The defensive drift

India's conservative tactics are a departure from the aggression and confidence of the Ganguly era.


Sehwag's continued spell in Sydney showed India's lack of intent.If bowlers can’t execute plans well, a word or two could possibly bring them back on track. Instead, the wicketkeeper, in this case, the captain himself, with his drooping shoulders and a passive look, seems he has already given up. The message to the bowler, thus is, “Keep bowling the proverbial, you have protection” and a single off the pads on the leg-side becomes numerically better than three streaky edges for four through the slip cordon.

Worse, nothing else could pardon India’s lack of intensity. At Sydney, on Day 1, with nine overs to go till close, India’s bowlers were simply ambling in when you can certainly expect a Peter Siddle or a Dale Steyn to charge in. But Dhoni let Virender Sehwag (a part-timer) with two overs left. Why?

Equally, where is the tactical preparation for an important tour? Where are those specific plans? If India’s think-tank sat down and watched carefully how England defeated Australia (comprehensively, at that) in the Ashes, they’d have noticed two clear things. Firstly, Andrew Strauss took the attack to the opposition — at no point did England seem out of place, tactically. Aggressive fields with a relentless bowling attack made for an impeccably feisty combination, and that’s all it takes.

Secondly, every single time they had Australia on the mat, they just seized the moment, initiative and blunted every possibility of a counter attack. Ditto for South Africa when they won in 2008. When you look at how teams have tended to beat Australia away from home, it’s a fairly simple mantra — attack, attack, attack, and hey, it bloody works.


Can India tactically evolve themselves into a more aggressive team under Dhoni? Possibly. How do we go about doing that?

First and foremost, shed that formula that works expertly in the subcontinent and looks out of place overseas. Secondly, irrespective of whatever the score is, keep attacking for longer periods of time before spreading the field (if you have to). Attacking fields not just keep the bowlers and the batsmen interested, but to a large point, reinforce a certain degree of faith that the captain has in his bowler’s abilities (which are not bad).

And critically, there’s a great deal of communication that the captain must resort to. Yes, these aren’t kids who’re playing for a school team, but when something’s not going their way, it’s definitely worth a quiet pat on the back with a reminder of what is expected out of those bowlers.

If India continue to be bullheaded and prefer staying on the defensive overseas, we'd go back a decade and two. In short, India are on their way to returning to the 1990s.


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