After Bangalore Test, Australia’s DRS success rate has dropped considerably: Wriddhiman Saha

Saha had a rewarding season, as he scored 646 runs including three centuries in 14 Tests, besides accounting for 37 dismissals. Partha Paul Saha had a rewarding season, as he scored 646 runs including three centuries in 14 Tests, besides accounting for 37 dismissals. Partha Paul

A clean-shaven Wriddhiman Saha looked even leaner as he parked his Toyota Fortuner at the Cricket Association of Bengal portico and headed to the gym at the Eden Gardens. A long home season is over but an IPL with Kings XI Punjab beckons. Saha has grown immensely as a cricketer over the last eight-odd months — starting in the Caribbean— during which he scored 646 runs, including three centuries in 14 Tests and accounted for 37 dismissals. In an interview with The Indian Express, Saha spoke about his improvement as a cricketer, India’s unprecedented success and, of course, sledging. Excerpts:

How much has Wriddhiman Saha grown in stature in the dressing-room this season?

Apart from odd changes, it’s the same unit that has been playing for the past two-three seasons. The real team bonding happened after we lost the Galle Test (in 2015). We had a team meeting in the dressing room. That was basically the start of our journey as a group. We changed our approach and it set us on the winning path.

You side-stepped the question…

I never felt left out even at the time when I was a relative newcomer, when I replaced (MS) Dhoni bhai in Australia. You have to talk to others to know if I have grown in stature. From my perspective, our dressing room thrives in collectivity. Different players have different roles to perform, but we as a team share our ups and downs collectively. Everyone, including the reserves and support staff, gets equal importance.

Your friendship with your teammates must have grown stronger over the past few months…

We have always been good friends. During the series we spend our free time together. We take part in PlayStation football games together. I usually play with (Cheteshwar) Pujara, Virat (Kohli), Shikhar (Dhawan) when he was with the team, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul.

Grapevine has it that you get pretty excited, playing football on PlayStation…

Yeah, it’s very intense. No one likes to lose. It’s a great way to wind down after a hard day’s play on the field.

Do you insist on having Barcelona as your team?

No, we prefer rotation, although I’m always more comfortable with (Lionel) Messi in my team (laughs).

Pujara tried to pull your leg after you bagged the Man of the Match award against New Zealand at Eden Gardens.

It wasn’t after the Test. It was after we finished our second innings and I remained not out in both innings. He jokingly said, ‘Wriddhi ko Kolkata me out karna na mumkin hai (it’s impossible to get Wriddhiman out in Kolkata). That’s the beauty of our team. This is something which is a lot more than winning and losing matches. I have been with the team since Australia and I haven’t witnessed a single case of dressing room bust-up. There’s absolutely no clash of egos in this team.

Going back to Galle, then team director Ravi Shastri allowed every player let off steam after the defeat. How did it help?

It helped us play fearless cricket. Some were getting bogged down under pressure, getting overwhelmed by the situation and sacrificing their natural game in the process. The session helped change the mindset.

You spoke about a change in approach

We decided that we would be targeting some bowlers in a match. Take the attack to a particular bowler right from the outset to upset his rhythm. It’s about taking calculated risks and the approach paid off. We started our winning run after Galle.

Even after your batting success against West Indies and New Zealand there appeared to be an amount of uncertainty as you were ruled out after the second Test against England because of a hamstring injury. Your replacement, Parthiv Patel, did well with the bat. Every now and then people start talking about other keepers like Parthiv or Dinesh Karthik. How do you handle this?

I never consider myself No.1, No.2 or No.10. My job is to go out there and perform, and I try to do that. End of the story. Everybody tries to do his best to reach a certain level. As far as my injury was concerned, I never had any insecurity about it. The team management didn’t allow me to have one. Anil (Kumble) bhai went to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, when I was doing my rehab and offered assurance.

Did you have any special fitness routine for a six-month long home season?

Our fitness trainer gave us a schedule, which we followed. As I had injured my hamstring, some specific hamstring exercises were given to strengthen the muscles and tendons. At the same time, I was told to be cautious about not overloading it.

The team had a session on the DRS before the first Test against New Zealand. But at times it felt like India didn’t quite have a grip on the technology. As a keeper, you had a important role to play. Did you ever feel iffy?

The brief was clear; I would offer my view along with the bowler and then the captain would take a call. There were times, when I was 100 per cent convinced and so was the bowler, but Virat wasn’t too sure. Then, there were times when Virat was convinced but I, (Ajinkya) Rahane from the first slip and the bowler weren’t less certain. I insisted on taking a referral against Moeen Ali in Vizag despite the fact that he was way down the track against Jayant Yadav. But eventually we went for a review and won the leg before appeal. In some cases I erred also. No team can have a 100 per cent grip on the DRS. There has to be a difference between real time action and slow motion replays. For Australia, their DRS success rate had been close to 80 per cent before the incident in Bangalore. I don’t know if they had been getting any external (dressing room) help. No one noticed. After Bangalore, however, their (DRS) success rate dropped considerably.

You are said to be a keeper who doesn’t keep up a constant flow of chatter from behind the stumps.

If you watch the matches and hear the recordings, you would know I talk the most on the field.

You are one player who keeps his emotions in check on the field. Do you open up in the change room?

I think it’s almost same in the dressing room as well.

Who is your best friend in the team?

Everyone is my best friend. And it’s same for all my team mates. Having a best friend in the team isn’t a good idea. It may lead to groupism. We are a unit.

Was it tough, confidence-wise, batting at No. 7 or 8?

It depends on the individual. It doesn’t affect me. The decision to promote R Ashwin in the batting order was taken in the West Indies. And make no mistake, he is a very good batsman with four Test hundreds under his belt. The team management did it to ensure we have specialist batters up until No. 7. I had no problems with that. Ashwin’s batting success augured very well for the team.

Batting with the tail-enders requires special skills. Do you feel comfortable?

I did it many times for my club and Bengal, batting with the tail. It has served my game well. We no longer shield the tail-enders in the Indian team. They all are capable batters and spend time in the nets to improve their batting. And it’s not just the survival, our tail-enders have the licence to punish the loose balls. The team management has given them confidence to optimise their batting potential.

India-Australia Test series have had a tendency to become acrimonious. But this time things get a little too stretched?

Sledging is a part of Australia’s game. We know that. We were prepared for that. They played well in the first Test and we didn’t play to our potential. If we had won in Pune, things could have been different. For Australia, the lead served as a confidence boost but it’s not that they had an exclusive right over sledging. We also got into a bit of a banter; not only this series, but also when we went Down Under. We did it in Sri Lanka as well.

How did Australia respond to counter sledging?

It upset them. I think our banters made Steve Smith over-attacking in the second innings at Dharamsala.

Who was the leader of the pack in the Indian team?

Everyone. Virat, Rahane, Pujara, Rahul.

What about you? Not even under your breath?

No, I don’t do it. . I just offer encouragement to my team mates; and just a few words here and there.

You appeared to have got involved in the Matthew Wade-Ravindra Jadeja argument at Dharamsala.

I just wanted to know what they had been talking about; exactly what happened.

Do you ever get angry even at home?

No. Maybe, sometimes they (family) get angry with me. But I keep calm (laughs).

You are one Indian batsman who sways away from a bouncer rather than ducking under it. Does it come naturally to you?

It’s natural. I rarely play the pull shot. I allow my body to react to the angles. As because you sometime have variable bounce on Indian pitches, swaying away allows you watch the ball till the end. Sometimes, against an in-swinging bouncer from wide of the crease, I prefer to duck.

For someone who had to play the waiting game for a long time, be it the Bengal Ranji team or the Indian team, how do you look at this upward mobility of your career?

I never felt frustrated. I always trained with the match intensity. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been ready when my time came. Now the focus is to serve the Indian team for long.

During the season, did you get any advice from Kumble about keeping on Indian pitches? He was always a difficult bowler to keep on turners.

I kept to Anil bhai once or twice at the nets. He (and also Virat) always tells me not to change my natural approach to keeping.

How challenging it is to keep to two world-class spinners on turning pitches?

Almost every ball is a challenge, which I really enjoy. Ravichandran Ashwin presents a lot of variety, making things exciting for the keeper. Jadeja is very accurate. Both are outstanding performers. But at the end of the day, a keeper’s job is to collect the ball.

Did Kuldeep Yadav have the mystery element to the keeper as well?

I have kept to many chinaman bowlers during my days at Siliguri (hometown) and also even after coming to Kolkata. Ultimately, it’s about picking it off the hand and following the seam. If you can do that, things will be easier.

Do you exchange signals with the spinners?

Not really. In the Bangalore Test, however, Matt Renshaw had been compulsively stepping out to Jadeja. So we planned about firing one down the leg side. Jadeja did it and I had a stumping.

Umesh Yadav’s progress has been heartening. What do you think he has changed to achieve consistency?

It’s experience. You are always wiser— hitting the right areas —after say 30 Tests rather than 10 . Umesh has now become a complete package. He has everything in his repertoire.

Mohammed Shami unfortunately is facing recurrent injury problems.

It’s not recurrent. Last time, he had injured the other knee. I batted against him at the nets (in Dharamsala). I think he is now fully fit for limited-overs matches. A good IPL season followed by the Champions Trophy (in England) will get him ready for the longer format.

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The Wild thing – born to bowl fast


The Wild thing – born to bowl fast

Tristan Lavalette • Last updated on Thu, 30 Mar, 2017, 02:17 PM

It was a sight to behold when a trademark Shaun Tait in-swinging delivery sent Geraint Jones’s off-stump cartwheeling © Getty

September 12, 2005, is undeniably an indelible date in cricket history. Although, Australians may disagree as it was the fateful day their long-suffering arch-nemesis England finally ended a 16-year Ashes drought. Australia was thwarted by Kevin Pietersen’s memorable cavalier debut century on the final day at the Oval to ensure the fifth Test ended in a draw and a 2-1 series victory for England in a major boil over.

However, that result was not a foregone conclusion earlier in the day with a swirling belief that Australia – who were at their peak of their powers and hadn’t lost a Test series in four years – could conjure a miraculous victory like they had summoned so many times before. Almost inevitably, legendary bowlers Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne – playing their last ever Test in England – had a slew of early wickets to give Australia hope.

With the Ashes – and legacies – hanging in the balance, Australian captain Ricky Ponting leant heavily on his two prized bowlers and paceman Brett Lee for the breakthroughs in what was essentially a three-pronged attack.

Neglected and seemingly forgotten was Shaun Tait, the then 22-year-old firebrand, who was anchored to the boundary and copping a mouthful from hardy English fans sensing history was in the making. Tait already had built a formidable reputation for having an innate ability to scythe through batting lineups. However, that rarefied talent was juxtaposed by an unfortunate knack of spraying the ball and leaking runs.

Ponting, quite clearly, didn’t have faith to bowl the youngster, who was playing just his second Test, under such a bright spotlight with the Ashes hanging delicately in the balance. With Australia’s three main bowlers tiring, Tait was belatedly given the ball in the 56th over of the innings. Promptly, almost confirming Ponting’s suspicions, Tait was immediately smashed for consecutive boundaries off a rampaging Pietersen.

However, three balls later, Tait’s mesmerising talents harnessed when a trademark in-swinging delivery sent wicket-keeper Geraint Jones’s off-stump cartwheeling. It wasn’t quite a knockout punch but nevertheless it was a breathtaking moment which even had unruffled veteran ABC broadcaster Jim Maxwell in hysterics as if he was Bill Lawry.

The vital wicket briefly reignited Australia’s faint flicker before Pietersen’s heroics snuffed out the bold comeback bid. Tait only bowled four more overs before Ponting’s patience wore thin. Still, the utter destruction of Jones indicated Tait’s future was bright in a shining light amid the gloom for a humbled Australia.

“I was young and embarrassed… frustrated because I hadn’t bowled that much,” Tait recalls in an interview with Cricbuzz. “The crowd was ripping into me and I was just relieved to get that wicket because I hadn’t done much. But we lost the Ashes that day, so it isn’t something that I look back fondly on.”

Tait’s unbridled fury tested the speed guns numerously in his career © Cricbuzz

Succumbing to injuries due to a demanding unconventional bowling action, Tait wouldn’t play Test cricket again until January of 2008, where Australia’s 16-match winning streak stunningly ended against India at the WACA. It proved to be his third and final Test, as he soon made the tough decision to call time on his First-Class career at the age of 25. Incredibly, during such a high period of success for the team, Tait never tasted a Test victory and the losses at Nottingham – during his debut in the fourth Test – and the WACA were Australia’s only defeats during that 30-month period.

Tait’s brave decision to stop playing red ball cricket caused a stir at the time but proved the right call as he enjoyed the fruits of a long and decorated career as a Twenty20 specialist. The now 34-year-old officially retired from cricket on March 27 due to a chronic elbow injury, which hampered him during the recent Big Bash League (BBL), where he played for the Hobart Hurricanes.

The injury shelved plans to continue playing for a couple of more years but Tait is grateful the advent of Twenty20 provided him with an alternate pathway. “I knew I was going to retire after the BBL…I was done. I was struggling to play,” he says. “I copped a bit of flak for concentrating on T20 cricket and I had to wear that. But I was able to play a fair bit and T20 suited me and was my best format so it worked out well.”

Tait’s unique slinging action, marked by a heavy exertion of the shoulder, was physically demanding and the subsequent toll derailed his career numerously. As he rose up the ranks of South Australian cricket, numerous coaches attempted to tinker with Tait’s action and the bowler himself deep down knew he needed to stymie the exertion on his body.

However, Tait, nicknamed ‘Wild Thing’, was innately a gunslinger and all he really yearned for was to bowl as fast as humanly possible. Always bigger and stronger than his peers, a 17-year-old Tait was recorded bowling at 142km/h at an amateur fast bowling competition.

“Growing up, I loved watching Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Curtly Ambrose…I wanted to bowl quick like them,” he says. “Coaches told me to change my action but it got hard to do that after a while. I wanted to consistently bowl 150kmh. I wanted to be an entertainer.

“I was born to bowl fast and it bored me bowling slower.”

Tait’s unbridled fury tested the speed guns numerously in his career, most notably when he bowled a 161.1 kmph thunderbolt against England in 2010. It is the second fastest recorded delivery in cricket and was just 0.2 kmph short of Pakistani paceman Shoaib Aktar’s all-time mark.

“In my thinking, I wanted to reach 160kmph and just try to bowl as fast I could,” he says. “I was probably never going to play 50-100 Tests because I just wanted to bowl express pace and that’s hard on the body. Although bowling fast is what got me picked in the Test team so I’m thankful for that.”

Tait’s international career may have been limited but being an important member of Australia’s unbeaten 2007 World Cup team stands out as his crowing achievement. During a memorable two-month stretch in the Caribbean where his talents meshed physically and mentally, Tait superbly replaced an injured Lee to claim 23 wickets at 20 to help Australia claim their third consecutive World Cup.

“I didn’t get to win that much in my career but to be part of the 2007 World Cup triumph is something no one can ever take away from me,” he says. “It was just a really memorable two months and the thing that sticks with me was the team environment. We just loved being around each other both on-and-off the field.”

With retirement from cricket coming a little earlier than expected, Tait says he will take some time to consider the next phase of his life. Having an Indian wife and recently becoming an ‘Overseas Citizen of India’, Tait foreshadows spending plenty of time in the subcontinent.

“I would possibly like to get into fast bowling coaching but I’ll sit back and have a think about it,” he says. “If you’re not used to India, it can test you with the sheer amount of people and traffic. But I’ve grown to love the place and no doubt will spend some time over there in the future.”

© Cricbuzz



Editorial, Columnists – Midday

Clayton Murzello: Was the Bangalore Test that great? 09-Mar-2017 The India vs Australia battle had its share of unpleasant sights and incidents which shouldn’t be mistaken for true competitiveness

Clayton Murzello: Fine reward for Paddy’s field work 02-Mar-2017 It’s a welcome coincidence that Shivalkar gets rewarded in the birth centenary year of Vinoo Mankad, who ‘passed’ him when he had failed

Clayton Murzello: A character called Richardson 23-Feb-2017 Last week, cricket bid adieu to the ex-England, Worcestershire and Kent player, whose pranks were as famous as his gritty batting

Clayton Murzello: Hope you Garth the point, fellas! 16-Feb-2017 Graham ‘Garth’ McKenzie, Australia’s most successful fast bowler on Indian soil, is someone Starc & Co can emulate on their current tour

Clayton Murzello: Don’t let this pass, Justice Lodha! 09-Feb-2017 The Justice’s words over the need for transparency in distribution of tickets and complimentary passes will make Indian cricket cleaner

Clayton Murzello: Ouch… that other 13-Test season! 26-Jan-2017 Why former record-holder Yajurvindra Singh is happier now than he was in 1979-80, when India hosted the same number of Tests

Clayton Murzello: India’s big domestic problem 19-Jan-2017 Staging Ranji Trophy on neutral venues made it a farce as players had to parade their skills on unfamiliar turf, in front of sparse crowds

Clayton Murzello: The D’Souza who played for Gujarat 12-Jan-2017 Khar resident Walter (89), one of the two living members of Gujarat’s first Ranji Trophy final team, recalls the 1950-51 battle vs Holkar

Clayton Murzello: Board clean bowled by axe factor 05-Jan-2017 Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke came into focus because they are faces of BCCI, but the powerful state associations are real offenders

Clayton Murzello: Hunger more important than anger 29-Dec-2016 Instead of focusing on getting Virat Kohli ruffled, Steve Smith should be craving to break Australia’s 12-year winless streak in India

Clayton Murzello: Rs 50 bonus for a major series win 22-Dec-2016 That’s what Nari Contractor’s team got after beating England for the first time over five Tests, but the achievement is a million dollar one

Clayton Murzello: Fumble and your pie gets humble 15-Dec-2016 Dropping key batsmen cost England dear in the recent Test at Wankhede, just as it did to other teams that ended up with embarrassing scorelines

Clayton Murzello: MCA must take a stand on Wadekar 08-Dec-2016 Not naming a viewing area at Wankhede Stadium after the former India captain is a miss, but it’s never too late to make amends

Clayton Murzello: Vijay Manjrekar was streets ahead 01-Dec-2016 The recent Dadar street signage dispute concerning the late batsman was another example of blatant disrespect to our erstwhile achievers

Clayton Murzello: More than just a one-Test stumper 24-Nov-2016 Mumbai’s oldest surviving Test cricketer Dr Chandrakant Patankar is 86 today. His life story is as fascinating as his 18-year cricketing career

Clayton Murzello: It’s thunder Down Under this year 17-Nov-2016 For a cricketing nation that took pride in their players’ grit, Steven Smith-led Australia’s lack of will against South Africans was shocking

Clayton Murzello: Rabada adds to SA’s ‘refreshment’ 10-Nov-2016 Young paceman, who bowled the Proteas to a 177-run win, can usher his team into a special bracket comprising best hard-as-nails outfits

Clayton Murzello: Kerry Packer: Ruthless but fair 03-Nov-2016 It’s 40 years since the TV magnate expressed his desire to televise Oz cricket. An anecdotal recall of how he went about winning his game

Clayton Murzello: The motel man from California 27-Oct-2016 An encounter with Atul Mehta, the all-rounder who represented three teams in Ranji Trophy cricket: Bombay, Saurashtra and Gujarat


Australia series review: Warner’s spin struggles, Renshaw’s rise and more


Australia series review: Warner’s spin struggles, Renshaw’s rise and more

Tristan Lavalette • Last updated on Tue, 28 Mar, 2017, 08:10 PM

While Cummins impressed on his Test return, Warner’s struggles against spin continued. © AFP

A gallant Australia overcame dire prognostications to produce a gritty and commendable performance in India. However, despite being so close to causing a major boil over, Australia ran out of puff towards the backend to lose the series 2-1 and relinquish the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

It means Australia’s drought in India extends to 13 years but, encouragingly, they were able to finally win a Test match in those arduous conditions and serve it right up to their vaunted hosts almost to the bitter end.

From an Australian perspective, here is some of the wash up of an absorbing series, which rates in the shortlist of the most memorable Australia has been part of this millennium.

Best Batsman: Steve Smith (499 runs; average – 71)

Australia’s inspirational captain was almost a one-man batting band much like how predecessors Allan Border and Michael Clarke often were in yesteryear. With his deputy David Warner mired in a form rut, the burden was heavily placed on Smith who handled the pressure with aplomb.

Smith became the first Australian to score three centuries in a series in India and ended, at least momentarily in the Test format, the debate over who is the best batsman in the world. Many had Indian captain Virat Kohli at the head of the list but his struggles meant he was completely overshadowed by his opposite number.

Smith was almost impregnable and, unlike some of his teammates, was decisive against spin with precise footwork marked by a penchant to dance down the wicket. In challenging conditions, Australian batsmen had to shelve the shots in a bid to bat for the long haul but most struggled attempting to recalibrate their game.

Conversely, Smith found the right tempo between stout defence and counterattack to produce some of the best batting by a foreigner on Indian shores. Many legendary Australian batsmen have felt the pinch in India, which further fuels Smith’s candidacy as an all-timer.

Astoundingly, the 27-year-old is only just entering what should be his peak batting years but has already notched 20 Test centuries.

Smith’s overwhelming success in India ensures he stacks up favourably against Ricky Ponting, who is generally acknowledged as Australia’s best modern batsman but had difficulty in India.

If Smith continues to pile on the runs he could very well finish as the second greatest Australian batsman ever behind the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman.

Smith was inspirational in a major tick of his captaincy but the only blight was several contentious moments, most notably the infamous ‘brain-fade’ of the second Test and then being caught by cameras calling Murali Vijay a ‘f***ing cheat’ for claiming a bump ball.

Despite his youthful exterior and composed batting, Smith is innately a firebrand and he occasionally finds it difficult to contain his petulance. In recent times, he has spoken about a desire to amend his demeanour and exude more positivity in the field.

Smith’s leadership and example set in the field had been almost faultless since the ruins of Hobart helping fuel a swift Australian resurgence through sheer force of will. However, as he acknowledged in the aftermath of the series, Smith let the suffocating pressure get to him in India during those aforementioned forgettable incidents.

It speaks highly of Smith that he was willing to put his hand up and acknowledge his mistakes. Undoubtedly, it is a good learning experience for Smith, who is still relatively early in his captaincy reign.

Best Bowler: Pat Cummins (8 wickets; average – 30)

Australia’s bowling attack was unwavering and gritty continually keeping the vaunted Indian batsmen on their toes. Every bowler had their moment in the sun, particularly spinners Nathan Lyon and Stephen O’Keefe who each claimed a commendable 19 scalps for the series although their fortunes suffered notable extremes.

Josh Hazlewood, who was Australia’s best bowler during the home stand, was typically consistent and held up an end but gradually lacked penetration as the series wore on perhaps testament to succumbing to fatigue.

With spearhead Mitchell Starc returning home due to injury after the second Test, Australia was robbed of their talisman and match-winning bowler. Predictably, Australia was largely written off for the remainder of the series.

Instead, the visitors received a tonic from injury-prone talented youngster Pat Cummins, who dazzled in his long-awaited Test comeback. In the final two Tests, Cummins produced consistently withering spells to ensure he always looked like being able to make a breakthrough. He has a rarefied ability to produce zip off sedate pitches and make things happen during quiet stretches.

Due to his worrying history with injury, Cummins was a selection gamble but the punt turned out to be inspired as the 23-year-old reminded everyone of his magical talents. Cummins’s blistering bowling was an intoxicating glimpse of Australia’s future.

Australia is already salivating a combination consisting of Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood and James Pattinson, who coincidentally was simultaneously making an eye-catching comeback in the Sheffield Shield.

Far away, England undoubtedly would have been quaking in their boots with a looming Ashes to be played on bouncier Australian pitches.

Biggest disappointment: David Warner (193 runs; average – 24)

The tour of India loomed as a pivotal juncture for Warner, who was coming off a white hot Australian summer complete with breaking numerous records. However, Warner has had a lingering question mark next to his name due to struggles in conditions either favouring spin or swing.

Muddying further his reputation, Warner had a disastrous series managing just one half-century for the series. The 30-year-old had no answer for his arch-nemesis Ravichandran Ashwin, who strangled Warner’s belligerent batting and frustrated him into numerous mistakes.

He tried to back his aggressive game but seemed to be caught in two minds knowing Australia’s mantra for the series was to bat for the long haul and shelve the outlandish shots. He was unable to properly adjust in a highly disappointing series for Australia’s gunslinger.

With much at stake, personally and for the team, Warner failed to come to the party fuelling an unwanted reputation of being merely a bully in his own comfortable terrain. Australia’s next Test assignment is a proposed tour of Bangladesh in August – Warner will be hoping the series eventuates in a bid to prove the doubters wrong and restore his plummeting standing.

Emerging Star: Matthew Renshaw (232 runs; average – 29)

Matthew Renshaw was the breakout star during the Australian summer, which hit a crescendo during his maiden century against Pakistan at the SCG. Despite all of that, Renshaw was not seen as an automatic selection for the series against India because of his inexperience, particularly against the spinning ball.

Dispelling those concerns, Renshaw scored an invaluable half-century on the opening day of the series and his grittiness set the tone for Australia’s resoluteness. Since coming into the team after the Hobart debacle, Renshaw has instilled Australia’s previously temperamental batting order with necessary gravitas.

Perhaps predictably, Renshaw tapered off scoring just 24 runs in his final three innings yet he was the only Australian batsman other than Smith to score more than 200 runs for the series. Inevitably, Renshaw has some kinks to work out, particularly playing away from his body, but, amazingly, he seemed more assured and reliable than his superstar opening partner.

Having just turned 21 on the last day of the series, Renshaw could very well prove to be a mainstay in Australia’s team for the next 15 years.

© Cricbuzz




Australia in Tests: Encouraging signs but few problems remain


Australia in Tests: Encouraging signs but few problems remain

Tristan Lavalette • Last updated on Tue, 28 Mar, 2017, 03:20 PM

Australia had reason to be optimistic despite a disappointing defeat in Dharamsala © BCCI

In a major anti-climax for such a riveting content, the series finale ended in a fizzle with India romping to a convincing eight-wicket victory early on day four. After repeatedly picking themselves off the canvas, Australia had nothing left to give and their dreams of history ended in bitter disappointment.

In the immediate aftermath of a taxing series which concludes almost nonstop cricket since the middle of last year, Australia will feel hollow knowing they let slip a golden opportunity to achieve one of the greatest upsets in the country’s proud history. Had they won, the 2017 tour of India would have been forever linked with West Indies ’95 and England 1989 in reverence and feted as a gold standard achievement.

Steve Smith undoubtedly knew a series victory in this arduous locale against all the odds would lift his captaincy standing a notch and forever be a crowning achievement of his legacy no matter what transcribes from here.

Yet, despite being continually pesky, Australia gradually fell away after such a promising start to the series where they caught a seemingly overconfident and undoubtedly jaded Indian team napping. You feel Australia will forever rue the second Test as the one that got away, frustratingly unable to capitalise after bowling India out on the opening day for just 189.

An 87-run lead on the first innings wasn’t quite the knockout blow required and India, shaking from their stupor, clawed their way back into the series and generally dictated terms from there despite Australia’s refusal to roll over.

Something good is simmering within Australia but the series defeat and eventual drop off at the backend indicates they are still a flawed team. Encouragingly, Australia has the template to become a very good side and found several highly competent players since they regenerated after the debacle in Hobart last November.

They have pace stocks the envy of every other nation and Pat Cummins’s successful comeback – coupled with James Pattinson’s lower key return in the Sheffield Shield – ensures Australia are going to be very hard to beat in favourable conditions for quicks.

Australia have four genuinely talented quicks aged in their mid-20s and, if they all stay on the park, could emulate the West Indies’ iconic four-pronged pace attack of the 1980s. Not just a one-trick pony, they also possess reliable spinners Nathan Lyon and Stephen O’Keefe, who both starred at various stages in the series to showcase the team’s enviable all-round options with the ball.

Their formidable and versatile attack ensures Australia should always be competitive; Smith will have the confidence in his bowlers to take 20 wickets and consistently win Tests.

However, the batting remains a work in progress despite some encouraging signs in India. The batting suffered two costly calamities to effectively sink their dreams but were otherwise gritty and focused. They preached coach Darren Lehmann’s mantra of batting for the long haul but an over reliance on Smith, exacerbated by David Warner’s slump, cruelled Australia’s chances.

Pleasingly, they are building depth beyond Smith and Warner. Matt Renshaw, who celebrated his 21st birthday on March 28, is the type of nuggety and resolute opener Australia have long craved. There were question marks whether the youngster could succeed in unfamiliar conditions but Renshaw proved he belonged at Test level with a mature approach and, astoundingly, he looked more assured than his superstar partner Warner, who didn’t fire a shot to be Australia’s biggest disappointment.

Temperament and resoluteness are admired qualities but can only get one so far. Thus, Renshaw will need to iron out some inevitable kinks from his game, most notably playing away from his body which was exposed by India’s pacemen as the series wore on.

Peter Handscomb found the going predictably tougher after such a stellar initiation during the Australian summer but his unbeaten 72 to save the third Test proves he should become a middle-order mainstay.

Still, it feels Australia’s batting is still somewhat brittle and needs more depth if they want to become a consistent Test force. Shaun Marsh, the eternally maligned batsman, fought hard and combined with Handscomb to defy India’s push for victory in Ranchi. However, Marsh’s rollercoaster of a career has been littered with injuries and that scourge reared at the most inopportune moment with a back injury hampering the West Australian in the fourth Test and affecting his batting in the second innings when Australia desperately needed his experience to stabilise the dire situation.

Nearing 34 years of age, Marsh may not be part of Australia’s forward thinking as selectors are likely to recall Usman Khawaja, whose confidence would undoubtedly be rattled after watching on from the sidelines in India despite a dominant home summer.

Travis Head, the South Australian captain who was desperately unlucky to miss the squad, could also come into calculations after impressing in the shorter-formats for Australia. Glenn Maxwell made a memorable debut century in Ranchi and even top-scored amid the second innings spiral in Dharamsala but will be closely critiqued ahead of the looming Ashes later this year.

Perhaps the tour of India won’t quite be remembered indelibly by Australians but, still, the series could yet prove defining for this newfound team emerging from the rubbles of Hobart. Quite clearly, Smith’s side is taking shape and a return to the glory days of yesteryear – something that hasn’t happened for Australia since Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne retired a decade ago – feels imminent.

Australia now has a welcome breather from Test cricket with only a proposed tour of Bangladesh in August – subject to security clearance – before a home Ashes bout against England starting in November. Once the dust settles from this defeat, Australia will feel optimistic and bullish about the road ahead after such an encouraging performance in India.

However, despite the goodwill emanating, Australia has much work to do before they can enjoy a Test renaissance.

© Cricbuzz




India thrash Australia in Dharamsala Test cricket match to win Border-Gavaskar Trophy

The Indians owed their win to all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja who starred with both bat and ball, top-scoring with 63 runs in the first innings before taking three wickets with his left-arm spin during Australia’s short-lived second knock. (Photo: AP)

Dharamsala: India underlined their status as the world’s number one side as they demolished Australia by eight wickets to clinch a bitterly fought series 2-1 on day four of the fourth Test Tuesday.

Chasing 106, opener Lokesh Rahul (51 not out) hit the winning runs in Dharamsala to take back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from Australia, who had triumphed at home in 2014-15.

India’s stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane (38 not out), who replaced injured Virat Kohli to lead the Indian team in Dharamsala, hit two sixes in a row off Pat Cummins on the way to the comprehensive victory, as the home crowd waved giant India flags and danced in the stands.

The hosts scored 332 in their first innings in reply to Australia’s 300 before the tourists collapsed for just 137 on the third day.

India lost Murali Vijay to fast bowler Cummins and Cheteshwar Pujara to a run out, but they were the only hiccups the home side faced in the morning session.

The Indians owed their win to all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja who starred with both bat and ball, top-scoring with 63 runs in the first innings before taking three wickets with his left-arm spin during Australia’s short-lived second knock.

Indian pace bowlers Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar also contributed to give their side early breakthroughs.

Australia had themselves to blame for capitulating during their second innings after giving India a close fight throughout the series, marked by several flare-ups between the players.

The victory was India’s 10th out of 13 Tests in a marathon home season that saw them get the better of New Zealand, England and Bangladesh. The series win was India’s seventh Test series win in a row – continuing the dominance that started in 2015 with Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh being annihilated.


‘Unparalleled’ number of dinosaur tracks found in Australia

Dinosaur tracks recently discovered in Western Australia include some of the largest tracks ever recorded (Photo: AFP)

An “unprecedented” 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been found on a stretch of Australia’s remote coastline, scientists said Monday, dubbing it the nation’s Jurassic Park.

Palaeontologists from the University of Queensland and James Cook University said it was the most diverse such discovery in the world, unearthed in rocks up to 140 millions years old in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Steve Salisbury, lead author of a paper on the findings published in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, said the tracks were “globally unparalleled”.

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half of the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” he said.

“It’s such a magical place — Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting.”

He added: “Among the tracks is the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia. There are also some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded.”

It was almost lost, with the Western Australian government in 2008 selecting the area as the preferred site for a massive liquid natural gas processing precinct.

Alarmed, the region’s traditional Aboriginal custodians, the Goolarabooloo people, contacted Salisbury and his team to officially research what they knew was there.

They spent more than 400 hours investigating and documenting dinosaur tracks in the Walmadany area.

“We needed the world to see what was at stake,” Goolarabooloo official Phillip Roe said, explaining the dinosaur tracks formed part of a songline that extends along the coast and then inland, tracing the journey of a Dreamtime creator being called Marala, the Emu man.

Aboriginal Australians have developed and are bound by highly complex belief systems — known as the Dreamtime — that interconnect the land, spirituality, law, social life and care of the environment.

A songline is one of the paths across the land which mark the route followed by localised “creator-beings”, stories that have been handed down through the generations.

“Marala was the Lawgiver. He gave country the rules we need to follow. How to behave, to keep things in balance,” Roe said.

The area was eventually awarded National Heritage status in 2011 and the gas project subsequently collapsed.

“There are thousands of tracks around Walmadany. Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs,” Salisbury said.

“There were five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armoured dinosaurs.”

Most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils have previously come from the eastern side of the vast country.