Right. So this is my first post, and as the website title indicates this isn’t a strictly analytical piece of writing trying to decipher a day of test cricket. I will try to use my limited humour to make some of the recurring commentary which every cricket enthusiast has heard. Be it, either about bowling in “that fourth-fifth stump line” or hearing awkward banter between Indian commentators about the good old days. I will generally try to make opinionated articles, with a sprinkle of poor jokes. Now that my mediocre introduction has been completed, let me talk about cricket as a pundit having only taken 1 wicket of a full toss in the last 3 years.
Watching India play is frustrating. It is arguably one of the more annoying things I have ever seen. Every Indian fan ponders the same question : “With a billion fucking people and the richest board, how are we unable to get 11 people together that can win anywhere?” Whilst India might not necessarily have the needed structural programmes needed to get the most out of a cricket mad country, there remains an underlying sense of frustration and feeling that India could be better. They have 3 fast bowlers that are able to clock 140km/h with variation, they have a world class spinner and 3-4 great test batsmen. What is holding them back?
The simple answer is that they fail to learn from their mistakes. There is no better example of this than today’s game between India and the West Indies. The West Indies so far have been average. No, they are sub-average. Sorry, but they were fucking dreadful. I could try to put it gently but West Indies cricket is in trouble despite their performance today. Whilst they are an interesting team in limited cricket, they are far from being a great test side. The fact that India could not bowl out West Indies after having them 4 down means there is something lacking in the bowling. This is not the first time India has seen this. As seen against South Africa, Sri Lanka and even New Zealand, India seem to be amazing at nearly winning a game and then not finishing the job. Indian bowling is like a jealous girlfriend who will consistently blue-ball their boyfriends in an attempt to make them desperate. India always let their fans dream of a win in near sight, only to shut the door in their face and laugh about the “aggresion” that they showed.
Ashwin bowled brilliantly in the first innings. No doubt about it. Line, length, dip, turn and flight were all on display in the first innings as Ashwin made use of the quick turning surface with plenty of bounce. In the second innings, the pitch was slow and the turn was slow. All Ashwin had to do was to increase his pace by 5-6km/h to utilise the turn. But he didn’t. He bowled overpitched flighted crap for about 20 overs wide outside off stump. There was no one catching on the offside, even though his line was wide outside off stump, and he had the new ball towards the end but failed to use the floater. It was by no means a bad bowling effort, but not worthy of his potential. As much as Ashwin talks working out batsmen in the middle, he quite simply does not. Ashwin reminds me of the student who knows the answer that the textbook demands rather than thinking of a new way to answer it. The theory of flight and deceiving the batsmen in the air is the textbook answer of how to bowl spin, but looking at the pitch required more thought. Within 3 overs, a thinking bowler would have noticed the need for a change in pace.
And now to Mishra. Oh Mishra. His wispy hair appears to be leaving him with more pace than the balls which left the bat of Chase. Okay, that was a bit harsh but let’s be honest he needs a good shampoo ad. His line was inconsistent, overpitches every other ball, and got little to no bounce. He needs to be dropped and replaced by Jadeja. Jadeja is by no means a greater test spinner, but in conditions where there is turn from day one you do not need two bowlers trying to outfox batsmen. You need one that can exploit the rough to its full extent by bowling accurately. Indias spinner are and always have been faced with the hard task of having to control and be aggressive. They are currently aggressive but Mishra lacks the control.
Let us take the Indian fast bowlers. Hearing Ajay Jadeja talk about the mediocre trio of Ishant, Yadav and Shami, and even compare them to the West Indian fast bowlers is an insult to either the Indian greats or the West Indian greats. Ishant today seemed to see the stumps as a barber and constantly evaded him, and I forgot that Yadav was even playing. His bad Waqar Younis impression of reverse swing did little. India seemed to think that bowling 3 out of 6 balls short and getting batsmen to fend is aggression. It isn’t. It’s a mindset, where batsmen are feeling unrelenting pressure and a good bouncer is part of the set-up. Indian bowlers either bowl too short or too full for too long. Even in the first test match, the bowling by the fast bowlers was average. Indian commentary see consistency and wickets as always coorelated with each other. They aren’t, India didn’t do a bad job but had a lot of poor balls which if bowled to the same West Indian batsmen now would have been dispatched. The West Indies had little confidence, and hence continuously put themselves under pressure against average bowling. If there is one saving grace for these Indian bowlers it is Shami. Shami was relatively more accurate and shows an ability to swing the ball in both directions at pace. To be fair, even Ishant was showing signs of living up to that potential promised so long ago in the Sri Lanka series. Similarly, Yadav has the potential but he is far too inaccurate.
Finally, I will address the Indian batting and Virat’s “aggressive” captaincy. It would be unfair for me to criticise the Indian batting, but I do have my concerns. The little swing from Holder was enough able to trouble Indian batsmen such as Rahane and Kohli. Rahul was quite lucky and was often troubled outside of by Gabriel. I know I am being harsh but these are more potential worries for this series. In the long run, whether this Indian batting line up will hold up against the previous greats is unlikely but it has the potential. Virat Kohli tries to be an Australian captain. Aggressive fields, short bowling and different fields. But Kohli’s innovation and proactiveness is maintained for about about 20-30 overs. He then turns into a tempered child, one for whom that magnificent beard does not suit. Kohli falls under the same pitfalls that his predecessor was criticized fall. With 16 overs left in the day, you should be trying to create a sense of pressure to force the last 4 wickets, but Kohli gave way to a defensive around the wicket strategy by Mishra with only 2 fielders around the bat, and several fielders on the boundary. It was a direct contradiction to his philosophy of trying to go for the jugular.
Ultimately this team has the potential to be a great team, but whether they will live up to this is whether they learn from their mistakes. I hope that Dhoni’s press conference about potential does not turn into half-baked empty promise of aggression from Kohli.
At this point, I am sure I come off as a miserable Indian fan who will always defend the batsmen and criticize the bowling….and YOU ARE CORRECT.