Saturday, January 14, 2006

India vs. Pak - 1st Test, Day 1

I hope Team India has got the message. This is not the Pakistan team we played in 2004. I watched every ball of today's play and that fact is imminently clear.

The pitch, of course, is flat - perfectly suited to batting. That fact only partly explains the scorecard at the end of the day's play (326 for 2). The other factor is that Pakistanis seem to have turned into something they were hardly ever accused of - professional, solid cricketers. You miss so much of a test match if you simply follow it online or watch highlights. While there was little assistance for swing or bounce from the pitch today, the Indians did bowl very tightly in the first session and to some extent, the second. Younis Khan and Mohd. Yousuf were shining examples of "playing the ball on its merits". The number of good balls they went after were few and far between, and any loose balls - Kumble bowled quite a number - were dispatched. The Pak team of two years ago might easily have lost six wickets under the same conditions - because they appeared then to be a team without a plan, the only visible intent was to go out and bat. Today was a whole different story. If today's attitude is a trend, we will find it very very difficult to win this series.

As far as the Indian bowling is concerned, there is just one word to describe it - lacking in ability, as both Imran Khan and Sanjay Manjrekar put it. On a pitch like this, they can do precious little to get wickets except hope for the batsmen to make a mistake. Pathan and Agarkar are painfully slow only around 80 mph, and without bounce or appreciable swing, their good balls are easy to defend and the bad ones easy to hit. A question asked in the discussion is a very good one - why has it been ages since India had a genuine pace bowler? Can it be that among the millions of people who play competitive cricket in India - there are no good genuine pace bowlers? Agreed pitches in India are not suited to seamers - but on a surface that lacks pace and bounce, a bowler who's just plain fast should theoretically do better than people like Pathan or Agarkar who aren't fast but can achieve decent swing and bounce if assisted by the pitch. But I digress. With four specialist bowlers, and only two seamers; its painfully obvious that we are not going to make an impression on Pak pitches. Zaheer should have been played, not just to give Dravid more options but to explore and get the seamers used to the conditions - you cannot expect to win a series in Pak without a good pace attack. We have quality spinners for wickets that turn - if they can't do much in Pakistan (and it was quite clear they can't), then both spinners have no business being in the playing eleven.

Lets see how things go tomorrow. Pakistan are looking at a declaration after 600. Looks likely that we'll get one or half a session tomorrow to bat. It will be good to compare Pak's pace attack against ours.