Five Lessons from Lord’s

Written by  //  July 26, 2011  //  Sport  //  6 Comments

  1. Drop Harbhajan Singh

When Harbhajan Singh played a third irresponsible shot while trying to save the match in the post-tea session on the fifth day, I was convinced that, that had to be the final nail in his coffin, at least for this tour. His bowling through the test match was uninspiring and despite getting the wicket of Strauss in the second innings, continued to throw darts at the batsmen with little variation of flight and minimal spin. IPL cricket, or worse still advertising wars with Dhoni, seem to be occupying Harbhajan Singh more than his off-spin bowling, so much so that 4 overs at a stretch is all he can manage with the minimal degree of accuracy. 218 runs for 1 wicket and an awfully mistimed pull shot in the final session convinced me that Harbhajan Singh is in the team on the strength of his reputation. He needs a little warning, as much for India’s sake as his own. Bring on Amit Mishra at Trent Bridge!

2. Start the game with 11 fit players

The premier pace bowler limping off after a brief spell on the first morning is simply unacceptable. Zaheer Khan ought only to have been picked if he was deemed fit enough to play through the test match; of course injuries can happen at any point of time (ask Gautam Gambhir) but surely a bowler low on match fitness, having bowled 69 overs in the calendar year (excluding the IPL where he may have bowled more than that in 40 days) would have to be scrutinised very closely before being given the go-ahead. The team management, support staff and the physio must be squarely blamed for taking a wrong judgment call on this, given that Zaheer did not last even for the first innings, let alone the whole match. As a direct result, Ishant and Praveen, despite their heroic efforts, were visibly tiring when Broad and Prior were swinging away to glory, with little respite in terms of alternative options to bring on. And this, in the end, was the difference between the two sides.

3. Expedite Sehwag’s Recovery

An Indian test side is just not the same without Sehwag at the top of the innings. Not only does he possess the innate ability to take the game away from the opposition at any point of time with an unannounced blitzkrieg, his presence has more subtle effects such as making the opposition think twice about when to declare an innings and the field to set even when India is chasing a mammoth fourth-innings target. No disrespect to Mukund, who looks to be on his way to becoming a fine player in three years time, but India without Sehwag lacks a certain zing, which is often the difference between a drawn test match and one lost with an hour to play on the final evening.

4. Position the Keeper and the Slips Carefully

Pietersen in the first innings and Broad in the second innings were lucky to see their edges thread the needle between the keeper and first slip with neither inexplicably diving for the ball. The fault on both occasions, lies with Dhoni, not just for not going for the ball but for positioning himself at least two paces behind where he, and by implication, the slips ought to have been. The track at Lords was not bouncing appreciably and even Ishant Sharma’s bouncers which sat up a trifle were collected by Dhoni at a comfortable height. If anything, there were a number of deliveries from Praveen Kumar which fell well short. If these weren’t proof enough that the keeper and slips needed to move forward, Pietersen’s chance in the first innings ought to have been. Dhoni, of course, should have gone for it, since it was arguably his catch, but had he been a couple of paces forward, it would have been straightforward. Ditto for Broad in the second innings. If the two dismissals had indeed happened, with Pietersen in his 40’s and Broad in his 20’s, perhaps we would have been witness to an entirely different game.

5. Play at least 2 warm up games before the first test

The general level of fitness displayed by India in the field, and application with the bat was alarming. It was as if the players were not entirely there, mentally or physically. The need for a quick turnaround from a tour of the West Indies, the levels of boredom emanating from which can only be matched by a bad operatic performance, for those who had toured there, and a general lack of match practice for those who had skipped the tour are the most plausible reasons. To prevent this all-too-familiar situation from adversely affecting performance in the first test, at least two to three warm up matches would have been the order of the day, instead of a half-hearted run out for the reserve players in the Somerset game. Having confidence to perform on the day is a great ability to possess, but it often borders on hubris and seeing the failures in this test match, most notably Dhoni’s with his captaincy, batting (and bowling), the need for more warm-up games, and for them to be taken seriously by the management, is imperative. To make space on the calendar to do that, perhaps we can scrap inane bilateral one-day games which few watch and fewer enjoy?

6 Comments on "Five Lessons from Lord’s"

  1. Aditya Shamlal July 26, 2011 at 11:57 am ·

    Arghya, i cant help but agree with you on 4 of those points. But expediting Sehwag’s recovery is pretty much contradicting what you wrote in point 2 about starting the game with 11 fit players. No point having him in the team if he wont be able to come out slamming the ball all over the park. And i can pretty much guarantee you that Bhajji will be picked for the 2nd test match and that India will never have 2 warm-up games before a series.

  2. Suhrith July 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm ·

    They say Ashwin isn’t test ready, but I find it staggering that they didn’t take him to England, at the very least. As it stands, Harbhajan enjoys too much security. If it’s a lack of options, then its a product of India’s own doing. It’s such a crying shame that they treated Murali Kartik so shabbily. He’s still only 34 and I’d say he has a few years left in him. If the reason for playing Harbhajan is a want of options, it’s an error of epic proportions.

  3. Arghya July 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm ·

    Hi,

    Shamlal, I agree that Bhajji will play the next test. But I agree with Suhrith (and I think you as well) that it’s time his security in the side was questioned. Ashwin ought to have definitely been in the touring party and it’s time other spinners had a look-in, if not for anything else than to make Harbhajan fight for his place and hopefully improve his performance in the process.
    With Sehwag, I agree with you that my points may be seen as contradictor. All I want is to see Sehwag bat! What I meant though is that the team management must make sure that they pull out all stops to ensure that his return happens as fast as possible, without of course compromising on a threshold level of match fitness that a batsman requires.

  4. Aditya Shamlal July 27, 2011 at 10:23 am ·

    There is no doubt about the fact that its time Bhajji was given a reality check. Even Kumble, arguably our greatest spinner wasn’t given such special treatment. When his fitness went down and his effectiveness in ODI’s was fading, he was dropped and he eventually retired from the shorter form of the game. Its time bhajji was told to go back to domestic cricket, and re-learn how to dismiss batsmen regularly.

    On the Sehwag issue i couldnt agree more with the sentiment, the sheer intimidatory value he brings to the pitch is unbelievable. I seriously hope he gets at least a couple of tests, and sends the poms on a leather hunt.

  5. ASG August 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm ·

    Needed a Mamata-esque movement to upstage the Rajiv Shuklas of the world. All else will fall in place.

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