World's best Test batting side?

DID World Champs Aussies really rate India as "the best Test batting side in the world"?

RAJU BHARATAN

Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar... a fatal final-phase study in contrasting approaches.-

DID World Champs Aussies really rate India as "the best Test batting side in the world"? Sourav Ganguly — after the clueless way he perished twice (1 & 2) in the Bangalore Test of character — is he genuinely a better player of spin than pace? How possibly could Rahul (22 & 16) and Anil (46-8-159-0 & 21-1-88-1) both fail to deliver, as `specialist' performers, in their own back-garden city of Bangalore? Fail to deliver in the crunch `telematch' of a three-Test series third-eye witnessing Irfan Khan Pathan, after being voted `Best Young Cricketer Of The Year', deteriorating at once steeply and swiftly? How TV, looking for eyeballs, creates idols only to smash them in front of our own `peepers'!

On tissue paper, Sourav's India drew the Pak. Test series 1-1. In the middle, the very middle order, so envied by every other India-rival, came a miserable cropper where it got to the acid Test. For Sachin (16 off 98 balls) to have plodded the strokeless way he did, through the final phase of the final Test, made watchers wonder if, truly, "Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration"! One Sehwag could not make the Indian summer. Why, `Team' India, here, had all but disintegrated by the end of the first day's play itself. In a Bangalore Test tele-projecting Pakistan (at 323 for two) as already preparing the Chinnaswamy ground for that India back-breaking 570.

How possibly could India's wonted middle order so end up, displaying no backbone at all? Verily did the Indian batting, during that crucial Monday-noon phase, resemble the flutterings of a jellyfish out of water. A jellyfish, remember, has no backbone! It was a collapse of will and skill leaving Anil Kumble (37 — emblemless bat-in-hand) to show the way to such striking willows as Rahul (16), Sachin (16), Laxman (5) and Sourav (2). Show the way in the matter of determining the right mix of caution and aggression for the rubber-holding occasion. What a sad TV commentary, this!

Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid... neither of them able to Bangalore-lead the way.-

TV commentary in which Sanjay Manjrekar had us ceaselessly wondering if he was doing the mike-job for TEN Sports or for DD Sports. That Sourav's India, by their final-hour batting approach, almost vindicated Sanjay — in the slanted mike-stand this commentator throughout took — is the most ironic part of our Bangalore capitulation. End-impressions count and the final `Team India' TV picture was one of the Indian batting's being, agonisingly viewably, to be at once feckless and rudderless. Poor appreciation indeed, by the fatted-calf middle, of the unfailingly sprited `attitude of mind and heart' with which Virender Sehwag (201 & 38) opened the ball. Viren's bravura alone stood out in Indian cricket's feeling diminished, as seldom before, under a Sourav losing all batting caste with this Bangalore Test.

Did the relentless campaign mounted upon his batsmanship and his leadership by the wire media (notably by the Hindi STAR News) `get to' Sourav in the end-result? The Indian captain, all along, had tele-pleaded for "public understanding" if his team lost the odd match. Yet, with his very first litmus-Test series against Steve Waugh's Australia (in March 2001), had Sourav not discerned that the Indian public, even while hailing his leadership, could be unsparing where it came to evaluating his own erratic batsmanship? Now, four round years down the leading line, Sourav discovered that India's visual media had but a one-line agenda — to see him, somehow, divested of the leadership mantle. How facilely we Indians continue to make-believe that a mere change of leadership is the antidote to it all!

Rewind to how that Sourav-shattering Monday morn Bangalore-began? Envision the non-gentlemanly frame of mind in which Inzamam — after having performed like a champion in that Bangalore Test (184 & 31 not out) — came to be so uncharacteristically viewed? As Inzy slip-remonstrated-demonstrated against Viru Sehwag's (rightly, as it turned out) being ruled not out, caught-behind, off Mohammed Sami. The `spat' in which this Inzamam show of temper ended was hurting indeed to the tele-eye. If Pakistan had not gone on to win that Bangalore Test so deservedly, this single `monitored' act of Inzamam's would surely have come into even sharper Chris Broadening focus. For Aamer Sohail, as commentator, to add that the captain's action was "understandable" in the face of Inzy's anxiety to win the Bangalore Test put the lid on it.

Okay, so the Pakistan commentating duo's outlook was predictably partisan in the circumstances. But what do you say about the way Sanjay Manjrekar and Arun Lal sounded to be just coasting along with such motivated mikey thinking? Personally, I find Arun Lal to be purely humdrum as a commentator. Not one original line of thought has Arun to offer in illumining the `tubey' proceedings. Maninder Singh remains far superior with his com insights and com analyses. The limit was reached in the way, on that third Bangalore Test afternoon (Saturday), Ramiz Raja and Aamer Sohail kept plugging the point about Sachin's being `out' (when 4, ultimately 41 off 71 balls) — lbw to Mohammed Sami.

This when the bowler himself had not sustained the slip cordon's obnoxiously orchestrated appeal. Sanjay's `mikogenic' viewpoint on this Sachin lbw situation, of course, was a foregone conclusion, once the Third Eye established that the Sami ball had indeed struck Sachin's back-pad, not front-pad. But whatever impelled Arun Lal to tip-toe the Ramiz-Aamer line here? Happily, no situation ever daunts Ravi Shastri. When therefore Aamer Sohail persisted in the idea of the umpire's having visibly reprieved Sachin, Ravi could take it no longer. Spot on, Ravi observed that Billy Bowden could not possibly have got to naked-eye view the Sami delivery as striking Sachin's back-pad. When Aamer Sohail countered that "the umpire was paid to see it", pat came the emphatic Ravi rejoinder: "He still didn't see it, so how does he give it out?"

If only the two other Indian commentators had shown similar gumption in holding the tele-scale even! Note how, in the case of Sachin's back-pad happening, the TWI camera went out of its way, five-six times, to velvet-shade the wicket-to-wicket rectangular portion. Fair dinkum. Yet why, oh why, was such all-revealing violet-shading never ever done when Rahul (22) was promptly declared lbw to Danish Kaneria by Simon Taufel, soon after lunch on that crucial Saturday afternoon? Mind you, I concede that Rahul (venturing to paddle-sweep Danish) `looked' out, lbw. But if Rahul was so palpably out lbw, how come the TWI camera — not even in DD's `Full Day's Play' re-run — would deign, rectangularly, to velvet-shade things? So as to pinpoint where exactly the Danish Kaneria ball pitched?

You know what I think? I think that Danish ball to Rahul landed, just fractionally, outside the leg-stump! Something that would have come clean in any rectangular shading. However, considering that the Bangalore Test was being screened `live' on the Chinnaswamy Stadium widescreen, TWI just shut out the violet image of where precisely the Kaneria leg-break pitched! Visual cheating? We had so much of it (in this Bangalore Test of nerves) that we dare not further tele-zero in on certain wide-eyed happenings, if only because Sourav's India lost — and how!