There are moments as a sportsman, when you feel nothing has gone your way, in spite of giving your best shot. The entire Indian cricket team must be going through precisely these emotions. Throughout the Sydney test, they were undone by a series of glaring and not so glaring umpiring errors. The mistake of adjudging Ricky Ponting out when he was not was the only “wrong” decision that went in their favour. But to say that it was the umpires that handed victory to Australia, one that equals the record for most consecutive test wins, would mean that we wont be giving enough credit to the players who fought it out in the middle- players from both sides who helped make it a memorable test match.
So, amidst all the allegations – some of which border on the ridiculous- about the umpires, let us have a closer look at the match. India pretty much dominated the first two sessions of play, having Australia on the mat at 134/6. But, Andrew Symonds combined brilliantly with the tail to post a fighting total on the scoreboard. True, he got a couple of decisions in his favour, but he made them count in a big way.
The second Innings of the match was filled with absolute quality. VVS Laxman dished out the sort of strokeplay that makes batting look ridiculously easy. His century was brilliantly backed up by one from the little master, Sachin Tendulkar. The combined efforts of these two stalwarts, along with a few half centuries, meant that India finished the second innings with a lead of about 70.
Australia showed why they are the best side in the world by some superb batting in the third innings. Centuries by Hayden and Hussey- something that seems to have been lost in all the frenzy- ensured that the Aussies were never going to lose the game. This set a precedent for a declaration, albeit a late one by the skipper.
Drama unfolded in the fourth innings of the match. All India had to do was bat out 73 overs. However, the fifth day wicket proved to be too much for the vaunted line-up. True, there were some errors of judgment by the umpires, but the inability of this side to bat out to save games in the fourth innings surfaced yet again, something that has haunted us for a long time. In the end, the Aussies won with just 7 balls remaining.
Now the Aussie juggernaught will roll on to Perth. The conditions there will suit their play, and the Indians will have to come up with the goods, or run the risk of falling by the wayside yet again. They do have a practice game coming up at Canberra, and they should take full advantage of it to test some players on the basis of form and fitness. One good news is that Rahul Dravid looks like he’s hitting form now, something that the Indians have dearly missed. Here’s hoping that we get a good, fair and hard fought game at Perth.