Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Aus vs Ind 4th test ending 24/3/13 and the series

During lunch break on the 3rd day, with Aus leading by 79 at 89/5, Shane Warne, the expert analyst, tells the TV viewers, without any ambiguity, that Aus needed a total lead of 150 runs to win the match, and a target of 130 plus will be very difficult to chase (for India in their 2nd innings). Soon Gavaskar, the commentator also tells that Border was mentioning 120 to be a stiff target. From the beginning every one has been telling that the pitch would be almost unplayable on the third day. 

On such a pitch, again top Australian batting couldn't stand the lethal Indian bowling to be 53/5, but its tailenders are able to pile up some runs yet again to extend the lead to 154, a sure winning one as per Shane Warne, the expert. But bookies think (or should it be 'know') otherwise and odds in f/o of Ind winning at this stage are just 1.18 or so, going down to 1.09 before the first wicket falls at 19. Jump up to 1.15 briefly before boundaries get hit at will and soon there are no or negligible odds available for backing India. Same old story of bookies knowing what was to come, and experts going absurdly wrong.

No doubt, the pitch was a difficult one and had become more unplayable by the third day. Then how come, by no means a mean Australian bowling attack, couldn't even trouble Indian batting, let alone taking wickets. Was it great Indian batting or suicidal and self-defeating bowling by the Australians. See the recordings and know for yourself.

Umpiring in this match and series needs a special mention. The umpires, both of them, erred not once, but many times over. And every time I saw them erring, it was to favour India. That would be too big a coincidence to give them  benefit of doubt and believe that their mistakes were natural. Indian batsmen were not given out when they were plumb lbw (Tendulkar in the first innings with score at 120/2 or so needs a special mention), and Aus batsmen were being given out even when ball was clearly missing the stumps (special mention- Hughes in the 2nd innings). So when the Australians themselves were not throwing their wickets, the umpires were sending them back to pavilion. Were umpires in this match and series a part of the fixers' syndicate, as mentioned in the book 'Inside The Boundary Line'?

One would ask if everything could be staged, why the umpiring mistakes? Batsmen could genuinely get themselves out. Answer lies in balancing the things and making things look natural. More importantly, Australians or others could then attribute their abysmal performance to umpiring errors also. 

Mentioning of correlation between odds and fixing in this match from the start, with Aus batting first on a pitch proclaimed by all and sundry to be a fast deteriorating three day pitch, India were top favourites with odds of 2.04 even when Aus were a very healthy 71/1. This is what was being told about the pitch from the beginning (an article in The Statesman): 

   ‘Three-day pitch’ 
NEW DELHI, 22 MARCH:The Feroz Shah Kotla pitch for the fourth and final Test between India and Australia today came under criticism from former players, who called it a “three-day” wicket. The pitch has cracks across it, making for prodigious lateral movement. While some balls kept low, others rose sharply after pitching. VVS Laxman, here as a commentator, said that it was “looking like a third-day pitch” and batting would prove increasingly difficult on it. Ravi Shastri, on the telly with his pitch report before the start of play, said that the Test might be a “three-day” affair. Rameez Raja, though, said: “Earlier, it looked like a three-day wicket to me but ... it would be too early to predict the nature of the pitch. There are cracks, which will yield good turn. We need to wait and see before commenting on its nature.” There were times when Australian batsmen found shot-making difficult. sns & agencies. 

From there on Aus hardly competed in the match, except when they restricted Indian lead to just 10 runs in the first innings. Even at that point, with India having to bat last, Ind were favourites with odds of just 1.6. And it didn't take Aus long to start losing wickets in the 2nd innings.

Another interesting chance observation. While Ind were about to complete the last rites of Australia, inspite of losing three quick wickets (to add to dramatic effect, and to make the final victory margin look less imposing), at 129/4, a nick off Dhoni's bat went straight into the gloves of the wicket-keeper, Wade, and Wade threw it out just as Dhoni had done once to a nick off Dilshan's bat as stated earlier. Clearly it was an unscripted nick, and Wade had to throw it down.

And the best Aussie batsman in this match, Peter Siddle, chose to get out just after completing 50 in both the innings. A coincidence? Not so, as the book already has an explanation for such a phenomenon. 

The scripting for the series as a whole was quite consistent. It was balanced for the Indians such that all the batsmen and bowlers contributed handsomely at some or other point, except for the old war horses Tendulkar and Harbhajan, one may say. Special roles were reserved for the Captain Dhoni, Pujara, Dhawan, Jadeja, and Ashwin. And all the Aus batsmen and bowlers were scripted to flop, except for Clarke  and Lyon, one may say. Consistently long Indian partnerships of 200 plus or so were scripted throughout the series to turn the matches in f/o India. 

Camouflage of suspension of Australian players was thrown in, to justify team selection meant for losing the 3rd consecutive match with Clarke as captain. Without going into the complexities of betting odds, it should be clear to any keen student of cricket that Australia played to lose the series 0-4 and lost it 0-4. I heard commentators saying that more than win or loss, the non-Australian like performance by Australia throughout was puzzling. There is nothing puzzling. It was necessary for Australia to lose the series with an historic margin of 0-4, as had been pre-decided by all concerned.

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