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Indian top order goes silent

By Ian Healy

The Indian top order in the first Test was guilty of plenty. No runs, no intent to score, looking unbelievably tentative and not providing sufficient time for the team's spinners to relax between innings.

Relaxation is crucial but more important is physiological recovery before they have to bowl long spells again. Time for muscles to recover, fluid levels to be replenished, sore feet to abate, spinning joints to loosen before they start to think about batting let alone bowling a second time.

India's top order is not providing them with enough time to shower, let alone relax. They won't last if this continues or if they make it through the four Tests, they will not be effective.

Both spinners are returning from freshening breaks. Surgery to Harbhajan Singh and not too much cricket for Anil Kumble has them in good shape for this series but the pressure they both bowled under in this Test was incredible.

They certainly have not been allowed to re-enter at their own tempo. Both men had the task of keeping the runs down and removing Australian batsmen — a combination which so rarely happens.

The Aussies love seeing off fruitless spells by opposition strike bowlers and it won't get any easier from here, so the Indian batsmen have to take responsibility.

Their bowlers' spells will not get shorter, so the rests in between must be larger. Both spinners are playing under huge expectations.

Unfair to Kumble

Radio commentators have already questioned Kumble's shoulder, saying he does not have his usual zip and rip. Unfair and harsh because it is the variable bounce of wearing Indian pitches that provides the rip for him.

This pitch died and rarely spat at the batsmen's unsuspecting splices which will never help his style.

Harbhajan came into his own during the second innings but Australia had no inclination to be patient. When it needs to be, the left-handers can continue to pad him away unless he develops a liking for bowling around the wicket.

Error of judgement

One must mention the state of the pitch produced for such an important fixture. It was sub-standard and backfired on Indian cricket due to losing of the toss. Someone in Indian cricket made a massive error of judgment regarding this pitch.

Did they underrate Warne so badly or failed to acknowledge the quality reverse swinging skills of all the Aussie quicks or refuse to recognise the impressive performances of Australian batsmen in Sri Lanka early this year. Bad move.

The questions that I posed about the Australians have all been answered emphatically. Glenn McGrath can finally say he is back to his best and actually mean it. He penetrated like a surgeon and never let up. Pace accompanied the penetration and so did economy. A performance of the highest order.

Warne was an admirable workhorse who never complained during his toil. He did not extract enough bounce to partner his sideways spin but he will when he makes the relevant technical adjustments to his action.

There is plenty more of him to come — look out. McGrath's dominance released potential stresses from Gillespie and Kasprowicz who revelled in the conditions provided.

Maybe once before has a Gilchrist century been second fiddle. This Test saw the second time. The supreme composure on debut of Michael Clarke, matched by flawless shot selection and skill to execute them, had us focussed on the other end from the Aussie keeper for longer periods than ever before.

I have said Clarke has debuted two years later than he should have. It has not hurt him at least, his absolute hunger for performance was obvious. Batting at a time when a false shot could possibly be excused, he nailed it. The bowlers were on a roll, the crowd in full voice and even commentators contemplating a collapse and Clarke began a long career. The best Test debut in the history of our Australian game with the bat.

The Indians were pretty bad in the first Test during the last home series but bounced back. This will happen again. They looked heavy, slower on their feet than Australia and much more thoughtful.

Naturalness is crucial at this level of play and India forfeited it immediately on Day One, when pushed back continuously by gutsy Aussie partnerships. No Indian played like a potential winner until it was over. This needs rectifying if it wishes to compete, let alone emulate 2001.

Togetherness

Skill, endurance and patience played major roles in a tremendous Australian victory but what I loved the most was the absolute togetherness the team demonstrated. There were plenty of tough times but they were always there as a team urging, lifting or just plain toiling.

The spirit of the baggy green is talked about often and I hate it. It has to be there for everyone to see and feel rather than to listen to. Loud and clear it came through to me, that the Aussies are in India to do something special and now it will take even more stopping than one week ago. The message was delivered to me non-verbally and I'm sure a copy has been sent to the Indian dressing room! — PTI

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