Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adelaide 2014: The AfterThoughts

Australia vs India, Adelaide 2014

It was a Test like no other. Matches have been held in the shadow of death before. One of Australia's greatest batting talents Archie Jackson died of ill-health while an Ashes tour was on in Australia. The Chennai Test of 2008 was played in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks. And one of the greatest series of all times, the 2005 Ashes was played with the backdrop of the London bombings. 

However this match was different. An international player dying during the course of play in a first class match was an unprecedented event. The entire cricket community was in a state of shock. Something as innocuous as a cricket delivery had taken away a cricketer's life. Phil Hughes's sudden death and the subsequent outpouring of grief had rightly lead to the rescheduling of the India-Australia matches.

The rejigged Test series was cricket's way of saying "The Show Must Go On". There were lots of tributes paid to Phil Hughes during the game. 63 not out and 408 became the new landmarks in the scorebooks.

And above all this was Michael Clarke. The man had been in a row with the selectors  over his fitness when the incident happened. He was immediately on the scene, all animosity forgotten. As a leader of men, Clarke's stature has grown tremendously over the last few days. He took the field inspite of fitness issues and scored a century. However in the process, he picked more injuries. And there is a chance that he might never play again. Yet, I doubt that Clarke would have missed this game for the sake of prolonging his career.

The bouncer has always been a thrilling sight to watch. Now it had blood on its name. So I was wondering who would be the first bowler to bowl a bouncer in this game. And how would the crowds react. The answer came soon enough. Varun Aaron bowled it in the very initial stages. What was heartening was the crowd's reaction. There was applause for the bowler. A sign that people wanted things to become as normal as possible.

However Day 3 proved that things can never be the same again. Mitchell Johnson hit Virat Kohli bang on the helmet.  The entire Australian team, the non-striker and even the umpires ran in to check on Kohli. Thankfully no harm had been done. Yet Johnson was looking more terrified than anybody else. In earlier times, the bowler would have followed it up with a stare and/or some choice words with the close-in fielders also adding their two bits. Things have changed.

Yet nothing symbolized how much nature wants to back into balance than the verbal altercations between Aaron, Warner et al on 4th day. For some odd reason it was actually good to see that things were moving towards normalcy. Not that sledging and rude gestures are any good, but somehow it certainly helped in the healing process.

And finally a few words on India's performance. India's bowling is in a terrible condition. The bowlers are fast but too wayward while the spin department is itself in a spin. There is no way we can win Test matches with this attack on any half decent pitch. India's batting has no sting in the tail. The top order can bat firmly but is more likely to collapse under pressure.

However what was refreshing to watch was India's approach towards the 4th innings chase. With such a target, 80 percent of the times we would have collapsed quite early in the day and showed no fight. Other times we might have batted out a draw with the opposition under no threat. However Kohli and company actually went for the target. And for this very reason the defeat did not hurt as much. Yes we suffered a spectacular collapse losing 8 wickets in under a session. Yet the approach was there to win it.

Probably it was the stop-gap captaincy of Kohli which made India go for the target with Kohli himself leading the way with twin hundreds. However his captaincy shouldn't be judged on one off instance. After all as a stop-gap arrangement till Dhoni returned, Kohli could easily take more risks than the incumbent.

So in the end a grieving Australian camp turned up and outplayed the Indians. The first Test match is out of the way. And hopefully normal service will resume from Brisbane onward.

P.S. A word on Sean Abbott. It must have taken tremendous mental strength to come back and play in the very next match. That too in the very same ground. After all that he had to go through, he came up and got his career-best bowling figures. Hats off to the young man.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Commentary Box