India have lost the second test match as well against the Aussies and already, I am getting visions of another 4-0 whitewash. Once again, the batting failed in the first innings and India lost the game when they were bowled out for 191 on the first day after electing to bat. Unfortunately, the bowlers failed to squeeze after they had their hands on Australia's throat at 37 for 3. But that is not the fault of the bowling alone, Dhoni too deserves a lot of the blame. I will come to that later. First, let us look at the positives to come out of this game.
Since India as a team were outplayed thoroughly, we have to look at individual performances to pick out positives. First, the return to form of Gambhir was pleasing, particularly because he came to form not by luck, but by thinking about his game and playing differently. I had read that Duncan Fletcher had asked Gautam to be more positive while batting and Gambhir showed that he is a good listener and learns quickly by doing exactly that in the second innings. When he pushes at the ball tentatively, he looks very bad, but when he plays positively and looks to score, he looks very good and reminds us why he is the best opening partner for Sehwag in the country. In the second innings, his feet moved well and he looked to play close to his body while using the bat to hit the ball, not poke at it. In fact, till Sehwag was around, Gambhir comfortably outscored him and batted like Sehwag in the initial overs. If Gautam can take confidence from this innings and continue to bat like he did, India will be benefitted a lot.
Another plus point was the return to form of Laxman and Sachin continuing to play very well. Laxman showed his real touch in the second innings and it took a fantastic delivery from Hilfenhaus to dismiss him. Hopefully, he too can take this form into Perth and Adelaide. Sachin started well as usual and looked good for a hundred once again before throwing it away. Having said that, he was a little unlucky that the ball deflected from Haddin straight into Hussey's hands. But he should have been more careful, especially given his history of getting out to part timers. I am now convinced that the 100th hundred is playing on his mind. After all, he is only human and it is natural that his game undergoes a little change as he approaches the landmark. I wish he gets the hundred in Perth because I am sure we will see a very different Sachin once he gets to the record and that will be very good for India for the near future.
One more positive was that our tail-enders got some runs for a change and showed some fight, though that could have been because they had nothing to lose. But that is precisely the point. India should now play like we have nothing to lose and be very positive in the field while batting and in the body language while bowling and fielding. Ashwin brings a calmness to his batting and when he is out there, as a fan, I am not anxious that he will get out at any moment and I am sure the dressing room is relaxed as well knowing that he will get some runs most of the time. At this time, he gives me more confidence than Kohli and Dhoni and the other tail-enders, as far as his batting is concerned.
Now lets look at the negatives. In this match, the bowlers did not bowl too well and not only took only 4 wickets over 150+ overs, but did not control the runs as well. In my opinion, a lot of the blame for that should go to Dhoni with his field placements. I know that he only had 191 to play with, but it was frustrating to see that as soon as Australia got to about 130-140 runs, he spread the field and did not attack enough. It shows a lack of confidence in his bowlers and it is obvious that he thinks batting is still India's strength and bowling is our weakness. This is unfortunate because this group of bowlers is pretty good and if given the right fields, can create trouble for the opposition as they showed in Melbourne by taking 20 wickets. Where is the Dhoni who stifled the scoring in Nagpur in 2008 by setting an 8-1 field and asking Zaheer and Ishant to bowl 2 feet outside the off stump ? Australian batsmen, like their Indian counterparts, like to score quickly and one way to get them out is to create pressure by bowling a lot of dot balls and maiden overs. But with the fields that Dhoni set, they not only did not get out, but also scored quickly because SCG is a big ground and there are lots of gaps even with the field spread out.
Dravid was another worrisome aspect of this test match, the way he got out bowled in the second innings and has been getting out to the incoming delivery very often these days. The wall has been breached regularly these days and that is not good news for Indian fans. Dravid needs to fix this technical issue urgently otherwise he may have to go as soon as the Australia tour is over.
Lets look ahead to Perth now. It seems very likely that Australia will go in with a 4 man pace attack for Perth. James Pattinson is injured and is out for the rest of this series. So Harris will definitely come in. Also since Nathan Lyon has been ineffective in the past 2 test matches, they will seriously consider playing Mitchell Starc as well since he is a left-armer so will provide variety. But with Pattinson gone, India should take that as a positive and look to attack Starc and maybe Harris as well since he is coming back from injury. As far as India's attack is concerned, I heard the commentators talking about the possibility of replacing Ashwin with Ojha. I have nothing against Ojha, in fact I think he will do quite well in terms of controlling the runs and bottling up one end. But the problem this will create will be in the batting. With Kohli struggling and Dhoni not exactly inspiring confidence in tests, despite his 57 not out in the first innings at the SCG, if Ashwin sits out, effectively our tail will start after Laxman at number 5. That is a scary thought and for that reason alone, I would not play Ojha. But one change should definitely happen at Perth and that is, Rohit Sharma replacing Kohli. In my opinion, Kohli has been given enough chances to prove that he belongs and at this time, does not inspire any confidence, so he has to go. Rohit plays well of the back foot and pulls the short ball well. So he is a good option to have at Perth where the Indian batsmen are certain to be tested with the short ball.
Lets hear it from you guys now. There is one week to go before Perth and I am sure you all have opinions regarding what happened at MCG and SCG and what needs to happen at Perth and Adelaide for India to try and level the series.
My next post will be after the Perth test match, unless I see some comments from you guys that prompts some discussion.