Halfway there – or are we ? ; Dhoni’s opening gambits…

Lets get this off to the realistic start it deserves. 4 matches into this series, we’re 1-2 behind and although we’ve won 1, it was our first win since 2004. Of the last 25 matches that we’ve played Australia, we’ve lost 17 (3 were No Results). Yesterday’s loss was Australia’s first in 15 games.

Now for the stats which are a bit more quirky, India has not beaten Australia while chasing a target since that game in Sharjah in 1997-98. Its not like we’ve won a lot either. In the 10 years since, in 34 matches played we’ve won 7 times but all the victories have been batting first.

Small wonder then that Dhoni won the toss and did the dew – he chose to bat. It was the best chance we had as the history books and recent matches had shown us. Without the experience and class upfront though, it could have been a damp squib. A lot is being made of the seniors in the Indian side none of whom are that much older than Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist or Ricky Ponting. They’re just under more pressure because selectors and board officials remind them about it. (How’s a Niranjan Shah shooting his mouth off in Hyderabad about Ganguly not “worthy” of a censure? How is it any better than Vengsarkar talking about the seniors? How is either useful ?). And yet, the experience of the opening pair stood firm. Every dot ball must have spelt doubt. But the resolve won. And the platform was set. 291-4 was a result of that. And Ricky Ponting’s mistakes with his bowling changes. And the other things that fall in place when wickets are in hand. Thats what experience brings.

The chase was off to a flier. We’ve bowled patchily all series and it was no different yesterday. But its amazing how the afternoon sun makes good patches seem purple when there are 291 runs on the board. From 190-3 in the 34th, India won Australia lost. Another Dhoni gamble – three left arm medium pacers and two spinners – paid off. A brave call-up for Murali Karthik paid off. Most importantly, India held on to what looked for a large part of the afternoon like a lost cause.

So, does this mean much at all ? The answer of course is, I don’t know and neither do you.

What we do know is that in two of the three result games, Australia have been comprehensively the better side while we have squeaked home in the game that we have won. And thats boiled down to a consistency in the aussie performance. However, as the series gets longer, the tests for the less experienced Aussie campaigners is going to get tougher.

India, on the other hand is playing under a new captain – not afraid to chop and change the dynamics and willing to experiment – much like Dravid was in his first series as skipper. Consistency is not the strong suit but a willingness to fight sure is. For the series to go down to the wire though, we’ll need a bit more of the first along with large doses of the second.

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11 thoughts on “Halfway there – or are we ? ; Dhoni’s opening gambits…

  1. Sfx, if you observe, no matter how well a bowler or two bowls, no matter how bold a gamble, -India always concedes close to 300, if not more.

    This “consistency” bothers me. And it is not that the opposition is Australia – most teams (who have been around for a while) have picked India off for close to 6 rpo regularly over the past 4 years at least.

    We have tried every bowler available in India during this period.

    Unless the pitch conditions are such, India hasn’t restricted a team to 5 rpo or less. Maybe the odd inspired collective spell/match was there. This, for me, is one main reason for India’s decline as a 50-50 team.

    The batting has to score at 6 rpo 90% of the times on sporting pitches, irrespective of whether they are chasing or batting first.

    Batting first seems to be working against Australia and recently for two reasons – A total on the board is an additional weapon to support the bowlers. Like a home umpire…then, the prime movers of the “chase” era are not in the same shape to take up similar challenges regularly now.

    The batting core of the team then was hugely talented and young – in spirit, mind and experience. Cynicism hadn’t settled into them yet. There was hope that someday there would be balance in the team. The bowlers came and went but that aspect hasn’t changed.

    Fielding can contribute to an improvement of about 20 runs minimum. But it is the lack of discipline on the part of one, two or three bowlers in any given match that undoes everything. Rarely, in these few years, have we seen four, or three, of our bowlers perform within a reasonable range.

    The blame is not entirely the bowlers’ but they have been either indisciplined or slow in adjusting to a batsman’s challenge, or both. And unfortunately, at least three bowlers seem to be afflicted thus at any given time when it should be the other way around.

    That’s one point where India must begin to work from. At least three bowlers must consistently try for 10 overs spells not exceeding 50, preferably between 40-45 runs. Without that I do not see India winning consistently, irrespective of a strong batting line-up.

    We need a convergence of interests and efforts to at least be in the 250-270 range against top teams to begin with.

  2. i second soulberry on this…

    it will test even aussies if they have to chase close to 300 runs match after match.

    we must look to find the solution of this as its affecting or ‘consistency’ to win matches…

    even in england two of our victories came chasing big totals and no team can boast of chasing 300 runs consistently…

  3. Hi there Ottayan,

    Welcome here and thanks for the visit and comment …

    Well, India seem to be having a problem with the relics although agree that the Aussie efforts (overconfidence?) at trying to play Hodge into form, seems to be helping. I guess Hayden’s due a failure – but then Ricky’s due a big one. Either way, the Aussies are due a low score ….

    Seriously though, Australia seem to have had a problem with their lower-middle order for a while now . Should be a good test once Hayden’s golden run ends….

    Cheers

  4. Soulberry,

    Hi there .. Its strange but if one “observes”, the consistently expensive bowlers is a fair call. The statistics though are not so clear ( and I’m ready to be corrected on this).

    The last 50 ODIs for instance (won 21, lost 25), India concedes 5.07 per over. We only score 5.05 per over. When one compares that with Australia in its last 50 games ( won 50, lost 13), they’re conceding 5.05 per over but scoring at 5.64.

    The further back one goes, the better our batting record gets. (last 75 games – score @ 5.20, concede at 5.05).

    On the other hand, the last 15 games, we’ve conceded 5.50 on an average and scored at 5.20 and thats what our perceptions are most coloured by.

    All statistics apart, your points are well valid.

    Not being able to chase down a total against a top side in ten years is simply no good. It says nothing of the kind of totals we let them set up nor of our ability to hunt them down.

    There’s no doubt that batting’s our strength – but last 15-20 games apart, I don’t think the bowlers have done as shabbily as we think they have. (Prior to the England series , they’d given a 300 score only once in 47 or 49 games – many of which were played in the subcon) …

    Now, that defence apart the current problem is all that you say it is – we’ve got cases of usually some random guy or at best two guys that manage the 40-45 in their 10. (With no guarantee that they wont go for 70 in the next game). And still the opposition get 300.

    And the solutions lie exactly where you say they do…

    Cheers …

  5. yes SFX,

    but even then whenever we get chance to bat first our batters knows that they have to score around 300 to make up for bowling and fielding…

    so even then they are ‘chasing’ the same score…

    no let up…

  6. Straight Point,

    I am not sure thats a fair assumption to make. Its way too simplistic.

    Irrespective of the toss, you have to believe that the batsmen are capable of assessing conditions and setting up targets – and its not always a 300 wicket. Like I said, the recent past is colouring our memory a bit, but stats paint a different picture. Admittedly given that we’re ‘a fielder short’, its a burden – but thats probably as far as we can generalise (and yes batting is our strength ..).

    But otherwise, its like saying we lost Baroda because the batsmen were under pressure because of the bowling to follow. And we won Chandigarh in spite of the bowling …
    Neither of which are fair statements nor complete.

    Cheers

  7. Hey Soulberry,

    Its tough writing posts on every ODI game and even tougher rationalising.

    One captain says nothing went right (apart from the toss) and I’d like the team to try and forget. The other says, that was almost flawless and one of their best one day wins and hence, memorable. That about sums it up, I guess.

    Cheers

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