Sydney Test: Indian skippers too need to be blamed, says Ian Chappell
From operating from round-the-wicket to left-handed batsmen in Adelaide to changing bowlers after a one-over spell at SCG, there has been some strange Indian captaincy, writes Ian Chappell
Sydney: The general consensus is this Indian Test side will be challenging the best in the world in 12 months time when the players gain a bit more experience.
MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli during the third Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground last month. Pic/Getty Images
A number of things will need to change if that is to become reality. India is far ahead of all cricket nations in producing skillful, technically solid young batsmen; they're the envy of even the stronger countries like Australia and South Africa. However, when it comes to captaincy, bowling and close catching India has a lot of ground to make up.
Part of the prediction regarding India's future is based on the number of bowlers who can deliver at more than 140 kph. That's the easiest part — the difficult art is to deliver them in such a way they provide the best chance of dismissing top-class batsman. At the moment there's far too much inconsistency in line and length to regularly trouble the best batsmen.
Pace is good when it's delivered accurately but when it arrives in a haphazard fashion it offers batsmen easy scoring opportunities and consequently less likelihood of a wicket. This Indian side has conceded in excess of five hundred runs in each Australian first innings, which is not a recipe for winning Test matches.
Whilst this might sound like the fault of the bowlers this is far from the truth. The two captains — MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli — have contributed to this dismal showing.
From the insane tactic of consistently operating from round-the-wicket to the left-handed batsmen in Adelaide, to changing bowlers after a one over spell at the SCG, there has been some strange Indian captaincy in this series. Too often Kohli has displayed an impatience that translates into bowlers becoming frantic to take wickets and that can end up a costly exercise.
Kohli's not short of ideas, which is good for a captain but he needs to tailor them to produce consistently accurate bowling that relies more on patience than nuclear blast type ambushes. Dhoni has a tendency to run out of ideas quickly when captaining Tests away from India.
His plan B is based on bouncing batsmen out with two fielders in the deep on the leg-side, a very rare method of dismissal and often an expensive one. It also isn't conducive to grooming consistently accurate bowlers. Both captains tend to place defensive fields too early in a Test.
This tactic relies on the batsman committing hari-kari and the really good players don't succumb. Regularly in this series Steve Smith and David Warner have gratefully accepted the gifts on offer and predictably accumulated huge aggregates. It seems strange that Indian captains have difficulty finding ways to dismiss good batsmen on true surfaces. The conditions they often experience at home should be perfect training for tactics devised to suit accurate bowling to strategically set fields.
To succeed at Test level bowlers need to maintain accuracy under attack from good batsmen. Ravi Ashwin is the lone bowler in the Indian side who has learned that lesson and the faster bowlers need to follow his example. Ashwin has performed well but he hasn't been helped by his close fielders who lack the anticipation you'd expect from Indian close catchers.
Sure India had some great spinners in the past but they were complemented by great close catching from the likes of Eknath Solkar and company. 'Ekky' would be appalled at the lack of anticipation being shown by the close fielders when Ashwin is operating.
These frailties need to be addressed before India can expect to challenge for the top ranking in Test cricket. The blame for some of these failings will be placed on the amount of short form cricket that is played in, and by Indian cricketers.
However, this argument doesn't hold up when you consider short form cricket hasn't adversely affected the standard of batting. India has shown again and again in Australia that you can't win Test matches by good batting alone.