Tag Archives: Australia v India Sydney 2012

After Sydney the Aftermath – Ashwin, Ramadhin and Mental Scaring

In Australia’s total of 659 – 4 declared at the Sydney Test, Ashwin Ravichandran bowled 44 overs with 5 maidens and took no wickets for 157 (3.56/over). 

His fingers will be sore for some days but perhaps nowhere near as sore as his mind which during two long days in the field will have received as much of a battering as the ball.

In his three tests prior to this one, Ashwin had taken 26 wickets for around 500 runs and must have thought that the world lay between his finger tips.

But when Clarke joined Ponting on Day One their hand gestures, nods and smiles suggested that they were now reading Ashwin’s ‘wrong’un’.  Third Man thought it looked ominous. 

288 runs later when Hussey took Punter’s place at the Sydney Reading Club it became obvious that the Aussie batsmen had decoded something more valuable than Linear B.

Ashwin now faces at least two problems going forward (as the managerialists like to say these days): living with the mental scar tissue received at the SCG and working out a new disguise for the caroom ball. 

Keep your thumb in, chum?

A similar thing happened to Sonny Ramadhin at Birmingham when the West Indies toured England in 1957.  Those “two pals of mine”, Ramadhin and Valentine had caused consternation in international cricket since first appearing on the scene as twenty year olds in the early 1950s.

Ramadhin bowled with the hand facing the batsman and flicked the ball up with the index finger to make it turn very slightly from off to leg or up or up with the ring finger to make it turn from leg to off. 

Batsmen like to play back to spin, especially when it’s something they cannot read, and in those days when they did come forward they had been coached to find a contact point well in front of the leading pad.

Many played Ramadhin for his reputed turn and were bowled through the gate or caught off the outside edge or trapped lbw by straighter deliveries.

The Birmingham Test lives long in the minds of those who were there. Or in the less reliable memories of those who fiddled with the horizontal hold knob on their tiny screened TVs vainly hoping to control the frustratingly unstable and flickering black and white images broadcast in 405 line technology by the BBC.

England won the toss and batted. They were spared Valentine, who was unable to play, but Ramadhin with 7 for 49 in 31 overs, 16 of them maidens, continued to mesmerize and disarm in the home side’s meagre total of 186.

The West Indies cruised to 474 which included an exceptional innings of 161 by the sublime O.G. ‘Collie’ Smith who was all-too soon tragically to be killed in a car crash while back inEnglandplaying league cricket.

The scene was set for an innings defeat and with Colin Cowdrey joining his captain Peter May at 113 for 3 that looked a certainty.  But May, who had made 30 in the first innings proposed to play forward to the spinner and to keep his bat close to his pad. What he lost in narrowing the angle he gained in broadening the barrier. 

The innovation worked and was also taken up Cowdrey.  Although never dominating Ramadhin (he went for less than 2 an over), the two ‘amateur’ batsman nullified the threat posed by the ‘crafty’ professional and ground out a partnership of 414 over 8 hours and 20 minutes.

Cowdrey was eventually out for 154 and when May declared the innings closed at 583/4 his score was 285. 

These heroics were immediately mythologized, at a time when national pride had been badly dented by the debacle of Suez and the ‘mother country’ was looking for any evidence with which to deny its decline as both a colonial and a world power.

Ramadhin’s figures in the innings were 98 overs (588 balls), 35 maidens, 179 runs for 2 wickets.  In the match as a whole he had bowled 774 balls.

Although not excessively punished with the bat, the psychological effect of this experience and the development of bat-and-pad play, meant that Ramadhin never again had the impact on Test cricket that he had formerly exercised.

And Ashwin, will there be an aftermath from this experience?

When the players eventually fly westwards to Perth, his mind is likely to be whirling as fast as the fins in the jet’s engines.  For him Perth will be a real Test.

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Number 5 – Lucky for Some at the SCG

What’s not to like about Michael Clarke – apart from the tattoos and a tendency to get out just before major intervals?

At the end of day two of the Sydney Test, he is 251 not out (31 x 4s and 1 x 6) and all day his grin was as broad as his bat.

Clarke has grown several inches taller under the weight of the captaincy which may account for the fact that he did not look like giving way to any last-over-of-the-day lapse in concentration and therefore will reappear from that grand old pavilion on day three as fresh as a daisy with enough time in the game to amass a mammoth score without being in anyway selfish.

Clarke is already the highest scoring Australian at the SCG in a Test and has in his sights the 287 notched up by Worcester and England’s R.E. (Tip) Foster  (shown right tucking one away to leg) in the First Test of the 1903 series.

Foster, like Clarke, batted that day at Number 5, came in at 73 for 3 (not dissimilar to Clarke entering the fray at 37 for 3).

Foster ended his first day at the crease on 73; Clarke on 47; but the English had laboured all of for three hours in this the first phase of his innings.

Next morning, with the wicket playing faster, ‘Tip’ moved up a gear to reach his first century.  There followed a collapse at the other.  Foster, with Relf as his partner counter attacked, scoring 94 between lunch and tea. 

At Relf’s departure, Foster was joined by Rhodes in a record for the last wicket of 130 in 66 minutes before being caught by Noble off Saunders 13 short of the triple.

However, when Australia began their second innings 292 runs behind the visitors, Foster’s great innings was eclipsed by one from Victor Trumper  who, batting at Number 5 (quelle surprise!) made a sensational 185.

Although time-bound readers of this blog will not have seen Victor Trumper bat, it is just possible that they will have come close to that experience if they have been fortunate enough to see Michael Clarke bat today.

Light and quick of foot. Check. Wonderful front foot driving. Check. Deft cuts. Check. Savage cuts. Check. Infectious enjoyment. Check. Mastery. Check. The ability to make the sunshine on a cloudy day. Check.

Trumper reached his hundred in 94 minutes.

The written-off Ricky Ponting wrote himself back in with an innings of 134, which on any other day would have deserved a piece to itself, but as Foster discovered nearly 110 years ago, even a very good innings can be totally eclipsed.

One supposes that the only thing that could possibly trump (sorry) a big-triple from Clarke would be Tendulka scoring that hundredth hundred.

If Third Man was MS Dhoni, he’d bat the little master at number 5 to make sure.

N.B. Prior to Clar*e’s innings today, an Australian’s top Test score at the SCG was Doug Walter’s 242 v the West Indies in 1969 ,batting – you guessed it – number 5.

 India 191: Australia 482/4 (116.0 ov) Australia lead by 291 runs with 6 wickets remaining in the 1st innings

* Thanks GT.

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Test Cricket’s Damaged DNA: Nurture and Nature After IPL exposure

Beneath a hole in the ozone layer created by excessive use of CFCsIPLs and the carcenogenic consequences of exposure to intense T20 radiation, India were bowled out cheaply again in Test match conditions outside the sub-continent. 

A cancer has set in leaving India all out for 191 in 59.3 overs at the Sydney Cricket Ground today.  More importantly, it lays bare the realization that, with much of Test cricket’s DNA  now damaged and mutated, this failure surprises very few.

The big matches over the last couple of months in South Africa and now in Australia  had already brought into the light of day the damage done to the genetic code of almost all of the Test playing nations.

Those batsmen with greatest exposure to T20 and the least experience of Test cricket to fall back on are looking woeful.  Add a lack of Test match practice and some drop in form among the old guard and the batting of these teams is looking sick.

Bravo to The Bowlers’ Club of Australia whose morale is sky high and still mounting. 

Today the new boy Pattinson followed up his ‘fifer’ at the MCG with the wickets of four of present game’s top batsmen: Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulka and Laxman.   But his generous praise for Siddle and Hilfenhaus, when accepting MOTM in Melbourne, inspired his partners to three wickets each – a perfect outcome for the unit.  

Then Zaheer Khan put Australia’s youngsters under the microscope, cruelly exposing first the specialized DNA of Warner – over and out for 8 in the first six balls with a strike rate of 133.33 and plenty of time ahead of him in the dressing room to give his mind a rest; secondly Marsh – first ball ‘nough said, and thirdly Cowan lbw for 16.

Then, Ponting and Clark, who learnt their game BT20 (Before Twenty20), took the score on from a sunburned 37 for 3 to a sunscreened 116 for 3.

Practice, practice, practice. Get it right and the best behaviour is engrained. But practice makes permanent – mistakes and mutations.

The following are all-too-easy questions to answer: What happens when the life-form is exposed to two very different environments?  What happens if nurture alters nature, accelerating the adaptive process? And why should cricket worry about that?

England, the reigning champs of  Test cricket, may have already become the fortunate beneficiaries of their northern niche which is less suited to exposure on the sun blest beaches of the IPL. 

Excluded Pakistan, if they, their administrators and their politicians can rid themselves of their addiction to nefarious practices on and off the field, could become world beaters thanks to their life in the shadows.

In cricket, as in life, evolution produces specialization. And when nurture infects nature, the process is accelerated.   Specialisation is a huge gamble. 

After winning the toss, India 191 all out; Australia 116/ 3

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