Sunny side needs to be up on difficult pitches

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Delhi

SAMIT Dravid is nine but already there are signs that he is a brick from the wall. Or so his scores of 93 and 77 not out in a recent under-12 tournament would suggest.

And why not, considering his father played 164 tests for India in which he averaged 52.31 and scored 36 centuries.

But it’s not that simple. “I see my sons playing and they are always trying to play the shots AB does,” Rahul Dravid said of Samit and his brother, Anvay.

Dravid spoke before India clinched the test series against SA in Nagpur on Friday, but that didn’t stop the crowd at Jamtha from raising a now familiar chant when SA’s players appeared on the field to shake hands with their opponents.

“ABD! ABD! ABD …”

AB de Villiers is the only player to have reached 50 twice in a series that has yet to bequeath a century. He came close to doing so in Bangalore, when he was given out caught for 85 on fuzzy video evidence used that hinted, if anything, that the ball had bounced.

De Villiers has a series strike rate of 74.24 – significantly faster than his career mark of 54.69 – and he has hit 20 fours, or more than twice as many as any other SA batsman.

So if De Villiers can bat something like properly on the poor pitches seen in the series, what’s wrong with the rest of them?

Again, things are not that simple. For one thing, De Villiers is the most innovative batsman of the age. For another, none of India’s batsmen have reached 80 in the series. For still another, Bangalore was the closest to a decent surface the teams have seen.

Or, as Dravid said of his sons’ mimicry of De Villiers, “Soon (they) realise that it is not that easy to do.”

However, pitches can’t be blamed entirely for those who offer no stroke and are bowled, like Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis in Mohali. Or for those who guts out an average of 88 minutes and 69 balls per innings only to get out to a ragged stroke in four of five trips to the crease, as Dean Elgar has done. Or those who play for turn with every ball bowled and then miss the straight one, a fate that has befallen too many of the South Africans.

India, too, have had their problems: Virat Kohli, one of the finest batsmen in the modern game, has scored fewer runs in the series than Ravindra Jadeja – whose average is less than half of Kohli’s.

Sunil Gavaskar asked an interesting question in a column in the Times of India, “Do you think that if India had Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly … they would have folded so cheaply in both innings (in Nagpur, for 215 and 173)?

“And if the Proteas had Graeme Smith, Gibbs and Kallis … would (they) have been dismissed for 79 in the first innings? No way.”

Gavaskar scored 96 in more than five hours in the against Pakistan on a disintegrating pitch in Bangalore in March 1987 – the last of his 214 test innings.

According to Wisden, “on a pitch which allowed even an off-spinner to bowl bouncers, Gavaskar gave a masterly exhibition of technique and judgement”.

Pakistan won by 16 runs to claim their first series in India. But their captain, Imran Khan, asked his players: “What did you learn from Gavaskar?”

How might Samit and Anvay – and AB and Virat – answer that question?

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