India-Australia 2008 Series, Nagpur Test Day 4
Today was probably one of the wackiest days of test cricket one would see in a long time! The see-saws in fortunes every session…the individual brilliance of a Sehwag inning…the gritty partnership of Dhoni and Harbhajan…some inspired bowling by Watson…but last but not the least, some weird, inexplicable, incomprehensible decision making by Ponting!
This article from the Sydney Morning Herald by Peter Roebuck summarizes the enigma of Ponting decision making pretty well, “What on the earth was he thinking”.
I watched the post lunch and post tea sessions live. Everyone was simply awe-struck by Ponting’s decision to bowl the part-timers to make up the over-rate. Allan Border was so aghast, he could barely speak in his commentator’s role -:) The co-commentator, Laxman Shivaramakrishnan kept prodding him a little…but eventually gave up and changed the topic! The Australian contingent in the commentator box was at a complete loss to understand Ponting’s thinking.
Finally after being in the commentator chair for 15 minutes, Border started speaking something. One of his comments was quite revealing – I don’t remember it verbatim, but it goes something like this…” I hope Ponting cannot read my mind…because if he does, he is going to be a very unhappy man when he realizes what I am thinking about him…”
The only explanation the experts could come up with was that Ponting was being pressurized to increase the over-rate and had already been warned a few times in this series. If the default continued, per ICC rules – he faced the risk of being banned for the next test against New Zealand. No one could understand why he was trying to avoid this ban when the option to win the test and retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy was very much there!
All in all, it was a pretty amazing turn of events in each session. Before lunch – India on top. Before tea – India in doldrums at 166/6; Aussies elated and sensing a real chance at victory…then after tea – these bizarre turn of events by Ponting!
We shouldn’t take credit away from Dhoni and Harbhajan for their great partnership. With 370 odd to get on the final day, it looks really difficult for Australia now…but one can never say never. We will find out tomorrow!
If Australia loses or the game ends in a draw, I am sure this test will be talked about for a long long time.
One more point – games like these really drive me towards test cricket. It is a chess game out there. The 3rd day’s play was a master stroke by Dhoni. When was the last time Aussies were contained under 2 runs an over for a whole day? In the process getting all-down? The 8-1 field and persistent bowling outside the off-stump can look boring for the 20-20 fans; but in my view, has a completely different type of entertainment quality to it!
Maybe in some future blog-post, I will discuss why I still like test cricket, as much as the newer varieties. Till that time, as usual feedback, comments and suggestions are most welcome.