Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010
ePaper | Mobile/PDA Version
Front Page |
Tamil Nadu |
Andhra Pradesh |
New Delhi |
Other States |
Advts: Retail Plus | Classifieds | Jobs | Obituary |
India's preparation consisted of a week at the Claremont Cricket Club
CENTURION: “Any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats,” wrote George Orwell. Is it any wonder then that the anguish of the Indian cricket fan when remembering batting tragedies appears deeper than the delight when remembering batting glories?
While it's true that a lot can be learnt from victory, the lessons of defeat, perhaps because of the promise of redemption, are a lot more gratifying. India might have made the second highest score by a touring side in the second innings in South Africa (after readmission), but the abject collapse on a cold, wet first day of the first Test meant it counted for very little. Where did the batsmen go wrong?
Difficult to resolve
The talk, in the aftermath of the first innings failure, was of preparation. Surely, India erred in not playing a practice match, went the cry. Perhaps; perhaps not. This is a difficult matter to resolve, for, as coach Gary Kirsten once said, each batsman has different needs. Kirsten himself wasn't over-keen on practice matches in his playing days.
India's preparation consisted of a week at the Claremont Cricket Club, where Kirsten's coaching academy is situated, and where the coach had the batsmen (who arrived in batches) play 2000-3000 balls in an effort to calibrate their muscle memory to the pace and bounce expected in South Africa.
The specifications for the practice wickets, according to reports, were for them to be hard and bouncy with no lateral movement.
If India had played a practice game, it would have, in all likelihood, been on such a surface. Why, the ‘net' wickets at SuperSport Park, where the batsmen faced a collection of fast-bowlers and Kirtsen's throw-downs from 16 yards, were like this.
The pitch the batsmen were confronted with on the first day, however, was markedly different. Although South African captain Graeme Smith said that “India expected more from the wicket than what actually happened” — and he isn't inaccurate for it wasn't unplayable — it was by no means an easy wicket to bat on.
Wickets that are hard of base and moist of surface are among the most difficult pitches to get in on; batting requires a good deal of luck.
Movement, by itself, and pace and bounce, by themselves, can be combated. The three together, at the mercy of bowlers of the air-speed and skill of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, are another thing.
They constantly test batting's first principle, lining the ball up, at its most vulnerable link, reaction time.
Morkel, who took five for 20 in the first innings, said he thought it was a difficult wicket to judge when to play forward and when to play back; this indecision, combined with the conditions playing in the back of the minds of the batsmen, Morkel said, allowed Steyn and him just the opening.
“The most important thing is to recognise that there will be difficult periods,” Rahul Dravid said before the tour.
“You have to find a way to get through them. With the Kookaburra ball, it's a 25-over game.
Once it loses some of its hardness, and the wicket improves, it really opens up your back-foot game.”
While accepting the hardship, even relishing it, helps, how does a batsman survive it?
Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman, with their differing techniques, provided the answer, even if they didn't succeed entirely. They did, however, look the most comfortable during their stays in the middle.
Dravid's back-across-and-marginally-forward trigger movement got his right eye in line with off-stump. From here he determined the ball to leave.
He chose to ride the bounce to play the lifter, keeping it down by closing the bat face. Steyn's movement was countered by stretching further forward, or, if that wasn't an option, playing as late as possible. Tendulkar used the uncomplicated forward press.
His footwork was less methodical than Dravid's, his intent more attacking, and he compensated for movement, when not of driving length, by adjusting the flow of his arms.
Laxman moved his feet the least of the three, preferring to have a stable base and trusting his hand-eye co-ordination to deal with the dangers.
Anytime he moved his feet, however, he was decisive (except of course to the ball that bowled him).
The common thread that connected the three (and several great batsmen) was their set-up as they addressed the ball: their weight, in varying degrees, was going forward.
This allowed them the push-off to flit back when needed. It's far easier than springing forward from an anchored back-foot.
This adaptation was the most noticeable change in Gautam Gambhir's batting from the first innings; not so with Suresh Raina: that tells a story.
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | The Hindu ePaper | Business Line | Business Line ePaper | Sportstar | Frontline | Publications | eBooks | Images | Ergo | Home |
Copyright © 2010, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of