India vs Australia 2017

Australia ace a day of dogged cricket on a near-lifeless pitch, as Ranchi Test ends in a draw

India managed to get only four wickets in 90 overs on day five.

On Monday, day five of the inaugural Test in Ranchi, there was only one question to be asked. Would MS Dhoni, free from his Jharkhand commitments, show up? The other question – whether India would go on to take eight wickets and win – wasn’t even bothered about.

Dhoni did arrive post lunch, and found himself a nice spot in one of the corporate boxes on the floor above the Indian dressing room. Time and again, the camera panned to the former skipper, who then duly waved to his hometown faithful. Perhaps the producer of this match’s broadcast was bored by the on-field action.

For good reason, as Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh batted 69.1 overs to dig Australia out of trouble. They weren’t interested in scoring too many runs – just enough to make sure that India needed to bat again to force a result. Instead, they were keen on eating up as much time as possible, thus not allowing the hosts any overs to score those runs. Some time after tea, Australia managed to overturn the 152-run first innings’ deficit and took the lead. Then, there was the small matter of even getting them bowled out even.

Surprisingly enough, at the stroke of lunch, the outlook was different. Australia had lost Matt Renshaw and Steve Smith in the space of three balls just a bit before the break. Two more sessions – India would eventually get the six wickets needed. It didn’t happen.

“We have prepared for this scenario, and now we need to put it in practice,” coach Darren Lehmann had said at the end of day four. “We need to plan how to play Ravindra Jadeja with that rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump. If India bowl 10 unplayable balls, so be it.” Well, of course, India didn’t bowl the required number of unplayable deliveries. Australia didn’t mind either, for they were too busy.

The great grind

Following their coach’s words, the great grind began in the morning session itself. The key battle herein was how Renshaw would face Jadeja pitching into that celebrated rough. It was simple really – the big-bodied left-handed opener simply moved across the stumps as the spinner hit his delivery stride, and planted his front foot firmly in line with the rough patch outside his off-stump.

In doing so, Renshaw achieved two things. First, when he was rapped on the pads, the positioning of his front foot took lbw out of the equation. And second, it forced Jadeja to alter his length, even line, to the left-hander. Either he pitched it a little short of the rough, to find natural turn off the pitch and into the exposed middle/leg stumps, or he came round the wicket.

Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh batted 69.1 overs to dig Australia out of trouble (Deepak Malik/BCCI/Sportzpics)
Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh batted 69.1 overs to dig Australia out of trouble (Deepak Malik/BCCI/Sportzpics)

Later, Shaun Marsh adopted the same ploy against Jadeja, but with a difference. Renshaw, as a young batsman, looks busy at the crease. He isn’t as fidgety as Smith, but there are a couple disconcerting initial movements about his stance. It was why he was prone to be an LBW candidate on a pitch where the odd ball would either keep low or turn in sharply. It is how Renshaw perished, but this ploy didn’t work against Marsh. This is because in comparison with Renshaw, he is more compact, and plays within his natural stance. It allows him to step outside the line of off-stump, whilst maintaining enough balance to rock back if necessary.

No use of Ashwin

Herein, Marsh was also aided by the simple fact that India didn’t use R Ashwin properly on this final day. Let’s rephrase that last sentence – the match conditions didn’t allow skipper Virat Kohli to use the record-breaking off-spinner in a desired manner. There was no discernable rough for Ashwin (or even Nathan Lyon) from either end. And then, there was the odd happenstance wherein the SG balls used, when older, went soft, too soft for proper utilisation by either Ashwin or Lyon.

“The ball was being changed [almost] after 40 overs,” explained Kohli in the post-match press conference. “It happened when Australia were bowling as well. It didn’t stay hard enough to get bite off the surface.” Surely, it cannot be a coincidence that both off-spinners in this Test suffered the same fate. Lyon took 1/163 in 46 overs; Ashwin returned figures of 1/114 and 1/71 in 64 overs in two innings.

In effect then, one of Kohli’s arms was tied behind his back, and this is where Handscomb took full advantage. While Ashwin was brought on late in the morning session, he was almost negated by Handscomb’s efficient footwork. For one, he played inside the line of delivery, and then aided himself, by coming forward on every opportunity possible. It was in the 62nd over that he won the battle, striking Ashwin for 14 runs, the highlight being his quick stride down the wicket producing a drive through midwicket for four.

R Ashwin returned figures of 1/114 and 1/71 in 64 overs in two innings (PTI)
R Ashwin returned figures of 1/114 and 1/71 in 64 overs in two innings (PTI)

“They just stuck to their plans and defended magnificently,” said Smith later on. “To me, Peter’s 70-odd seem like 150 given the situation we were in.” Sheepishly then, Smith went on to admit that the pitch had played a part. “Looking at the wicket before the start of this Test, I didn’t expect the game to go into the fifth day. It was a good pitch.”

His words then put the whole pre-match debate – nay, drama – into perspective. There is hardly anyone who read this Ranchi pitch right. Most in the Australian camp went overboard and predicted a three-day Test. Most in the Indian camp, a bit guarded but circumspect, made various annotations about bounce and turn. Everyone including the players and coaches was proven wrong. Everyone barring the pitch curator, that is!

Primacy of Test cricket

The underlying question though is about the primacy of Test cricket. This pitch produced four wickets in 90 overs on the fifth day. Only 25 wickets fell during the course of these last five days in exchange for 1,258 runs. Handscomb faced 200 deliveries on this final day. Cheteshwar Pujara batted for 11-plus hours. The match ended in a tame draw.

Mind you, they were both fantastic knocks and this was an intriguing Test. Yet, pitches in Pune and Bengaluru, rated poor and below average respectively, would be weeping tears of blood. The visiting side scored 500-plus in the first Test. Almost everyone agrees that the second Test was a joy to behold. Does the quality of cricket matter more or duration of a particular match? Just what did the curators in Pune and Bengaluru do wrong?

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.