This ain’t them, surely?

by Ashish

I’m no fuddy-duddy. At any rate, I’d like to believe so.

Still, I distinctly remember that back in my day, The Mighty Australians didn’t know what a war of attrition meant. The big lumbering behemoths could barely wrap their head around “war” – this would get the neurons zigzagging dizzily in vast, empty craniums, which in turn would make them chug what was left of the beer, crumple the can, thump the chest and stride out and win the match.

Attrition would make them scratch their heads and wonder if this meant another three hour motivating speech from Buchanan.

But this, the new not-improved lot of Aussies, understand that discretion is the better part of valour. They understand that if their best batsman is back in the hut (a result of one cheeky single too many), it’s best to offer an awkwardly straight bat and cease all operations on the marauding front. As Harsha Bhogle pointed out on Twitter, they seem to have grasped the point about losing the battle to win the war (that’s not exactly what he said, but it was, as far as I could make out, the gist of it).

And in all seriousness, it makes perfect sense strategically. They were motoring along on an nice stretch of the highway while Ponting was out there. But once the Indians managed to run him out, it was as if they veered off on to a potholed stretch and couldn’t figure their way back on to smooth tarmac.

Their game plan seems to be to ensure two things – not matter how long it takes, get a sizeable total (read: minimum 450) on the board. Second, leave as little time as possible for the Indians to put up a huge score.

And it is a perfectly sensible game plan. On this pitch, with the Indian batting line up set to enter on Day 2, and with the bowling line-up they have – makes perfect sense.

But the Can Crumplers of yesteryear wouldn’t have understood a word of all that. And I’m sorry and all, but that’s not what you expect from an Aussie line-up. 400 for however many wickets at the end of Day 1, and to hell with it.

Things have changed.

They’ll be celebrating victories by sniffing fine single malts in a couple of years, the way they’re going.

This ain’t them, surely?

And in other news…

  • I was determined not to mention the circus that concluded in South Africa recently – but it has certainly affected MS Dhoni. Twice he dropped catches that he should have taken. I’m not blaming the man, mind you – I’m blaming the schedule. It is physically impossible to keep your concentration up the way Dhoni has over the last three weeks, and something had to give. Why that something should be a part of the Test match is something for the Board for Comprehensive Comedy in India to say.
  • The giraffe is probably playing his last Test for a while. With this kind of form, and with his awesome ability to deliver no-ball after no-ball, Sreesanth should be limbering up for the Bangalore Test. I stand ready and willing to eat my words, but don’t count on it.
  • Bhajji snaffled up Clarke with a brilliantly thought out over. To get a batsman out because he has good footwork requires tremendous acumen and accuracy. Well done, bhaisaab. And would it be churlish of me to point out that the wicket was had because the ball was pitched outside the off-stump? It would? OK – I’ll stay mum about it then.
  • Was there a plan to have Ponting caught out in the deep early in the day? The giraffe bowled a dipping inswinger that Ponting latched on to, but hit uppishly towards midwicket. I could swear that Sachin was stationed a little in from the boundary for precisely that sort of a catch – as it turned out, he wasn’t close enough. But I’ve seen Dravid get out in that fashion a couple of times, and it’s almost as if the Indians wanted to see if this would work against Ponting. It almost did.
  • Ojha was a good first day bowler. I don’t mean that to be damning praise – he played his role out to perfection. He didn’t give anything away, was consistent and with just enough variations to surprise – and didn’t overplay his hand. What will be interesting to see is if he can also play the role of Destroyer-in-Chief come Day 4. If he can, India can breathe a lot easier.
  • India would want to scuttle out Australia for around 300, at most 350. But if there is one weakness in Dhoni’s strategies, it is a tendency to go on the defensive far too quickly. To restrict these guys, India needs to attack, and for long enough. Something tells me that won’t happen. My bet is on around 400 to the Aussies. And then India bats. Woohoo!