The Art of Old Fashioned Batting
Welcoming the Summer of Cricket and Carnatic Music, to start with.
Been idle, keeping those Cricketing thoughts and musical musings stacked away in the cupboard. Come by the Adelaide Test, one is reminded of how fascinating Cricket is, particularly Test Cricket. The opening day and second day of the First Test in Adelaide were played in sweltering heat of 40 plus degrees between two competitive teams, followed by completely different conditions on Day three.
I was watching the Ashes series at the Adelaide Oval same time last year, and the conditions were cold and blistery, to say the least. Gusts of wind blowing, with the ball seaming around under the lights – thankfully, the Indians did not encounter such conditions in Adelaide this year.
The opening Test Match of a Summer of Cricket in Australia is always an exciting prospect for Cricket lovers. Adelaide as the venue makes it even more special, with the lovely, picturesque ground, flanked on one side by the Cathedral and the river on the other, is one of the most beautiful Cricket venues in the World. This is also the home of the great Sir Donald Bradman, who moved from Bowral to Adelaide to further his Cricketing dreams.
In recent times, however, we have often seen players ‘throwing’ away their wickets – call it flamboyance, natural instinct to attack or whatever. As Cricket pundits, we always give them a lot of flak for playing in a reckless manner, but what we often overlook, is the mindset which is required for a quality Test Cricketer.
Not that I have played a Test Match to know how a Test Cricketer thinks, but then it is after all, a mind game too. We respect players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sunny Gavaskar, Geoffrey Boycott, who all had a common trait – the mental make up and determination to stay at the wicket and put a price on their wicket. The old saying goes, that if you stay at the wicket long enough, the runs will flow. It is not as easy as it sounds, though. What is required is application and an attitude to grind it out.
This is what we call the old fashioned Batting style. The determination to stay at the wicket, placing a premium on your wicket is a virtue, and thus dubbed an Art. Today, the players are known for their attacking instinct and ability to score quickly. What really sets the great Test players apart, is the fact that they can graft runs and show patience. Most times, in Test Matches, the ability to stay at the wicket, and getting the scoreboard ticking is of paramount importance.
That is why the concentration and incredible determination shown by Cheteshwar Pujara in the first innings of the Adelaide Test is worth its weight in Gold!! He not only ensured that India creep upto a total which gave the bowlers a total to defend, but also dented the Australian confidence to an extent, that they managed to eke out a 15 run lead in the first innings. He was the epitome of concentration, was unfazed by the quality of the opposition attack and was oblivious to the conditions or the state of the wicket. All he had on his mind, was to stay out there and ensure that he took India to a total with a semblance of respectability.
The First Test Match almost always sets the tone for the rest of the series, making it very difficult for the team which has lost the first test to come back from behind to win the series, particularly for visiting teams. Let me add, more so, in Australia. The home advantage is so huge, that this cannot be overlooked or discounted. That is why the innings which Pujara played on the first day of the series is so important in the context of the entire Test series.
One may argue that this is a depleted Aussie batting line up, but this is by no means a bad bowling attack. Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Lyon in the line up poses a significant threat to the batters in the opposition camp. The way he is batting in the second innings of the Test proves that his mindset is the same, after a first innings hundred. These are the types of players which the country wants, not players who are ‘immensely talented’ on paper, but hardly ever deliver! This is almost putting the country before self, while taking on the burden of being the backbone of the batting line up.
Well, what do you call the selectors? There is Karun Nair, who has hardly played a Test match after a triple hundred, while Hanuma Vihari who hails from the same state as the Chairman of selectors, gets the nod ahead of Karun. He has played six tests in all, then MSK Prasad asks him to go back and make runs in the Ranji Trophy again.
So this is what happens when one grabs opportunities with both hands. He gets dropped from the side, very much similar to Pujara getting dropped for the First Test against England in Birmingham earlier this year. Sadly, that is the state of Indian selection policies, where they never look at the pedigree of the player, but various other considerations come into play. Otherwise, how does one justify the inclusion of players like KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma consistently, when there are others knocking the door, with impressive credentials.
Very often, the other batsmen get eclipsed by that brilliant batsman, King Kohli. But here is one occasion, when CP has put his hand up and made it count for his side!
One does hope that the innings in Adelaide is a defining one for Pujara, and he continues his run-making and the selectors do give him more opportunities to do so.
Hoping that the Indians go on to win the Adelaide Test and go in with their tails up and noses in front, as they move to Western Australia to take the Aussies on in Perth.