Monday, December 26, 2011

Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad

Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

That, a quick Google reveals, comes from the pen of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, though you'll find remarkably similar sentiments expressed by Lycurgus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca and John Dryden.

And that quote makes a handy counterpoint to headlines like Poor decisions mar Test series opener and opening statements like Three dubious umpiring decisions and the lack of a video review system.

After Day One it's obvious that we're in for a very hard fought and intensely contested series, but then we already knew that, didn't we?

Reviewing yesterday's play, with two less wickets  you'd have awarded the day to Australia, with those two factored in you'd possibly call it evenly poised, but when you consider the manner of those two removals you'd probably give India the nod.

It's obvious that they're here to win, and if they can wrap up the Australian innings before lunch you'd reckon they'd be well on the way to One-Nil.

Looking back on the six dismissals I'm inclined to ascribe Warner and Marsh to the rain delay, Ponting and Clarke to good bowling and Hussey and Cowan to the niggle factor I'll be coming back to further on.

Any serious cricket follower would probably like a dollar for every time a wicket has fallen just after an interruption, but yesterday's rain break was, I reckon, definitely something different.

We get regularly find wickets falling just after a resumption, and that's usually in circumstances where batsmen have time to prepare themselves to resume hostilities. I wandered out of the office when they wandered off the paddock, had a brief chat to 'Er Indoors and was surprised to find them back on so soon.

Usually, when there's a rain break you find a designated resumption time, which gives players time to reset themselves. This time around you'd reckon Warner and Cowan would no sooner have got the batting gloves off when they were being told to get 'em back on again.

Batting first on Day One, most top order batsmen are likely to be vulnerable, and, even if you discount the effect of the interruption Marsh's dismissal is the sort of thing that's always likely early in the innings.

Ponting looked shaky early, and caught second slip suggests the Indians reckon they've got him worked out. It'll be interesting to see what happens when he's dismissed LBW falling across his stumps (which you can probably back into favouritism for the second dig, see below),

Clarke was set up nicely by Zaheer, chopping on a delivery he expected to go away, leaving room for that cut. Smart bowling and a sign that while Zaheer and Ishant Sharma might be slightly underdone they're not that far off, and are going to be a genuine handful if they can maintain their fitness.

Yadav looks like a handy third seamer, and Ashwin got a couple to grip and turn, so you might be inclined towards the four specialist bowlers is enough school of thought.

Well, you might, but I'd counter with Day One, our batting and those dodgy decisions I've been trying to steer away from. Let's see how our four are going late on Day Three, shall we?

Make no bones about it, India regard a series win here the same way as Steve Waugh and company viewed an away win in subcontinental conditions and they're out to maximise their chances.

I might be a cynic, but you can see an underlying theme coming through when people start talking about accepting the umpires decision, things evening themselves out in the long run and continuing the ways things have been played for over a century.

Gamesmanship has been part of the game since J.C. was taking the new ball for the Bethlehem Under 10s, and while the intention of the DRS is to avoid the obvious howlers, the possibilities of niggle offered by a refusal to accept the technology are, as far as I can see, part of a conscious ploy.

One wonders how far down the track it'll be when we start hearing references to foul mouthed racist Australians, for instance.

When we do, we'll more than likely be hearing how everything is all sweetness and light among players who appear for the same IPL franchise, won't we?

And, of course, it won't be the IPL team mate who'll be doing the niggling.

No, India have set themselves not to expect second chances, everybody else is used to the escape valve, and when the howler arrives we'll get the shrug and the That's cricket, won't we?

If you want to beat an Australian side that includes Mr Ponting you'd expect someone like Duncan Fletcher would have a few creative ideas, and this no DRS thing definitely fits a pattern.

Or maybe I should make that a Prattern...

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