A new star has stepped onto the stage of international cricket and his name is Shakib Al Hasan. He plays for Bangladesh and he is in the process of playing his side to an historic Test victory against New Zealand. OK, OK – it might look like I’m putting off talking about that other match but I’ll get to that. Perhaps you thought the new star was going to be Amit Mishra… Of course, he is a star but please allow me to give some details of Shakib’s performance. After Bangladesh posted a humble first innings of 245, Shakib wiped out the Kiwis taking 7/36, giving the Bangers a useful lead. Then, as so often happens, Bangladesh look set to flush it all away, teetering at 5/71. Shakib came to the centre and posted a very well made 71, putting Bangladesh in a very good position. And three cheers for Dan Vettori. Thus far, he has taken 5/59 & 4/39 and scored 55 not out.
Now back to that other item of Antipodean misery. India is about to put the cleaners through Australia. I spoke to Jayendra in the lunch room this morning and he thought it would be a draw. Relax man – it is in the bag. India has outplayed Australia in every area, except perhaps running between the wickets. The opening bowlers and batsmen have been palpably better. India’s aging middle order have licked their lips and pinned the ears back. The records have tumbled. On the whole, Australia’s experience players have failed and the new bloods have struggled.
Amongst all of this, amid all the talk of the changing world order, I would like to suck in a few deep breaths and offer some perspective. While the Indians have been impressive and the Australians have been the opposite, I think we should look at the bigger picture. India is not an easy place to win. Australia has won a series in India just once in the last 40 years. I see quite some parallels between this series and 1998, when Mark Taylor lead a strong team to India for a three Test series. Australia started the first Test well, as they have done this tour. They took the first innings points and shocked India, dismissing them cheaply. Even Gavin Robertson took four wickets. At the time, I wondered whether Australia would be so lucky again. Turns out, I was right. India murdered Australia in its next three innings and took the series away from Australia.
Don’t get me wrong – Australia has problems but India is not necessarily the barometer of long term prospects. Australia has suffered from injury. The spinning stocks are low and the best of a bad lot had to go home. Stuart Clark’s injury was a great blow. Haddin needs to step up in the batting – he has disappointed in his brief career thus far. And Watson. I’m not a believer yet. Not by a long way. But credit where credit is due – he has performed well and can hold his head high.
I’m not even writing Australia off for this series but it is hard to see them coming back. I think the batting will improve. I just don’t see how they are going to take 20 wickets, with this attack, in these conditions. I don’t think the captain is going to help. Australia is behind the eight ball and they need leadership that is bright, creative and innovative. We didn’t see these attributes in 2005 and I don’t know that we will see it in 2008. Can somebody please explain why Simon Katich has not yet bowled a ball this series?