It's not Australia lost, India won: columnist Peter Roebuck
Perth, Jan 20 (IANS) Ricky Ponting and his players must disregard the notion that in the space of one turbulent fortnight they have become a bunch of likeable losers, says columnist Peter Roebuck, who argues that it was not that Australia lost the Perth Test, India won.
"Doubtless, the usual assortment of boneheads will suggest that Australia played a lame game and were therefore consigned to defeat against a more abrasive opponent," Roebuck said in his Sydney Morning Herald column Sunday.
He said that although the hosts did start slowly, they recovered rapidly and produced a performance of the utmost spirit. As much could be told from a late rally featuring numerous swashbuckling strokes from unlikely sources that temporarily upset the Indian applecart.
"The selectors of both sides played a part in the result. Belatedly acknowledging their mistakes, the visiting think-tank chose a stronger and better-balanced side, and both newcomers made sterling contributions.
"Assisted by fortune, which smiles upon those prepared to chance their arms, Virender Sehwag survived the new ball in both innings, fielded like a man renewed and took two significant wickets with his improving off breaks. Dinesh Karthik deserves the chance to accompany him to the crease in Adelaide."
The former English county Somerset captain said Irfan Pathan was rightly named the man of the match, as he was so effective.
"India won the other battles of the new ball that determine the course of so many Test matches in this country. He swung the ball late, batted with unwavering determination and fielded with intensity.
"Despite the dubious offerings of certain senior citizens, India looked more alive in the field. India's seamers swung the ball more than their opponents. Credit can be given to Venkatesh Prasad, the travelling bowling coach.
"The Australian strategy backfired. Shaun Tait had a poor match. Introduced later than expected in the first innings, he was desperately short of rhythm. Mitchell Johnson had a patchy match. On this evidence, it's hard to believe he is the best left-armer around.
"Nor did Chris Rogers have a happy time. When a gap appears at the top of the order, it should be taken by Michael Hussey. Then Simon Katich, the next best batsman in the country, could be included. Hussey is an adaptable cricketer, as adroit against the new ball as in reviving the middle of an innings, and long-term planning suggests he may return to his original berth. As it was, Matthew Hayden was sorely missed. Australia also had reason to regret omitting Brad Hogg: aside from his reliable wrist-spin, he scored 80 runs in Sydney."
Roebuck said the Australians were not beaten because they have turned into a bunch of softies. "They represented the nation with distinction and, after a terrific tussle, succumbed to a superbly led and single-minded side that played sturdy cricket for four days."
He also welcomed the attitude of the Australian players. "Australia did not exactly put out a welcome mat for each batsman nor blush every time an appeal was rejected. Instead, they shook hands before the match, kept their manners when players collided, did not appeal unless they thought the batsman might be out, did not claim any questionable catches and generally played cricket that the entire world could recognise as hard but fair. Even the more regrettable of my fellow Australians could be proud of the way their side performed."
Praising Ponting for the way his side played, Roebuck said a man under attack faces a stark choice. He can dismiss the remarks and surround himself with back slappers, a species in abundance on this continent. Or he can take the opportunity provided by provocation to re-examine his path.
"Ponting chose the latter course. It was not a single article that caused the commotion, but the response to it. Moreover, Anil Kumble's comments were altogether more telling, coming from a man of such stature. Australia had lost touch with its better self.
"It was a wonderful match, the best staged in this country for several years. Australia played with a generosity of spirit not seen since Mark Taylor handed over the reins. The match referee had a quiet time. Both captains kept a lid on their teams.