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A great series amidst Hollywood

Before the start of this series, my expectations on the performance of the Indian team would have been a series draw and sadly however hard you try to not read the score line, it shows Australia wins. So am I disappointed with the fabulous 5 ageing Indian batsmen and the young bowlers… not really? If things were sane in that fateful second test match, the score line would have been dramatically different but at the end of the day, you accept results as they are. India fought well to yet again compete hard with the Aussies and they were closer to a win than what they ever the last time around.

To start with who said test or cricket in general was dying… The Australian crowd proved a good example of what enjoying a cricket match actually means which is a far cry in India considering it is only when the Indian national team plays, there is stunningly full occupancy. Domestic matches would simply mean relatives of players desperately trying to get into the national team cheering them and nothing more. Whereas, how the Aussie public enjoy their local matches should put all so called pundits who claim that cricket is a religion in India to absolute shame.

Coming back to the series, it was brilliant with two teams stretching themselves out playing as hard as they can but the Hollywood style racial scandal was sour and a bunch of umpires possibly disgruntled with their employees used the wrong series to finger their opponents. The stakes were very high and nobody was in any mood to put up with disgruntled employees creating a racket as though they had to get back to them on reasons I would rather not want waste time on.

Dhawan’s Dream Debut

When the third day of the third day started MS Dhoni must have thought they will run through the Australian tailenders. But it didn’t turn out that way as Steve Smith batted beautifully with Mitchell Starc for the 8th wicket adding 97 runs before Smith dragged his foot a bit too far and gave Ojha his second wicket. Starc then went on to add 51 valuable runs with Nathan Lyon. He fell one short of a well-deserved century; probably the nervous nineties got the better of him. Australian innings finally ended at 408. They will be mighty pleased to reach cross 400 after the failure of the middle order even when they got a century opening partnership.

This was beginning of what can be called a leather hunt day for the Australians as Shikhar Dhawan emulated his idol – Virender Sehwag displaying no signs of nerves and punished the depleted Aussie attack for the entire day and blasted his way to a Ton of just 85 deliveries – Fastest by a debutant. His batting style matched his attitude. He has that swagger in him which only Sir Viv Richards demonstrated on the field. Shikhar Dhawan must be really proud of this achievement knowing the fact that none of the most fearsome batsmen of this decade could do what he did. And these fearsome batsmen include the like of Tendulkar, Lara, Sehwag, Gilchrist, Ponting to name a few. When he walked off the field he gave his moustache a twirl may be it was intended for Boon and Hughes who used to intimidate their opponents. Before this all started when Shikhar Dhawan was yet to open his account was given a reprieve when Mitchell Starc accidently dropped the ball on the stumps with Dhawan out of the crease following up.

Every debutant must have dreamt of a century but for sure no one would have dreamt of what he did after that. He kept toying away with the field and ended with an unbeaten 185 from 168 balls. He was brilliant through the off side piercing the field no matter how many fielders Michael Clarke employed in that region. What was most admirable was that he didn’t hit a single shot in the air till he got to his century. He got as many as 33 boundaries. During all this Murali Vijay quietly reached to 85 playing the idle fold for Dhawan. He too must be eyeing back to back centuries against Australia. Indians must be hoping that both these players continue this way on the fourth day so that they can force a win over Australia. Australian on the other hand must be thinking of getting Dhawan out early and then dry up the runs. Atleast they will be able to get away with a draw. Few Achievements by Dhawan till now (185 not out) read more

Richardson umpiring accuracy

When controversies first exploded in the case of Steve Bucknor, out came his boss, Dave Richardson stating that his umpiring accuracy was 96% back then for the season, which was above the average of 94.8% for the Elite Panel as a whole. What was interesting here is despite all the probing, no details were released on the methodology behind defining this accuracy and system in place to review it.

Contrast that to the well documented and easily available guidelines and systems for team rankings, player performances, player rankings, code of ethics and disciplinary codes. Why, even if someone needs to be inspired to become depressed and suicidal, there is always the well-documented and insane Duckworth-Lewis to be read, for one to reach instant-coffee nirvana with his maker. All of these information about the system surrounding these areas contribute actively in giving a real face to the players and that’s often why no matter how dreadful an action done by a player, even turning up for example, drunk for a match and without your pants, despite the criticism for the action, the player is still loved because they see the system, the effort and the follies of the same, giving it a much more humane touch.

On the other hand, there are no doubts that umpires these days work very hard and constantly strive to be perfect. Anyone digging into the video archives of old matches played decades ago will be shocked to see the quality of umpiring back then. Umpires these days deliver far more brilliant decisions consistently than during those times, but this veil of secrecy/apathy behind their work sometimes make them a lot less enduring to be more accepted for the odd glaring mistakes.

It is a fair argument that in those days, irrespective of how terrible a decision was, players did not make a hue and cry about it like how they do now. But to the defense of the modern day players, it is also to be understood that in those days, players were not remotely scrutinized to the extent subjected by the current media set-up, TV broadcasting, improved camera technologies, ever hyped importance of statisticians and the ICC by itself. You find more documents and rules on anti-corruption for players and interestingly the rest of the stakeholders on a field supposedly has a system but is not disclosed or thought about. read more

India’s compromise

It will be fair to assess them a couple of series later. Gambhir has been outstanding and looks to be the only one in the new crop who has the desire and dedication to play long match winning knocks.

Robin Uthappa has ruined his cricket. Watching him play a couple of year’s ago was mind-blowing with all the shots in the book with naked aggression. His run a ball fifty had just one shot through out and that is where the twenty-20 success seems to have rubbed onto his technique and honestly looks very ordinary. It is with no wonder that he had not scored much in the domestic season this year. I really hope that he goes back and use his earlier techniques and use his fancy footwork and cross-batted chips and slog intelligently. In that match, I thought Pathan batted far better than Uthappa.

India should be quite happy that they reached the finals with a young team on their first outing and that should give them reasonable confidence.

And to the champs, the Aussies, there were deep red problems in their batting and predictably, somehow just when the heat was turning on, they all came to the party. Neilson has to be made the father figure of Australia. How else can you explain a statement which basically means that as long as you are playing well and are in the finals, you can even shit on the umpires hat and hand it back. Of course the umpires will agree too and wear it. With Ponting, Symo back in form, things now looks very good.

On the whole, this has been a boring series, very dull… hopefully, there will be some interesting cricket left to offer in the finals.