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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Clarke's footwork was like cricketing poetry

Clarke's footwork was like cricketing poetry

Last updated on: October 11, 2004 19:01 IST

There were so many extraneous distractions during the first Test match in Bangalore that it is a miracle that such entertaining and enjoyable cricket was performed by both teams. If it wasn't the mind-blowing noise coming from the excitable Bangalore crowd, or the constant but very rhythmic drum beats from the grandstands, then it could have been the cracks in the pitch or even the thousands of buzzing dragonflies that could have taken less trained minds off the action in the middle.

When people talk about professional cricket players, the words mental toughness are often used to describe the characteristics of the game's best players. Test matches, like this first one in Bangalore, provide the perfect environment for the participants to improve their mental toughness and concentration.

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Only the fittest, both mentally and physically, survive the demands of Test match cricket.  The simple reality is that if any player is to survive in the demanding and challenging world of Test cricket, then they have to have the ability to cut out the many distractions that come hand in hand with playing at this level. 

During this Test, the pressure before a ball was bowled was immense. With so much anticipation and speculation going into the initial encounter, the nerves for all concerned was at fever pitch on the morning of day one.

When Adam Gilchrist won the toss these nerves were comforted a little because we knew by the look of the Bangalore pitch that scoring runs would only get harder as the game progressed. But experience warned us that regardless of the result of a flipped coin, the fact remains that any perceived advantage can only come into fruition if the game plan is executed properly.

Thankfully for us, our middle order of Simon Katich, Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist played magnificently well to set up a sizeable first innings total.

In his Test debut, Michael couldn't have dreamed of a better start to his career. His footwork against India's world-class spinners was like cricketing poetry as he danced up and down the pitch with the confidence and grace of a batting master. If one was ignorant to the fact that this was his first Test, then you could have been excused for mistaking our young maestro for a seasoned veteran at this level.

The youthful and fearless exuberance of our young players coupled with the incredible talent of Adam Gilchrist gave us the crucial component of momentum when it came our turn to bowl. As with our batting, it took just two breathtaking deliveries from our superstar strike bowler Glenn McGrath to set the scene for the remainder of the Test match. 

Within the space of five or six deliveries Chopra and the outstanding Rahul Dravid were back in the pavilion. Their early demise fuelled our momentum, allowing all of our bowlers to find their rhythm and suffocating line and lengths. Every Indian batsman was under enormous pressure thanks to our bowling and the ability of our team to stick with discipline to our pre-game match plan.

In the past India have scored their runs very feely against us, which invariably puts us on the back foot and struggling to curb the free-flowing run rate and tempo of the game. We are determined to remedy this trend throughout this series and feel that if we can do this regularly then the Indian batsmen will find life in the middle hard going.

Rarely do teams boast the experience we have in our bowling line-up. Shane Warne, Glenn, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz are all proven workhorses who tend to be extremely miserly with the runs they are prepared to give away to any opponent.   Their experience, backed up by high energy and athleticism in the field, could be the catalyst behind the ultimate result of this much-anticipated series.

With the second Test just three days away we are expecting India to fight back like you would expect from a wounded warrior. I don't know whether there will be thousands of dragon flies flittering around in Chennai, but I do know that there is certain to be other distractions that we will have to negate if we are too continue our surge towards winning this series.

One-nil up is the perfect foundation, but come Thursday it will count for nothing when the second round of this heavyweight contest gets underway in Chennai.

From Bangalore,

JL

October 11, 2004
Justin Langer