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Have you ever entered a movie theatre with the eager anticipation normally seen in a 5-year-old? The movie is slated to be a big blockbuster and not without good reason. It has an ace production house behind it; superstars have been cast in all the lead roles; the director is a household name and the promos and songs have you going into a tizzy. You get into your seat, not without the popcorn of course. The lights are dimmed and the credits roll. But by the time the interval sets in, you can’t wait for it to end.
The Sydney Test and indeed India’s last six Tests overseas have been much like that. Like ‘Raavan’ –that was meant to Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus or ‘Kites’ – that was predicted to turn Hrithik Roshan into an international star. They promised so much, but delivered so little.
The Sydney Cricket Ground in its historic 100th Test saw an average of more than 30,000 people turn up each day. Sure, the locals there must be delighted that their team won and that they were able to witness a triple ton from Clarke. They would however feel cheated to have missed out on seeing a contest. That is what they paid for. That is what they were assured of.
India cave in
Day 4 of the Sydney Test eventually ended in predictable fashion. India were bowled out for a total of 400 and lost the 2nd Test by an innings and 68 runs margin. This means Australia are 2-0 up in the series with two more Tests to go.
The day began with Sachin giving up the defensive intent he had adopted on Thursday evening. He started off with some sweetly timed shots to the square boundary. Just as the partnership between him and Gambhir started to look good, Clarke brought in Peter Siddle who lured Gambhir into a leading edge that went into the hands of David Warner when he was on 83.
Tendulkar ultimately fell for 80, to some turn from Man-of-the-Match Michael Clarke. The ball bounced off the gloves of keeper Brad Hadding into the obliging hands of Michael Hussey at first slip. His dismissal sparing his fans the pain of having to celebrate his hundredth international century in such a humiliating losing cause.
Laxman shook off his poor form to score some runs before being done in by a beauty from Hilfenhaus that clipped his off-stump when he was on 66.
After that it was just a matter of time, as wickets continued to tumble. Skipper Dhoni and Virat Kohli departed in quick succession. Zaheer Khan joined hands with Ashwin and hit some lusty blows to take the game past tea. Ashwin in his 76-ball 62 looked more confident than most of the other Indian batsmen. His top edge to Nathon Lyon gave Hilfenhaus his fifth wicket for the innings, ended the game and saw the Aussies rejoice their win in a huddle with cheers all around.
India have a week to go before the third Test begins in Perth. In the interim there will be a few tough decisions made. Some former cricketers and experts are making a case to include both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma into the XI, at the cost of one of the seniors. Their argument is that India needs to look to the future.
The number 6 spot hasn’t had a fixed occupant in over three years since Ganguly’s retirement. India tried out Yuvraj and Raina without success, Pujara had to make way due to injury and Kohli hasn’t yet come up with a big knock. Kohli’s place is already being questioned as well, but as he clearly is talented and has been earmarked as someone for the future then it makes sense to give him definite time frame to prove himself without the threat of being dropped.
Rohit Sharma meanwhile looks ready to make his Test debut and his style of batting may be what India needs on a pitch like the one in Perth.
Day 3: Clarke's feat helps Australia close in on India