Thursday, 3 April, 2008

Demons of the Mind

Vijaysingh Madhavji Thackersey a.k.a. Vijay Merchant, was considered as India’s best ‘all weather’, ‘all wicket’ batsman in the 30s and 40s. No wonder, when he led the Indian side to England in 1946, he scored an incredible 2385 runs at an astonishing average of 74, in what was considered as one of the wettest summer in England.

It is interesting to know how one of the most technically accomplished batsmen approached his game. Says Merchant, “When I played cricket I never had a plan of action when going out to bat. As a matter of fact I never gave any thought to the match itself and went in to bat with a clear mind and perhaps an empty mind. And because there was no plan in my mind I concentrated 100% - not 99%.”

If one has to find a fault with Indian batsmen for their pathetic performance on day one at Motera, then it has to be the way in which they approached this match. The image of a verdant green pitch played in their minds over and over again. They allowed themselves to get so overawed by the incessant talk pertaining to the nature of pitch that they ended up fighting the demons, more in their minds than on the twenty two yards strip.

After scoring over 600 runs in the previous test, one would have expected India to shut out any discussion concerning the wicket and concentrate solely on the job at hand. Instead, as a result of this needless ambiguity, it was the Indian team that looked more ruffled, going into the match, than the visitors.

Having said that, it would be unfair to go hammer and tongs at the players for one bad day (read session) on the field. After all, the same team had performed admirably well in Australia and before that, in England.

But the same cannot be said about the authorities in charge of preparing wickets. This series was played on the back of a hugely successful one in Australia and the public interest in the game was at an all time high. Instead of encashing on this golden opportunity and making test cricket more popular, they have managed to wean the common man further away from test matches.

If Chennai track was disastrously docile, the one at Motera threatened to go the Wankhede way, albeit briefly, when India was batting.

Already the South Africans have a vice like grip on this test. If Indian team is harbouring any hopes to make a match of it from this position, some one needs to play the role of Vijay Merchant, who, while returning to pavilion after scoring 250 runs in a first class match said, “My concentration slackened just a bit, else I could have easily carried on.”

Arise, Sir Rahul!

8 comments:

Soulberry said...

I wonder why veterans of many battles carry demons. One could have expected youngsters to have some tentativeness.

The biggest difference is the complete failure of bowlers to even stay close to their counterparts in the opposition.

Chennai was horrendous, but I'm not so upset with this one. Kumble also had the advantage of winning the toss and if the demons were already deep rooted in his peers, then he could have very well opted to bowl first. I'm sure SA might have been on the verge of declaration by now, if it had transpired so.

Straight Point said...

CG

its for sure that they overcooked the pitch in thier mind a bit...

but in a way...i am happy that it happened to india on seaming track...

i could well imagine the cry all over if the same thing would have happened to SA on spinning track on day one...

like what we were discussing the other day...

scorpicity said...

whoa CG... back from hibernation for the summer... good good... Yeah they totally lost it in their mind. I echo Soulberry here... if it was the pitch, they should have bowled and rightly, the Indian fast bowlers were pathetic... absolutely no effort shown.

Cricket Guru said...

SB, SP, Scorpi,

Once the batting folded for 76, it was never easy for the bowlers to strike back.

Had the Indian think tank/ground authorities consciously prepared a track that suited fast bowlers from the beginning of this series, it could have been a different story altogether.

Coming on the back of Chennai test, I think no one was ready for this nasty surprise at Motera. Sometimes even the most battle hardened palyers need to get into a particular mindset to perform at their optimal best.

But I agree with you, this was an aberration and I would not be heavily critical of the team, despite the margin of defeat.

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