SCG Test: Clarke the differentiator

The IMPACT INDEX for the Sydney Test showed Australia were miles ahead of India.


Observations:

It is not so common to see a single player dominate a match so emphatically, as the Australian captain did. Clarke was the highest impact player in the match (Match IMPACT 9.81*). His batting performance of 329 not out in 468 balls had everything – he built big partnerships, but before that, even absorbed considerable pressure – when Australia was tottering at 37 for 3. He had a Batting IMPACT of 8.36* that made for 85% of his impact of his impact in the match (he also bowled, fielded and of course, led the side).

The next highest impact batsman for Australia was Ponting – with a Batting IMPACT of 4.06, less than half of Clarke’s. Meanwhile, Hussey’s impact was less than half of Ponting’s, despite making more runs. This may seem bizarre but there is a simple explanation. Ponting made 134 while Hussey made an unbeaten 150, but Ponting’s impact is far greater on the match because of the circumstances they were made in. He walked in at 8 for 2, which would become 37 for 3, before Clarke and he turned the match on its head. When Ponting finally got out at 325 (which is when Hussey came in), Australia’s domination was already considerable (a lead of 134). Hussey’s contribution put the screws on India but it values up to a Batting IMPACT of just 1.70 in the context of the match – a good indicator of how Impact Index works.

Hilfenhaus, for the second consecutive time in the series, had the highest bowling impact in the match (Bowling IMPACT 4.46) followed by Pattinson (3.54). While Pattinson delivered the highest Bowling IMPACT innings of 3.34 in the match on the first day (4 for 43), he failed to have much influence in the second innings (1 for 106), Hilfenhaus managed to perform in both the innings (3 for 51 in the first and 5 for 106 in the second).

Both the bowlers had Pressure-Building IMPACT in the first innings (Pattinson for the wickets of Sehwag and Laxman to reduce India to 59 for 4 from 55 for 2, Hilfenhaus for wickets of Ashwin, Zaheer and Sharma to reduced India to 186-8 from 178-6) while Hilfenhaus also had Economy IMPACT from his tight bowling in the first innings where he gave away just 51 runs in his 22 overs.

India’s batting failure was much graver than that in Melbourne as only two batsmen had a Batting IMPACT of over 1. Tendulkar’s 41 runs (1st innings) and 80 runs (2nd innings) earned him a Batting IMPACT of 1.33 while Gambhir’s 0 and 83 earned him a Batting IMPACT of 1.07.

The Indian bowling also was a failure except for Zaheer’s effort of 3 for 122 (Bowling IMPACT 2.41). His effort on the first day to reduce Australia to 37 for 3 had a Pressure Building IMPACT and was certainly the only positive moment for India in the match.

There is now no doubt that Dhoni is out-of-his-depth when it comes to Test captaincy. His propensity to wait for things to happen (which has worked so well for him in limited-overs cricket) cannot get him the benefit-of-doubt as it did in England (when a strong case of exhaustion could be made).

Lyon was the only player to have a negative impact for Australia in the match (Match IMPACT -0.18*). Three bowlers from India had a negative IMPACT on the match – Yadav, Ashwin and Sharma.

It is one of the great mysteries of modern-day cricket that Ishant Sharma does not get affected for repeatedly producing low impact bowling performances. His potential (that is seen vividly when he bowls the good balls) seems to overpower his much more regular displays of mediocre bowling (largely due to indiscipline and a seeming lack of focus). For the umpteenth time this year, Sharma had a low impact showing – overall, going below zero impact in this match.    

However, the real reason for India’s thrashing here is not the bowlers. It is true the conditions here were not for bowlers – and India desperately misses the services of Praveen Kumar, much like they missed Zaheer Khan in England, just so two bowlers could bowl tightly in tandem – however, the onus has to rest on the highly fancied Indian batsman.

Contrary to how some are seeing India’s 2nd innings batting performance, it was not at all a sign of a fight. In the first Indian innings, the pitch at least gave some assistance to the bowlers, but in the second innings, it was a gutless display of unforced errors by the batsmen, on a pitch giving no assistance to bowlers. Dravid did get a very good ball (his style of defensive play, right through his career curiously, has always brought out the best in bowlers) but being bowled four times in a row is not a good sign for him.

Whether it’s the sell-by date which has been missed (combined with a lack of ability in the newer generation to play sustainable Test cricket) or it is just an unfortunate synchronised winding-down of a legendary batting line-up – time will tell, but India does look ominously out of the series as they did against England at the half-way stage then. This does look like a 0-4 rout as of now. When even someone like Glenn McGrath is making correct predictions, something has to be so obviously wrong that it is unlikely to be fixed in the short run. So, this defeat could well be the end of an era for Indian cricket – or should we wait just one more match before writing-off players of such pedigree?

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