(a test record). The bowling was a little faded in the 2nd innings, but they stuck to their task & discipline to get the results. The team looks very well knit & committed to perform.

The next test match starts from 13th Jan at Perth, which is supposed to the fastest & whackiest of all pitches in Australia. Shane Watson is fit now & may come in place of Shaun Marsh, while Ryan Harris may replace Nathan Lyon. This means the pace attack would be more sharp & varied, adding to India's already cup full of woes. India would most probably drop Virat Kohli to bring in Rohit Sharma.....but it does not inspire any confidence for the visitors, as their batting has let them down miserably.

Man of the Match awarded to Michael Clarke, was unanimous.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

5th Jan' 2012 : Day 3, Sydney

The day proceeded almost as expected, with Australia tightening their noose on the match, & India ending the day, still 354 runs behind, having already lost two wickets.....losing the match almost a certainty.

The day started with theme support of the Jane McGrath Foundation( an initiative started by Glen Mcgrath in fond memory of his wife Jane, who died of breast cancer). A large section of the crowd came dressed in colour pink. Ex players like Brett Lee went a step ahead & had also streaked their hair pink along with the dress. The players trooped out, shaking hands with Glen McGrath, handing him pink autographed caps.... it all looked very celebrative.
The first hour of the day saw the overnight batsmen Clarke & Hussey, struggle a bit for runs, as the Indian bowlers were more disciplined in length & line. But then seemingly the grip loosened & the fielders started to appear jaded, as the batsmen started to find the boundaries & runs started to flow. Clarke, in sublime form got to his maiden triple hundred & went on to reach 329, while Hussey got to 150 runs, both unbeaten till the end. At the end of 163 overs, with the score at 659 for 4 & an imposing lead of 468, Clarke called for declaration. Clearly the man was not running for personal milestones, considering he was just 71 runs behind Brian Lara's highest individual score, & batting beautifully till now. He was more keen to give his bowlers enough time to rout the visitors out of the game & series.

India needed a strong opening partnership to create a platform for any possible fightback. But Sehwag got out to a stunning catch by Warner at point off Hilfenhaus, for just 4 runs, bring in Rahul Dravid. Thereafter, both Rahul & Gambhir tried their best to put  up a stiff resistance, adding 82 runs in 23 overs & taking the total to 100 run. Gambhir thankfully was more assertive in this innings & timed quite a few boundaries, reaching his first fifty of the series. Just when, it seemed that the pair was settling down for a long partnership, Dravid fell to Hilfenhaus, bowled once again for a grafting 29 runs. Next man in, Sachin Tendulkar, brought murmurs in the crowd.....once again the anticipation of his 100th hundred !!! However, both batsmen went into some kind of a shell, defending gingerly, & the score stuck at 105 for 2 for almost 45 mins, as the bowlers got maidens after maidens. In the final three overs of the day, there was drama, as both the batsmen survived close calls.....Sachin edged Hilfenhaus just over his stumps & Gambhir was dropped by Haddin behind off Pattinson,...a simple regulation catch, as the Indian camp heaved a sigh of relief. At the end of the day, India were at 114 for 2, with Gambhir batting at 68 & Sachin at 8.....surviving to fight another day.

For India, Gambhir has been able to strike some form in this innings & Sachin has been in good nick in this series. Both have survived close calls today, & therefore do not give enough reasons to build confidence. Beyond this, Laxman has been struggling  uptill now as has Dhoni & Kohli.....which means, India as of now is staring at the wrong end of the barrel....a defeat almost a certainty. The pitch does not hold demons as demonstrated by the Aussie batsmen, but the mountainous climb of another 354 runs for India seems quite improbable, lest miracles happen.......
What can save India now ????? Would it be rains or would it be an encore by Sachin or Laxman or Gambhir..... or a century by one of the tailenders ???? & India managing to bat out two more days against this disciplined & committed Australian attack ????.....pipe dreams or delusions.....either ways, the first session tomorrow will probably bare the reality.
For me, as a cricket enthusiast like millions across the globe, I look forward to a good game of cricket on the field....waking up at 5.00am would then still make sense......

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

4th Jan' 2012 : Day 2, Sydney

Yesterday I had mentioned that India needed quick wickets early in the morning to come back into the game, else Aussies would run away with the controls of the match. The match commentators & various day end match evaluations had predicted an Indian resurgence today, hoping for a collapse of the brittle Australian batting. All such speculations & predictions were dusted to ground as the Indian attack was decimated & blown away to smithereens. At the end of play yesterday, the match was still evenly poised, though Australia had their nose in the front. Today, they simply batted India out of the game....die hard Indian optimists may still debate this by giving example of the 2001 test match at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, between these two nations, where India managed victory from the jaws of defeat, but honestly such an encore looks unimaginable & near impossible at this stage!!!!....

Both overnight batsmen, Clarke & Ponting looked confident & comfortable at the crease from the morning, while the Indian bowling looked pedestrian & if they had already given up. Dhoni's field placements once again left onlookers confused & the fielders moved around with drooping shoulders, as runs came at a rather fast clip. It was a lethargic, winds-out of sail India on the field, bowlers bowling dollies instead of probing length, with captain Dhoni looking defensive in approach from the beginning, as the Aussies raced ahead, without any trouble.
While Clarke looked in sublime form with superb strokes to remain unbeaten at 251 at the end of the day, his maiden test double hundred, Ponting got to a hard fought 134, his 40th test century, as the partnership added 288 runs. To add misery to the already deflated Indian attack, Hussey, coming in after Ponting's departure scored a quickfire 55 unbeaten runs, adding 157 runs with Clarke, as the innings total reached 482 for 4 in 116 overs......the lead extending to 291 runs, with six wickets intact. India managed to claim only one wicket in the entire day....that of Ricky Ponting, but not before the veteran batsmen had redeemed himself with a well deserved century, his first in almost two years & 33 innings......his anxious wife with their child on her lap, smiling in the pavilion. It must have been really tough for them over the last year or so, as there were questions raised on his ability to perform any further......failure in this series would have certainly meant curtains to his illustrious career.
While Clarke caressed onto his 18th test century, Ponting survived a tentative period in his 90s.....& on 99, he dabbed Ishant Sharma to mid on & scampered for a run, as Zaheer picked up the ball & threw at the missed by inches, as Ponting lunged to the crease, a relieved man.....sprawled on the ground, shirt smeared with dirt, a slight smile forming for the champion batsman...finally a century for him !!!

For India now, it looks an uphill task to save the match....a near impossible task, as the Australian batsmen will come back hard tomorrow to add to the total. Clarke, batting beautifully on 251, would be eyeing the first ever individual test 300 runs at this ground & Hussey would surely like to reach his three figure mark.....there is Haddin to follow & then Pattinson & Siddle, both capable to tanking runs. Indian batting card has huge names on paper, but on current form, going through bottomless misery, having failed to go beyond 300 runs even once in the last 11 innings, fails to inspire any confidence......only Sachin looks composed at the crease & is stroking well, but he too is bogged down with the prospect of his 100th century....others have been simply struggling, barring brief patches of brilliance.
The match is just two days old & the lead is already 291 runs, putting the Aussies in the drivers seat to go 2-0 up in the series. It will be a real surprise if they don't.....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

3rd Jan' 2012 : Day - 1, Sydney

The 2nd test match of this series got underway at Sydney, with dismal batting performance, especially from India. Both teams having retained the same squad from the last match, Dhoni won the toss for India & elected to bat  on a sun drenched morning at the SCG.

What India needed was a solid opening partnership to lay the foundation, & Gambhir, whose miserable form continued, snicked the 3rd ball of the match from Pattinson to Clarke in the slips, without any runs on the board. Dravid in next, looked in good nick, as Sehwag at the other end, though edgy, got to his usual flair of hitting across the line. However, this did not last long enough to cause damage to the Aussie bowling, who continued to maintain the length & line outside the offstump with occasional short stuff. Dravid perished in the 11th over, flicking Siddle to short leg, as the score read 30 for 2. Tendulkar walked in to a thunderous welcome, the crowd expecting nothing less than a century, & he looked & middled the ball with assurance. Sehwag was the next to go, failing to capitalize on a dropped chance, as Pattinson removed him in the 19th over, caught behind for 30 runs. Laxman too failed, snicking Pattinson to Marsh in the slips shortly, as the score card read a miserable 59 for 4......the top order caving in yet again. Lunch certainly tasted bitter, as India was struggling with Sachin & Virat Kohli at the crease....score reading 72 for 4. Just when Kohli looked like settling down with Sachin into a fine partnership, Siddle removed him caught behind for 23, well made runs, & the total at 95 for 5. All the good work of hanging in for around 40 deliveries gone waste, as skipper Dhoni walked in. Tendulkar playing with aplomb, hitting sweetly timed boundaries, was giving the Indian dressing room reasons to cheer, when out of nowhere, he inside edged Pattinson onto his stumps....the score reading 124 for 6, & all hopes of an Indian batting resurgence going up in smoke.... Dhoni & Ashwin tried their best to delay the collapse & pushed the score to 178. But just before tea, Hilfenhaus removed Ashwin & Zaheer off successive deliveries to reduce India to 178 for 8. The tail lasted only enough for Dhoni to get his fifty, as India was bowled out for a miserable 191 in 60 overs.....Dhoni remaining undefeated for 57 fighting runs, amidst ruins. Pattinsson was the pick of the Aussie attack with 4 for 43, getting able support from Siddle with 3 for 55 & Hilfenhaus with 3 for 51.

After a dismal 1st innings batting performance & letting Australia seemingly run away with reins of the match, the only way for India to get back, was to strike early. The onus was on the experienced Zaheer, & he did just that by removing the dangerous David Warner, in the very first over of the innings. Immediately thereafter, he removed Shaun Marsh & then a little later Ed Cowan.....all the three left handers gone for Australia, as the score read 37 for 3....Zaheer was looking menacing & his figures read an extremely impressive 5-0-23-3.
However, thereafter, veteran Ponting along with skipper Clarke, settled down to lay solidity to the brittle top order, & at the end of day's play, Australian scorecard read a comfortable 116 for 3, just 75 runs behind India's total, .....Ponting on 44 & Clarke on 47 respectively....the partnership already having added 79 runs.
13 wickets have tumbled in the day, with bowlers gaining the upper hand on the 1st day's play...though the pitch did not show any was poor batting display & inspired bowling efforts from a purist point of view.
Tomorrow's 1st session would probably be very crucial for both the teams. If India manages to break the partnership of Ponting & Clarke early, then they can run through the inexperienced Aussie batting line up, with only Hussey & Haddin to follow & make the match competitive. On the other hand, if the Aussie pair settles into a long stay at the crease, the later batsmen will then most certainly flay the Indian attack for a huge total & then buckle the Indian batting 2nd time over....pitch report says, that the next two days would be ideal for batting !!!! The Kangaroos are tails up as of now....

Lets hope for some good absorbing cricket tomorrow.....

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sydney test - Monkey Gate Scandal revisited !!!

The 2nd test match of this series starts at the Sydney Cricket Grounds tomorrow 5.00am IST, as 2012 ushers in the 1st test match of the year. The match has huge historical significance, as its going to be the 100th test match on this ground...a long journey of 129 years, since Aussies battled England here in 1882 !!!

The beautiful ground with extremely picturesque surroundings, however, brings back dank & dark memories of the Monkey Gate scandal during the 2007-08 Indian tour Down Under, which led to some ugly spats between the two teams. Harbhajan, batting with Sachin in the middle on the 3rd day of the match got into a verbal duel with Andrew Symonds & other players too got into the muddle.....a major altercation, where Bhajji was accused of using racial language against Symmo....& the umpires on the field had to intervene. Subsequently, Harbhajan was banned for 3 matches by the match referee, Mike Procter, though the ban was later lifted after an appeal by India, as the charges could not be proved conclusively. He was however pressed for lesser charges & fined 50% of his match fees. The match was also marred by some rather poor & controversial decisions by the umpires, Steve Bucknor & Mark Benson, at critical stages of the game, which profited the home side more, as the Aussies went on to win the match by 122 runs.  Some of the controversial decisions in the match were :
Symonds was given not out three times at scores of 30, 48 & 148 & he went on to make 162 not out in the Australian 1st innings; Hussey was given not out on scores of 22 & 45 & he went on to make 145 not out in the 2nd innings; Symonds, again in 2nd innings was given not out at score of 0 & he went onto make 61 runs. For India, in the 1st innings, Laxman was given not out when on 16 & he went onto make 109; Sachin was given not out when on 36 & he went onto score 154 not out; but what effected India majorly was when chasing 333 for a victory in the 4th innings of the match, Dravid was given out caught behind at 38, when replays suggested deflection off the pads, & later Ganguly at 51 then given out caught by Clarke in the slips, & Ponting, the Aussie captain on being referred to by umpire Benson confirmed a clean catch, when replays showed the ball having touched the ground... Ponting had also appealed unsuccessfully for another dubious catch against Dhoni.....the spirit of the beautiful game lost, in the frenzy to win !!!!

Australians went onto register their 16th consecutive win, equalling Steve Waugh's record, albeit under dubious & questionable circumstances, as India collapsed dramatically towards the end of the 5th day's play. 
The post match aftermath, led India's skipper Kumble to comment, "Only one team is playing in the spirit of the game"...Media lapped up controversies, as the Indian team, bitter with the events, threatened to abandon the series & needed the intervention of ICC to continue. 
Umpire Steve Bucknor from Jamaica, having officiated for 120 test matches till then was, unceremoniously dropped from the series by  ICC, for erring in crucial decisions in the match. The scars of that match, probably have been dusted over time, as Symonds has already retired from international cricket & Harbhajan has been left behind for this series, & Ponting is struggling to secure his place in the Aussie squad. 

On form India are clearly struggling, as their much vaunted batting has been rather brittle. Having lost the opening test at Melbourne, they have to bounce back here to keep the series alive, else they are staring into the dark end of the barrel. Sachin's 100th century still seems to be the focal point, while most of the batsmen are struggling to counter the rising deliveries. Unless the likes of Sehwag & Gambhir at the top & Laxman & Dravid in the middle bat for long, India might struggle to save the test.
The Aussies on the other hand are buoyant & look committed & energetic, though the batting is still to settle down. The green top promises a lot for the pacers, though the pitch looks good for runs. 
Early morning wake up call tomorrow to watch a pulsating game.....