How the bowlers were marginalised

While Man of the Match Sehwag sizzled, Dravid and Harbhajan (below) chipped in with good performances.-K. PICHUMANI While Man of the Match Sehwag sizzled, Dravid and Harbhajan (below) chipped in with good performances.

It was Virender Sehwag’s extraordinary innings which infused some life into the match. His knock, the quickest triple hundred in Tests, was a resplendent innings that showcased his still head, bat speed, hand-eye coordination and audacious shot-making ability, writes S. Dinakar.

At the BCCI’s function to felicitate him for claiming 600 Test wickets, Anil Kumble urged all concerned to restore the balance between the bat and the ball. The game, he believed, was loaded in favour of the batsmen.

Ironically, in the first Future Cup Test that began the next day at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, the bowlers were further marginalised.

The surface, such as the one for the match at Chepauk, can never promote a true test of skills. There was little bounce or deviation for the pacemen. And, even on the final day, there was nothing more than slow turn for the spinners. Batting records fell by the wayside.

The run-glut at Chepauk put the focus back on the nature of wickets prepared for Tests in the country. The BCCI has a Pitches and Grounds Committee in place. The panel, headed by Daljit Singh, says it is committed to preparing sporting tracks in the country. Such pitches would have consistent bounce and good carry for the bowlers, the batsmen would be able to play their strokes and the spinners would benefit from the natural wear and tear of the surface.

K. PICHUMANI

However, the last three Tests in the country — against Pakistan in Kolkata and Bangalore and the just-concluded Test against South Africa at Chepauk — have all been played on pitches where the batsmen have largely called the shots. The Test at Chepauk was an extreme case of a pitch favouring the batsmen.

Different weather conditions in different parts of the country are among the foremost challenges for the curators. The composition of the various elements that comprise a pitch such as clay and red soil that could work in the northern parts of the country could be out of place in the South. In the circumstances, enduring the scorching sun and the humidity was the foremost test for the batsmen. They were not tested so much in terms of skills.

While it is true that rain leading to the Test hampered the preparation of the pitch, one surely would have expected greater life from one of the better wickets in the country. In the event, it was an extraordinary innings by Virender Sehwag that infused some life into the match. His triple hundred, the quickest in Tests (278 balls), was a resplendent innings that showcased his still head, bat speed, hand-eye coordination and audacious shot-making ability if not his footwork.

M. KARUNAKARAN

Sehwag is a unique batsman in how he plays parallel to the line of the ball to create room on the off-side. He has shed pounds, his body alignment is better, and the runs are flowing again. He picks the line quickly, is ready with his response.

Sehwag’s second triple hundred in Tests — he is the only Indian with a Test triple hundred — also reflected his ability to innovate and create. When left-arm spinner Paul Harris attempted a negative line from over the wicket, Sehwag disrupted the ploy by reverse-sweeping the bowler from outside the leg-stump. On other occasions, he made room for the inside-out cover drives off Harris.

Psychologically, Sehwag can force the bowlers to switch from an aggressive mind-set to a defensive one. Therein lies his greatest attribute.

Rahul Dravid, in his 120th Test, became the sixth batsman and the third Indian to reach 10,000 Test runs. During his patient 111, it did appear that he had sorted out a slight chink in his initial movement, and the bat did come down straighter. The high left elbow was visible again.

The former India captain’s 25th Test century showed he retained the hunger. He should be back among the runs even on surfaces that do a lot more. One of the game’s finest No. 3 batsmen, Dravid deserves greater recognition.

South Africa’s heroes, McKenzie, Amla and Steyn (below).-V. GANESAN

Wasim Jaffer was involved in a double-century opening partnership with Sehwag. There were occasions when he struck the ball in a pleasing manner. Jaffer disappointed in Australia and greater tests of character and technique await the batsman. But he has been, rightly, given an opportunity to rebuild his career.

For South Africa, Hashim Amla’s first innings 159 was an effort of refined stroke-play. The batsman, after an uneasy beginning in Tests, has grown in confidence and it shows. Amla now believes he belongs in the XI. Neil McKenzie’s comeback to the side has been triumphant. The opener displayed a compact technique and a lovely, flowing cover-drive. He nearly made a hundred in the first innings and reached the three-figure mark in the second.

The Indian pacemen struggled to bowl a consistent line and create the pressure by stemming the flow of runs. S. Sreesanth pitched on both sides of the pitch and Rudra Pratap Singh seemed to be struggling with his fitness. India missed the pace and natural bounce of Ishant Sharma.

PTI

To counter a surface of this kind, a paceman needs great air-speed or exceptional accuracy and control, a spinner requires flight, dip and deception.

It was only late in the Indian innings that Dale Steyn bowled the right length and was quick in the air. Steyn picked up four wickets in his last burst and achieved some reverse swing.

PTI

Harbhajan Singh, his Test form under scrutiny, scalped eight in the match and there were occasions when he bowled creditably. He varied his length like a spinner should and flighted the ball.

However, except for a couple of occasions on the final day, the loop or the dip in the air was largely missing in his bowling . The failure of the Indian close catchers to latch on to half chances did not help the spinners’ cause either.

For most part, the bowlers took a pounding. It was not the best of advertisements for Test cricket. The match was only headed for a draw.

10,000 club B. Lara (WI/ICC) Tests: 131; Runs: 11953. S. Tendulkar (India) 147; 11782. A. Border (Aus) 156; 11174. S. Waugh (Aus) 168; 10927. S. Gavaskar (India) 125; 10122. R. Dravid (India/ICC) 120; 10031.