Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Too many sheet anchors

Throughout this series, the Australians have consistently scored at around six runs an over, which on Indian pitches is only par for the course. We've had matches in the past, such as the last series against Pakistan, where scores tended to be higher. India's openers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, however, have been content in this series to score at four runs an over - 257 in 366 balls by Tendulkar, and 127 in 174 balls by Ganguly. What is worse is that the duo have also consumed most of the powerplay overs, with field restrictions, where the Aussies have scored at around 6.5 runs an over on average. It is this, more than any other reason, that has been responsible for India's drubbing in the series.
The effects of this were most apparent in the last game, where India had plenty of wickets in hand but didn't even come close. That's because it's almost impossible for a new batsman to cope with an asking rate of 7.5. If he takes a couple of overs to settle in, the asking rate at that late stage zooms very quickly to double figures. On the other hand, if he has a go immediately, he's likely to get out. The exception was in Chandigarh, where Dhoni and Uthappa, both new at the crease, managed to score an amazing 12 runs an over at the end to take India to a fighting total, which their bowlers managed to defend. Ganguly and Tendulkar were hailed for laying the platform for that victory, but I think India won in spite of them, not because of them.
Consider this - Australia has been losing early wickets in every game in the series, except the one-sided affair in Vadodara, and yet that has never deterred them from what has become the tried-and-tested approach to the one-day game: take advantage of the powerplay overs, play for singles and twos in the middle overs, and time the charge at the end according to the number of wickets in hand. A team would change that gameplan only if it is confronted with a very difficult wicket against the new ball, which is apparently not the case because India have won the toss and opted to bat first in all the matches except the first one. So this conservatism at the top can have no justification.
There are of course other reasons for India's abject state, like playing five specialist bowlers when the Australians use only four. This is another example of giving up a time-tested formula with no evidence to show that the new system is better. The simple thing for the Indians to do would be take their cues from the world champs in this form of the game, who always try to go at over a run a ball in the powerplay overs. And why not leave the sheet anchor's role to a junior for a change? Let them also get a chance to make it into the top ten of the ICC's stupid rankings, which give too little weightage to the scoring rate and impact on the game.


Ottayan said...

Just watch the seniors. Their self-preservation instincts are so highly tuned, that you can see them doing all they are suppossed to do and more tomorrow.

Soulberry said...

Fine analysis Sumit, but I wonder why it was so.

The conservatism at the top may have something to do with the tendency towards sheet-anchorism; it could also be due to the fact that Indians bowled and fielded badly first up to allow an Australian gallop whereas, the Ozzies didn't reciprocate likewise.

The discipline was lacking in the Indian bowling and fielding with the new ball. Anticipation was lacking with the new ball. Knowing that an attack was forthcoming, the minor adjustments needed per ball and the evergreen values of bowling on middle and off or just outside at an appropriate length to a batsman's advance were lacking. Gilly didn't move much and he played one innings that mattered. Hayden advanced forward as matter of philosophy and Indians haven't framed their own policy for it.

Then the fielding...in every match, the effort in the air and on the ground was lacking. That must contribute to the 6+ rr.

The Ozzies didn't do so. Sure, some more enterprise could have been expected from the openers, and that could have upset the line and length the Australians had tailored for each batsman, but I'm wondering if an early wicket wasn't going to upset the applecart. As you say, India began with a batsman short to accomodate a bowler and Dravid was out of form. So that's only 8 wickets in a sense.

Coupled with the fine line and controlled variations of the Ozzie bowlers and backed up by good fielding, I really didn't hope for more enterprise unless it was do or die.

And do or die it was at Nagpur.

Whether one waits to be in a such a position is matter for debate. I didn't think India had picked their best form batsmen despite what Sanjay Jagdale says.

The five bowler theory exploded yet again.

The fact is, the lack of a clear direction and purpose told. It was a series the Indian team didn't want and were stuck with it.

No excuses, India didn't do the basics right in all aspects...batting, bowling and fielding. In short, they didn't play cricket.

Anonymous said...

Kill the seniors and throw them in the Arabian sea. yeah ? the best option.

Or better ban them from playing. This kinda attitude really stumps me. Are ST and Sg the lone players in the team of 11 ? Where has Yuvraj Singh s flair gone ? Why isnt he being consistent. 177 runs in 6 games and if you take out the 121 and the washed out Bang game, then its 56 in 4 games.

Good ? Uthappa -- take out the 44 and 41. What does he have to show ? Zilch.

Skipper Dhoni -- seems he has forgotten how he used to hit huge sixes not so long ago. It was pathetic to seem him struggle to hit against the quality bowling from Aussies.

What about the bowlers ? Aint they supposed to perform ?

Just coming on and blaming Tendulkar and Ganguly is ridiculous. At least they give the starts, dont they ? Compare this with other batsmen. What they have done ? Have they shown the consistency?

Straight Point said...

however it may look ordinary when you will read this but the difference between two sides has been SYMONDS and even aussies knows this and will be worried lot. had we taken the catch when he was three and had our bowlers would have bowled with some common sense to him in the series result could have been different. we would have won despite all these.

it was he who took the match away from india every time he came to bat and last two game which we won against aussies are the ones when Symonds was not there till end.

what a man to have in a team and yea tubby is right about yuvi its high time he does a 'Symonds' to india one spark here or there wont count much IMHO...

Sumit Chakraberty said...

ottayan, the only hope the seniors have is if oz bat first and fail to put up a high score. otherwise they'll either go at below the required run rate or get out. that's a bet.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

soulberry, it's not true that the indian bowlers are to blame. at least three times in the series they got four early wickets, but that did not change the aussie gameplan of exploiting the powerplay overs. why does only india feel the need to change the powerplay into a platform-lay?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

tubby, only twice in the series did yuvraj get in to bat with enough overs in hand to be able to get set. once he failed, and the other time he got a century. what dhoni and uthappa have achieved in spite of having to come in and take all the risks is remarkable. why should the juniors be the only ones required to play a high risk game?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

sp, yes symonds made the difference, australia is strong and they might have won anyway. if india had no chance of winning, there would be no sense in criticising them. but i don't believe that's the case. i think this series would've been much closer if we had played rohit sharma in place of one of the bowlers, gambhir in place of one of the seniors (by rotation if need be) which would've also improved the fielding, and if our openers had been instructed to keep at least in touch with the required asking rate

Soulberry said...

Sumit, those early wickets didn't matter because of the four-balls sprinkled liberally, wides and easy fielding which allowed singles and twos without much fuss.

That allowed players like Symonds and the rest to settle in despite coming into thise series with some very ordinary form.

Taking two or three early wickets don't make a difference if you step off the gas soon after.

What I've been trying to say is poor bowling and fielding helped the Australians as much as their own skills, and the reverse didn't happen for India.

The matches should have been closer but for those points simply because they had those early breaks.

Stuart said...

One of the difference is the mindset. India have talked the talk, but they revert to conservative cricket when under the pump. The point made about Australia continuing to score quickly, in spite of losing wickets, is a good one. They have maintained the run-rate of 6, even after early setbacks. India seems to try and consolidate, then attack, whereas Australia has kept the attack up.

Soulberry said...

Exactly...the run rate of 6 which they maintained despite the fall of early wickets had a lot to do with Indians sprinkling four balls around as well.

The leg-side line was another culprit....so many were either flicked away or hefted over the boundary.

Since I didn't watch the first part of the series live (I took in the highlights) maybe that was amplified in my mind. So I went to the live text commentary of the matches at cricinfo to observe the sequence of events.

In every match, the four balls came sooner than later...sometimes twice in an over. The lack of discipline in line and length is also obvious from the live text record.

I felt this had a lot to do with the easing up of pressure. The fielding too gave away rotaion of strike too easily. This allowed Australian batsmen from 4-down to work their way back to a strong finish.

Has been the story of all matches in this series except the first and that 9 wicket washout.

Australia didn't step off the pedal...they stuck to uncomfortable line and lengths and backed it up with fine fielding.

And frankly, there's been too much talk and not all fair from either side, Stuart. Let's stick to cricket.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

ottayan, i think the aussies bowled more wides in the series. as for the fielding, yes the aussies are better in that department, but there again it's the seniors who have let india down the most - especially in the running between the wickets.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

soulberry, it would be okay to give credit for india's below par scoring rate to the aussie bowlers if india had lost wickets in trying to have a go at them - the fact that india was content to go at below five an over in spite of not losing wickets showed the mindset and lack of intent, as stuart has put it... as for india's bowlers spraying the ball about, well that certainly tends to happen more if the batsmen start advancing down the track to you - there was too little of that sort of risk-taking endeavour from our stalwarts, i'm afraid.

Soulberry said...

Firstly, I didn't deny India's cautious approach Sumit. I suggested that one reason for the difference in scoring rates could be these two factors.

Then, quite a few runs were scored without having to advance or make room...the width and length was there. That's what I was trying to impress. And, India tended to give away big runs in the extra balls they bowled whereas Australia tended to bowl a dot ball after a wide. That's a huge difference in discipline.

And yes, Australia tried to match the wides India bowled.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

soulberry, i agree with you totally that the aussie pace bowlers are more disciplined than the indians and that is one of the differences between the sides. the trouble is the tendency to pass the buck to the bowlers and fielders whenever we lose. these are things that are not in the team's control - the bowlers and fielders just fall short compared to the aussies. what is in the team's control is how it approaches the batting at the top - and there it's simply a matter of intent, whether players are being selfish or doing what the team requires. and that tends to get hidden when the bowlers and fielders take all the flak... i also admire sachin's artful batting and sourav's timing, but they're just not playing according to the team's requirements and very few people are prepared to criticise them for it either - they just look at the averages and are satisfied.