Good catastrophe

Rohit Mahajan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20

India’s capitulation in Adelaide for 36, their lowest score in Test cricket, was stunning. It stunned even the Australians, who struggled a bit to fathom exactly what went so crazily right — “We’re probably a bit stunned, but probably a bit more stunned when we came off from bowling,” said Josh Hazlewood, who finished with 5/8.

The Indians were stunned too, trying to figure out exactly what went so crazily wrong.

It was quite simple, actually — the Australians bowled a succession of perfect balls. This can happen without teams getting bowled out for 36, but here’s what went really right for Australia — the perfect balls found the edge of the bat, and the ball carried to the wicketkeeper, and no catch was dropped.

Batsmen can survive perfect balls — even off perfect balls, they often play and miss, or edge the ball over the slips, through them or short of them, or catches are dropped.

None of this happened to India. They didn’t play and miss. They played and edged, and the ball carried at a catchable height to the wicketkeeper, Tim Paine, who dropped nothing.

Two men played false strokes — Virat Kohli, exasperated and upset, dream fasting turning into nightmare, saw 15/1 turn to 15/5. Pat Cummins then bowled a great ‘bad’ ball to him — wide and pitched up. A perfect sucker ball, it drew a distraught Kohli into indiscretion.

The other man who tried attack, Wriddhiman Saha, could lob the ball only to the man at midwicket. The carnage ended in disaster when Mohammed Shami, backing away to attempt a slog, found the ball zeroing into his body — with a broken arm, he’s out of the series.

India began the day ahead of Australia; the day ended with one of their greatest humiliations.

Sunil Gavaskar, part of the team that was bowled out for 42 in England in 1974, said: “It is not fair to blame the Indian batsmen for the way they got out, because it was just simply superb bowling by the Australians.”

He’s right. Kohli and Co. were hit by a perfection that stunned them as much as it stunned the Australians themselves.

Technical issues

Kohli did say the batsmen lacked intent — it’s evident from the way their feet were rooted to the crease, their bats merely jabbing at the ball.

This was India’s third defeat inside three days — the previous two were suffered in New Zealand earlier this year. In the two defeats in New Zealand, India scored 165, 191, 242 and 124. Over the last five years, in Tests in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa — four toughest countries to tour — Indian batsmen have averaged 24.59. In defeats, this average fell to 20.07. In 20 innings of 10 lost Tests, India failed to touch 200 11 times.

So, even away from the context of 36 all out, the larger picture is not very good — the batsmen need to work to their techniques.

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