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Can India stay put at the crease?
Harish Kotian |
December 03, 2003 18:40 IST
Last Updated: December 08, 2003 11:09 IST
In Australia, Test cricket is a different ball game literally so.
The world champion outfit has in recent times honed its game to a fine art. Its cricketing grammar works on two fundamental principles firstly, when batting, score at speed; secondly, look to blast out opposing teams in the shortest time span possible.
In tandem, those two prongs of Australia's cricket strategy inflict lethal blows. By scoring at speeds that come close to one-day standards, Australia accomplishes two goals: Immediately, its batsmen ensure that such rapid scoring wilts the confidence of the opposing bowlers; secondly, it ensures that its bowlers have plenty of time in which to bowl out the opposition twice.
To understand this, keep in mind that Test cricket is no longer about five days; rather it is an overs-limit game, its contours shaped by the fact that a total of 450 overs are possible in a Test (90 overs per day into five days).
It follows, therefore, that if one team can put up daunting totals in relatively short number of overs played, it gains extra overs for its own bowlers to work on opposition batsmen.
India's last tour of Australia, when viewed in this light, provides points of interest.
In the three-Test series in 1999-'00, India scored a total of 1239 runs in 442.4 overs a run rate of just 2.80.
In comparison, Australia scored 1845 runs in 562.4 overs at 3.28 runs per over.
Throughout the tour, India never managed to cross the 300-run mark; it's highest was 285 all out in the first innings of the first Test match. Against this, Australia consistently posted scores of above 400 in each first innings, the highest being 552 for 5 declared in the third Test match, where they batted just once.
Consider that a ball is changed after every 80 overs. In six completed innings, India only twice managed to make the opposition take a new ball; in only one innings did it bat more than 100 overs. Against this, Australia in its first innings never went under the 100 over mark. This difference is best underscored by the clich้ that you can't make runs sitting in the hut.
Teams generally improve as a series goes on; in India's case, however, the reverse was true. The team's worst showing came in the third Test, when they were bundled out for 150 and 261, losing the match by an innings and 141 runs.
The following concise scoreboard illustrates the pattern of the last tour; it indicates, too, what the Indians will need to do if they are to be more competitive this time round.
India's tour to Australia 1999-00:
1st Test match (10-14 December 1999)
Aus 1st innings: 441 all out (125.3 overs)
India 1st innings: 285 all out (113.4 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 239-8 dec (89.5 overs)
India 2nd innings: 110 all out (38.1 overs)
Result: Australia won by 285 runs
2nd Test match (26-30 December 1999)
Aus 1st innings: 405 all out (118.1 overs)
India 1st innings: 238 all out (76.1 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 208-5 dec (59 overs)
India 2nd innings: 195 all out (89.3 overs)
Result: Australia won by 180 runs
3rd Test match (2-4 January 2000)
India 1st innings: 150 all out (67.5 overs)
Aus 1st innings: 552-5 dec (140.2 overs)
India 2nd innings: 261 all out (58 overs)
Result: Australia won by an innings and 141 runs
Series: Australia won 3-0
India's tour to Australia 1991-92:
Here, however, is an interesting quirk: India played a full five-Test series when it toured Australia in 1991-'92.
In the series, India played a total of 824.8 overs, scoring 2325 at 2.82 runs per over.
The hosts scored 2670 in 1013.1 overs at 2.64 runs per over.
The difference appears marginal; India in fact scored at a more rapid pace than the Aussies did. Yet, the host team won 4-0.
How explain this oddity? Simply because though the Indians were not comprehensively outplayed, time and again the tourists failed to seize the opportune moments to swing the course of the game their way.
For instance, in the third Test of the series, India held the upper hand throughout, leading by a massive 170 runs in the first innings; however, the tourists allowed the Aussie batsmen to hang in there and draw a game that by rights should have gone to the visitors.
If the bowlers failed on that occasion, the batsmen let them down in the next Test. India did wonderfully well to bowl Australia out for 145 in the first innings of the fourth Test but in their turn, when the need was to bat time and put runs on the board, India managed a mere 225 in reply. Let off the hook, Australia responded strongly in the second innings; India ended up losing for the second straight time a Test it should have won.
1st Test match (29 Nov-2 Dec 1991)
India 1st innings: 239 all out (88.1 overs)
Aus 1st innings: 340 all out (127.4 overs)
India 1st innings: 156 all out (58.2 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 58-0 (24.5 overs)
Result: Australia won by 10 wickets
2nd Test match (26-29 December 1991)
India 1st innings: 263 all out (93.2 overs)
Aus 1st innings: 349 all out (122 overs)
India 1st innings: 213 all out (88 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 128-2 (40 overs)
Result: Australia won by 8 wickets
3rd Test match (2-6 January 1992)
Aus 1st innings: 313 all out (124 overs)
India 1st innings: 483 all out (168.4 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 173-8 (84 overs)
Result: Match drawn
4th Test match (25-29 January 1992)
Aus 1st innings: 145 all out (66.4 overs)
India 1st innings: 225 all out (84.2 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 451 all out (186 overs)
India 2nd innings: 333 all out (100.1 overs)
Result: Australia won by 38 runs
5th Test match (1-5 February 1992)
Aus 1st innings: 346 all out (125.5 overs)
India 1st innings: 272 all out (89.5 overs)
Aus 2nd innings: 367-6 (113.3 overs)
India 2nd innings: 141 all out (55.1 overs)
Result: Australia won by 300 runs