Stephen Brenkley: India's Sixties revival a complete turn-off
What should India have done? Backed themselves as they had in Chennai
Tuesday 23 December 2008
For most of the afternoon in the second Test yesterday it was somnolent stuff. Events proceeded at such a pace that it was as if the early-morning smog which had enveloped the ground and its environs had stifled all ambition.
It was like a County Championship match of yore: the batsmen batted and the bowlers bowled, more occasionally the fielders fielded, but not much happened. Nobody was making anything happen.
On a day such as this it would have been impossible to have an argument with the late, great Brazil midfielder, Didi, who coined the original phrase about football being the beautiful game. Coming from where he did he could have been forgiven his error – Test cricket is the paradigm of beautiful games – but had he been in Chandigarh yesterday he would have been justified in wondering what the fuss was about.
Coming after two of the greatest run chases of all time, it was especially mystifying. In the first 38 overs of their second innings India scored 80 runs. True, they had lost three wickets but between the 29th and 38th overs they added 17 runs.
If India could successfully pursue 387 in Chennai one week in December and South Africa could hunt down 414 in Perth in the next, then what was this about? But then, maybe those matches were to blame.
India, recognising that just about anything was possible as they themselves had so poignantly demonstrated, were not about to give their opponents a sniff. If they could make 387 in 98 overs, then why not England? Well, lots of reasons probably, but they were not part of India's thought processes.
They were also resorting to another dictum, fashioned in Test cricket long before last week. This says that what you have you hold. What India had was a 1-0 lead in the series and they did not see there was any obligation to take a semblance of a risk which might make that vulnerable.
If it had always been an undeniable feature of the longest form of the game – in 1981-82 India won the first Test against England and ensured the next five were draws by slow batting, slow over rates and slow pitches – it is also one which will do it no good in the 21st century. In truth, it was always pointlessly daft, as anybody brought up on the meandering draws that formed such a large part of the Test landscape in the 1960s can testify.
The other excesses of that decade completely passed Tests by. It is said that if you remember the Sixties you were not there. In the case of followers of international cricket you have to do something, anything to forget and it would not be entirely surprising to learn that several Test aficionados took hallucinatory drugs in an attempt to achieve that objective.
Of the 184 Test matches played in the fab decade, 88 were drawn. Contrast that with this decade so far in which there have been 97 draws – but in 419 matches. When India were not going about their business yesterday you could sense the Twenty20 merchants gleefully straightening noses put out of joint by those recent Tests.
What should India have done? Backed themselves as they had did in Chennai. Taken the game to England and instilled further doubt in their opponents' minds as the breath of fresh air that is Yuvraj Singh at last did in the evening. Attendances at this match, especially after the derring-do of Chennai, have been disappointing. Those who turned up will have scant reason to want to return until Twenty20 is back in town.
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