Cricket Column: Forgive Kohli and Kumble? Not until Team India walk the talk at Bangalore

Sports Wednesday 01/March/2017 15:24 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: Forgive Kohli and Kumble? Not until Team India walk the talk at Bangalore

The appalling thick layer of dismissiveness about the Australian victory in the post-humiliation response from Anil Kumble and the apparent arrogance in the way Virat Kohli tried to rubbish Steve O’Keefe’s match-winning performance have given a mysterious flavour to the Bangalore Test.
At stake for India in the second Test is more than what Kohli and Kumble could handle with cockiness. Even a draw will be a huge tick for Australia and a win in any fashion — lucky, narrow, or unfair — by the visitors will leave Kohli and Kumble with rotten egg on their face.
For the first time in the last two years of their Test history, India seem to look vulnerable and short of ideas. The home team’s trusted weapon for all seasons, which is the notorious dustbowl that kicks up mud and produces turn right from day one, looks too risky to find a place on the list of options available for the Indian team.
After the sort of debacle they tasted at Pune, it’s unlikely that the team would want a square turner at a crucial stage of the series. That brings the options down to just two: a completely flat pitch or a proper Test pitch.
A flat pitch may help Indian players to bat themselves back to confidence which may help the team to avoid another defeat. In that case, a draw is more likely than a result, which would have been all right for India if it were the first match of the series or if they weren’t already one-down.
A proper Indian Test pitch that begins to wear down from day four may be the best option for India under the circumstances. It’s an idea that worked against New Zealand and England.
Kohli said after the Pune defeat that he had never spoken to anybody for the kind of pitch he got for the first Test. That may be true, but contrasting reports about the pitch hinted at the possibility of a deliberate attempt, not necessarily by Kohli but by others, certainly, to make it look and behave the way it did.
“Ask Daljit” — that was how Maharashtra Cricket Association curator Pandurang Salgaonkar initially reacted to the pitch posers.
Later, he said BCCI’s chief curator Daljit Singh had asked them a day before the match to remove the grass which “deteriorated the pitch”.
Salgaonkar talked about “flying balls” a few days before the start of the match and BCCI intervention resulted in flying dust, so it’s again local politics that plotted the Indian downfall.
O’Kefee was just lucky to be there to put a spin on the murky drama.
While the options for Kumble and Kohli are fewer in case of pitch, they are restricted in other areas by their stubborn insistence on doling out rewards for past performances. They need to think of ways to bolster batting, and one way to do that is to bring on board a specialist batsman.
Triple centurion Karun Nair has been warming the bench since scoring 303 two months ago through no fault of his own.
Ajinkya Rahane is seriously short of confidence and, under the circumstances, he’s not the sort of guy who could steady the ship when Kohli flounders and sinks early in the innings. Rahane may come good soon, maybe at Bangalore, but India cannot leave things to chance at the moment.
Nair could come in even without dropping Rahane if that choice is painful, but someone, maybe Jayant Yadav, has to make way for him.
It’s batting that bothered India at Pune and the best bet to get things right is Kohli. He will have to lead from the front while India bat. It’s too much to expect him to get going the way he normally does in every match, but at Bangalore that’s the first thing India need to make sure.
If Kohli falls cheaply, it’s going to be a massive boost for Australia that could inspire the visitors into doing things they haven’t even thought of.
The failure of the Indian spinners on a slow pitch was also the failure of the Indian strategists to read the game as it unfolded.
Ravindra Jadeja, who normally gets the guys with balls that stay straight, failed because he was focused on the roughs outside off stump. The balls hit the rough and turned viciously, but the Australians had done their homework well not to bother much about the awesome turn.
The balls eventually spun past the bat. How Kumble failed to spot things and send a message across to Kohli so Jadeja could be asked to bowl a middle and leg line that offered possibilities of batsmen playing and missing and getting out either being bowled or trapped plumb is baffling.
The Australian victory could be attributed to many things, from great planning to brilliant execution of plans to clever bowling, but it was their untiring desire to win that got them the result.
Smith was dropped on 23, 29, 37, 60 and 67. He was let off on 73 because Kohli had no review left to overturn the umpire’s wrong call on an lbw shout.
Luck seemed to favour the Australian captain no matter what the Indian bowlers tried until he reached the milestone. Smith wanted it, and all the universe conspired in helping him to achieve it. Does Paulo Coelho watch cricket?
A team beaten in their own backyard inside three days of a Test match could still send out a message to the rivals that they are not down or out, but they should do that after giving the devil his due. A graceful acceptance of defeat should have preceded the Indian chest-thumping.
Forgive? Not until they walk the talk.

(The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman)