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India Get Their Act Together

By Gaurang
April 2 2004

Almost two years ago in the Summer of 2002, India won a fantastic victory in the NatWest One Day Series at Lords, and then promptly lost the first Test Match on a batting beauty of a pitch where Ajit Agarkar scored his maiden Test century in the fourth innings! Now in the Summer of 2004, India won a fantastic victory in the One Day Samsung Series at Lahore, and then promptly won the first Test Match in Multan on a batting beauty of a pitch where Virender Sehwag scored his maiden Test triple century in the first innings!

What was the difference? The difference was that Team India, even without their regular leader, and under the steady leadership of his deputy, were cognizant of the need of the hour and quickly changed from One Day mode to Test Match mode.

This time they kept the good habits from ODIs and added the traditional and time tested virtues of Test Match cricket.

India's batting was patient. Dot balls were not reated with dread. Aakash Chopra and Sachin Tendulkar in particular just ground the bowling until it began to wilt. Bowling and fielding is much harder work than batting so why make it easy if the bowlers don't bowl to you?

Big shots were not pursued at the start of innings, though no scoring opportunity was passed up. Even Virender Sehwag, who needs no second invitation to smash the living BEJEZUS out of the ball, exercised discretion and batted for over 7 hours.

There was no lack of concentration. ODI batting is never more than a session long, so no planning for session by session play is required. Here, with a few overs left at the end of the first day, Sehwag showed he had learned the lessons of Lords 2002 and Melbourne 2003 and curbed his natural instinct and was thinking of batting till Lunch the next day. The Result the first triple century by an Indian.

There was NO always another day syndrome. ODIs breed this, as a loss on one day can be overcome by a win next day. It is easy come, easy go. In Tests, one needs to concentrate for 5 days with bat, ball and in the field. India did this beautifully with bat, ball and in the field. On the same wicket where Pakistan's vaunted pace attack could only muster 5 wickets in nearly two days, India snapped up 20 wickets in the same amount of time.

No lack of thinking on your feet. ODIs are now pretty formulaistic, and do not challenge a player's ability to think on their feet in the middle without the help of the coach or captain. Pathan's first up bouncer to Razzaq, Kumble's round the wicket attack to bowl Sami through the gate, and Tendulkar's surprise big googly on the last ball of the day showed tremendous ability to think on their feet.

Rotation of strike is crucial. This goes for Tests as well as ODIs. In ODIs it reduces run rate pressure, in Tests it keeps pressure off any particular batsman, who can then concentrate longer. All the Indian batsman, with the exception of VVS Laxman have mastered this habit.

Electric Fielding. ABSOLUTELY vital in ODIs but VERY vital in Tests, as it keeps up the pressure when bowlers are not being successful. Yuvraj's dismissal of the dangerous Inzimam and Chopra's catch were merely highlights of a superb catching and fielding performance, which stood in stark contrast to the butter fingered and sloppy display of the Pakistanis.

Ability to play under pressure. ODIs generate pressure artificially through the run rate, so players must learn to play under pressure. Here India were put into bat on what was supposed to be helpful pitch against one of the best bowling attacks, on paper at least, in the world. On top of that this was in Pakistan where success and failure are both magnified, way more than they should be, and where India had never tasted success, so it was a very high pressure situation. India showed that they have now learned to absorb such pressure like a dry sponge absorbs spilt milk...

Clearly India have mastered the art of quick change of cricketing wardrobe to such an extent that maybe Janet Jackson should consider hiring them as her consultants. Now the question is has India mastered the other weakness they had, which was resting on Past Laurels and not ramming home the advantage. We should find out in about a week

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