Sydney Test: Oz win battle of contrasting batsmen

Vineet Sharma

Sydney: India’s loss to Australia in the second Test at SCG put them 0-2 against the hosts in the four-Test rubber. In the end, they were beaten by an innings and 68 runs with a clinical Oz bowling line-up carrying out the task with ease.

The second Test was a display of contrasting use of the conditions by the batsmen from India and Australia. While the Aussie batsmen worked on the merit of the ball and crafted some memorable innings with Ricky Ponting (134), Michael Hussey (150*) and the historic leader – Michael Clarke (329*), the Indians still remained without a single individual century in their fourth innings of the Australian summer.

MS Dhoni might have tried to boost the morale of the batsmen by saying that all top batsmen have got a fifty in the last four outings, the reality is starker. The fabled Indian top order has actually managed to turn that reputation to one of being more comical and ineffective. Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have flirted with danger recklessly, often being given a tight slap via a swift dismissal before they could train their guns on the opposition.

Sehwag has been his usual devil-may-care self and one can’t expect him to mend his ways overnight as he still remains a key difference between India’s rollicking start and miserable slump. His partner at the other end, Gambhir, has been non-serious about his approach (contrary to his surname). Barring the good show in the fourth innings at Sydney (83), he simply poked outside off deliveries into the hands of the slips or completely misread the line and length of the delivery, a luxury one can’t afford on Australian pitches.

Not just the openers, the entire batting order after them also skipped vital homework to prepare against a formidable Oz outfit in their own den. Dravid has looked uninspiring on many occasions and his shot selection has not been the best in recent times, but he along with Sachin Tendulkar, can be given a respite for the fact that at least the two veterans have tried to collect some runs and played positive cricket.

One of the biggest duds of the Test series so far has been the man who was tipped as the arch-nemesis of the Australian squad – VVS Laxman. He has mustered a lowly fifty, that too in a match that had a flat pitch on which a flurry of centuries (one triple as well) had been made. Hardly a reflection of his talent.

MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli also look like distant shadows of their aggressive self, cracking like thin biscuits in front of the Aussie pace battery.

The Australians on the other hand, have been merciless yet cautious, when Zaheer Khan scalped three top order batsmen to bring some panic into their dressing room, Ponting and Clarke stepped-up to the task and turned the situation on its head. It is this temperament that is required to win on more mortal pitches and not the reckless style that is employed on the run-havens of the subcontinent.

It is true that the Oz pacers have been spitting venom with James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle striking the pitch with dead accurate thunderbolts of hard leather, but it would be a hyperbole to say that they have been unplayable.

The problem that haunts the Indian squad is one which stems not from technique, but is rather one that is in the head. The temperament to bring out on a foreign tour is simply not present and it is the one task that the team management needs to work on real fast if India are to save themselves from possibly their seventh and eighth straight overseas Test loss along with another whitewash on the trot.

It would do the team a world of good if they can leave the ghosts of Melbourne and Sydney behind them as they make their way to Perth where a pitch that has the reputation of being one of the hardest and fastest in the world waits to put their big reputations to test.