India has to find the right balance


Could India have approached the target differently in the compelling first Test?

After all, when India began its chase of 407, the side had 25 overs on day three and a full two days remaining.

Has the old fashioned method of tiring out attacks and reaping the rewards gone out of the window?

But for a couple of exceptions, the Indians on Sunday, batted as though the fourth day was the final day of the Test. And this desire to score at a brisk pace, irrespective of the situation, led to key dismissals.

There was a day left in the Test and, even if the pitch deteriorated a tad, India still had only a very manageable spinner in Ish Sodhi to cope with.

Let’s look at the facts. India finished day three at 87 for one off 25 overs. It required 320 runs more in two days.

India, however, batted as if there was no tomorrow. The side scored 279 in 71.3 overs on day four to lose the remaining nine wickets. The Test was lost.

Couldn’t the chase have been better paced and planned, particularly since the New Zealand attack was pace-dominated and the seamers were bound to get tired as the innings progressed?

Bigger question

This takes us to a bigger question. Do the modern day Indian batsmen, brought up on a surfeit of shorter-format cricket, actually possess the defence to bat through sessions if the pitch provides some assistance to the pacemen?

Or is their compulsive shot-making an admission of the fact that they do not have the defensive skills to survive?

To cut out the risks, defend, and then wait for the bowlers to lose focus as their body weakens before cashing in takes a lot of skill.

Of course, there is the odd batsman around such as Cheteshwar Pujara who appears to have the right methods for the waiting game.

To his credit, Shikhar Dhawan displayed some restraint during his battling innings of 115, but too many Indian batsmen seemed to be caught up with this ‘momentum’ thing.

The threat of the second new ball worked so much on their minds that it adversely impacted their approach.

Instead, had the emphasis been on seeing through the second new ball with some resolute batting, the scenario could have been different.

Ten overs with minimal loss against the second new ball and New Zealand might have been out of the picture. This demands technique and there lies the problem.

These are times when it has become unfashionable to talk about a sound approach where defence plays a strong role.

Let’s look here at a great Indian success story — the epic chase of 403 in the Port of Spain Test of 1976.

There the target was achieved in 147 overs. Sunil Gavaskar notched up 102, Gundappa Viswanath scored 112 and Mohinder Amarnath dropped anchor with a dour 85. Towards the end, Brijesh Patel opened out with an unbeaten 49 and India was home.

That West Indies attack had Michael Holding, so fast and furious in his early days, and Bernard Julien who could send down sharp left-arm pace. The Indian batsmen did not wear helmets then. And there were three specialist spinners in that West Indian side so the dangers of an approach driven by patience would have been greater on a wearing fifth day pitch.

But then, those were batsmen with strong technical attributes. As a stroke-maker, Viswanath was as natural as they come. He also had a compact defence.

In the days ahead, the Indian batsmen have to find the right balance in Tests. That will be a huge challenge.

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Printable version | Mar 26, 2017 10:27:17 PM |