What were the Indians thinking?

04 Jun 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Micromax Triangular Series 2010

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A collapse from 58 for no loss to 95 for 5 is often associated with weak, inexperienced sides like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Kenya. But, this was what India’s score read at different stages of the innings during their second consecutive defeat to Zimbabwe in the series.

Even more unfathomable was the approach of the openers. Against an attack that was far from threatening and a pitch that wasn’t crumbing by any means, Dinesh Karthik and M Vijay were happy to play ‘Test’ match style cricket, and bore the select few who were interested in watching the game. And, not surprisingly, they ended up being battered and bruised by an upbeat Zimbabwean outfit.

Consider this… Zimbabwe did not even have a regular new-ball bowler in their side. Instead, they had four spinners and one slow-medium pacer. What then made the Indian openers play the brand of cricket they did? This facet needs to be explained in no uncertain terms.

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It is understood that a young, inexperienced team is here for gaining experience. But, that doesn’t give the players the opportunity to use the matches as ‘practice’ games.

Karthik, in particular, has enough international experience and should have shown the way to the youngsters instead of misguiding them.

With their shabby performance, the Indians made an ordinary attack look extraordinary. Off-spinner Greg Lamb was the pick of the bowlers on the scoresheet. But, he should never have been. Don’t Karthik and Vijay face better spin bowlers day in and day out in domestic cricket?

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How then can one explain their inability to stand up to a relatively unknown name? With their negative outlook, the openers not only put pressure on themselves, but on the entire batting to follow; rather strange considering they were in such fine batting form against Sri Lanka only a couple of days ago.

Following the number of deliveries they consumed, the Indian openers should have gone one to register big scores. Instead, both threw their wickets away. What transpired after that wasn’t all that surprising. After all, the precedent had been set all too early.

India could still have fought back courtesy the in-form middle-order. However, the Suresh Raina-led brigade showed a total lack of application. Rohit Sharma, the centurion of the last two matches, and the captain himself, both lost their wickets to run-outs, which was the last thing India needed under the circumstances.

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To be fair to Zimbabwe, they bowled a tight line and kept the Indians quite. Even then, the batsmen could have done a lot better. The visiting side can only be thankful to the umpires for letting off Ravindra Jadeja twice, when he was quite clearly trapped in front of the stumps.

Probably, even the umpires were having pity on India. Following the reprieves though, the left-hander proved that there were no demons in the pitch as was being made out, playing some big shots comfortably.

The principal lesson for the Indians though was provided the Zimbabwean openers. In stark contrast to Karthik and Vijay, Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza batted with all the ease in the world.

It helped that the Indian bowling was mediocre, but then Zimbabwe’s wasn’t any better. It was just that the Indian batsmen made them look a lot better. It wasn’t as if Taylor and Masakadza tore the bowling apart.

But, unlike the Indians, they batted with a positive approach, putting away the bad balls on offer, plenty of them there were. So confident did the Zimbabweans become during the course of the chase, they went on to achieve the bonus point as well.

If Zimbabwe’s win over India in the opening encounter was impressive, this triumph was even more imposing. The victory margin notwithstanding, the Indians lost the game in the mind much before play ended.


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