Images of India winning the toss on an overcast morning and electing to bat first on a dampish wicket summon. Batting was going to be hard work but the Indian team knew that it was their best way of winning the Test match and getting back into the series—batting was our strength and the bowlers knew they could perform if they had a decent total to defend. The famed Indian line up, as expected, batted with a lot of grit, determination and resilience to pile on a mountain of runs and dismissed England twice within that score—this was indeed the third Test match of India’s tour to England in 2002. That particular innings was the watershed innings in the way India played overseas, thereafter.
It was, perhaps, the first time that the Indian batting had performed collectively and changed the fortunes for the major part of the decade. They drew the next Test and also the series, after a long time on English soil. Then, they went on to draw a series in Australia for the first time. India was no longer termed as flat track bullies, for they were not only competing but also winning in hostile and alien conditions. John Wright, the man who plotted India’s turnaround attributed the success to India’s ability to bat five sessions in an innings. He was convinced that batting for 160 overs in a Test match increased the chances of winning manifold, or at least decreased the chances of losing for sure. Once we started posting big totals, our bowlers also responded positively and delivered.
Unfortunately though, 2011 seems to have changed that trend, at least for the time being—our overseas performance, especially the batting display, in 2011 hasn’t even once delivered the way it used to when the turnaround began. Not even once have we batted for 160 overs in a Test match innings away from home. We have managed only 3 scores of over 300 with 364 being the best against South Africa in January 2011. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that the loss in Melbourne was India’s fifth consecutive Test loss away from home. We may want to blame our bowlers for their inability to dismiss the tail—that India lost because the Australian tail wagged, or the English tail wagged a few months ago. The truth is, our top six batsmen haven’t managed to bat for four sessions and hence the decline.
We may blame, perhaps justifiably too, the lack of runs or stability from Number 6 and 7 but we must also accept that only Dravid and Tendulkar have averaged 55 and 49 respectively during this period. The rest of the batsmen are averaging below 30 runs per innings. Moreover, Indians have scored only 5 centuries in the 9 overseas Test matches in 2011, Rahul Dravid scored four of those tons—statistics may not always tell the complete story but are important to bear in mind.
Losing the Boxing-Day Test match isn’t a catastrophe (though it hurts immensely since we were in the driving seat for the first two days), for India has the reputation of being slow starters. Knee-jerk reactions must be avoided, while the elephant in the room must be acknowledged. Our bowlers may be a bit inexperienced but have still showed a lot of courage and managed to trade on equal terms, it’s time our batting line-up lived up to its reputation too. India has the ammunition to turn it around in Australia provided we manage to bat five sessions in an innings.
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 1st, 2012 at 3:48 pm
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