1st February 2006
All is well
Right till the penultimate day of the final test, the just concluded series, at least for most part, played out like "The Matrix" trilogy. Neo meets Agent Smith for the very first time, gets beaten blue and hollow. Neo learns a few tricks from his master and hits back at Smith with equal force. And thus starts the series of Neo and Agent match ups spread out over three movies. Neo climbs up the wall, flips over and delivers a deadly blow to Smith. Smith gets up immediately and hits back at Neo with all he has got. Neo punches Smith in the face, Smith shoots Neo in 'bullet time'. Neo flies in the sky and delivers the sucker blow, Smith replicates himself into hundreds of Smiths and fights Neo. A few minutes just before the climax of the last part in the trilogy, when Neo and Smith square up again for another Kung-Fu Jujitsu wire-work wizardry display, the question that begged to asked finally gets asked - "What's the point?" Neo knows everything that Smith knows and vice-versa. Both have super-human strengths and both can fight well. Neither gets killed at the end of the fight. So, what's the point in fighting, other than unleashing a menagerie of imagery never seen before on the silver screen. Are these movies just a platform (read excuse) for the display of technical brilliances of the makers?
Before the first ball was bowled in the final test, that exact question raised its ugly head again - "What's the point". Scintillating centuries were matched with brilliant centuries, flurry of fours were answered with barrage of boundaries, a rain of sixers were replied with equal number of shots out of the stadia - everything was given back in kind, all in the same coin. Records were rewritten, averages were altered, all in all, in psychology parlance, it was a classic case of "You win, I win". Traditionally, most of our foreign tours start on a sour note. If batting first, we capitulate quite easily, give the hosts good first-innings winning score, and fold just as easily in the second innings to complete the innings defeat. If bowling first, we concede a mountain of runs, playing catch-up for most of the times in both of the innings resulting in an unavoidable follow-on and ultimately an innings defeat. In the process of acclimatizing to the foreign condition, the momentum slowly picks up in the aftermath of the first test drubbing, and by the time the last test is played out, we are either playing to salvage the series or, in rare cases, trying to win it. There always is an exception to this observation - it does not apply whenever Pakistan is involved.
Though we lost the series 1-0 by a huge margin of over 300 runs, this is not one of those series, where there could be a lot of soul-searching, introspection and the typical Indian reaction following a losing foreign tour - blood-letting. At the end of the 3th day of the final test, when Pakistan all but won the test, Chappell, the blunt pragmatic he is, made a very valid observation - it is very tough to chase scores in excess of 400s and 500s, day after day, innings after innings and test after test on a consistent basis and the expectation to do so isn't possible/practical either. After India matched Pakistan's unsatiating gluttony for runs with an equally voracious appetite for huge scores over a period of 4 consecutive innings (5, if the first innings of the final test is also taken into account), it was only a matter of time before one of them blinked. It is here that the team better equipped to cope up with the law of averages that would eventually catch up, held on to their strongest suit and won their game. The difference between the two teams was minimal and the little advantage that made the final difference, was the same that the Indians were always lacking, and barring a miracle, would happen again and again - lack of searing pace in the bowling department. As said before, there isn't much that Indians could do about it.
It is always a false hope to place all the bets on the batting department stuffing it with domestic-record and world-record holders, and expect it to produce winning results, consistently. It is even dumber to think that batting alone can win matches. Good batting can save matches, great batting can win matches. But if consistency is the key, it is the bowling department that would take all the honors, as far as winnings matches, series, and rubbers consistently, home or abroad. If not anyting, it is the better odds that the bowling holds against batting. A team can afford more than 10 bad balls, but it cannot stand against 10 beautiful deliveries. And until India finds a genuine pace bowler (or a couple, for the greedy) that can tear through the opposition, irrespective of the ground/weather conditions, it will continue to remain at the mercy of the law of averages, hoping every instant that it does not catch up, right before the beginning of a crucial, series-decider, match as one that just concluded. And since the solution to such a problem is not as instant as waving a magic wand and turning all the domestic ground into green-tops, the team can brush-off this loss as one that it could have done nothing about, even when it knew all along that such a thing was bound to happen sooner or later. The only sad part was the timing part it, and that made all the difference. Oh, well!
Srinivas Kanchibhotla how you liked the article
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