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What have we learnt from the events at Sydney?


Australis v India-Test-cricketThe Sydney Test is over and India have secured two draws in a row. This represents an improvement on their overseas form in this format, but it was another series loss. Here they scored over 400 in the first innings for the fourth time in succession, but they still conceded a sizable first innings lead. The end of this match was quite exciting, but only because an Indian batting brain fart saw them lose five quick wickets. India lose the series 2-0, but what have we learnt from the events at Sydney? 

Pitches can be bitches

The chances of a win for either side were remote here, just as at Melbourne. There is no sport that is more dependent on the surface on which it is played than cricket, and the wickets in this series have been poor. There have been a lot of runs, but that is not what cricket is all about. It is a horrible cliché, but the game is a spectacle worth watching when there is a “contest between bat and ball.” From the very first ball of this Test it was pretty clear that a positive result would be tough. Chris Rogers and Dave Warner put on 200 runs in less than 45 overs. There were 30 wickets in this match, neither side was bowled out twice. If Test cricket is to attract spectators it needs better pitches than the one that we had here. 

Virat is busy 

We have entered the Virat era. This couldn’t be more exciting. His batting is just as good as it has always been. Tactically he is no genius, as a leader it is too early to tell if he can inspire his team. What we do know is that he is great to watch. When he is in the field it is impossible to take your eyes off him. He is like a toddler that has eaten too many sweeties and is having a sugar and additives overload. Would you want your kids to behave the way he does? Probably not. Is the image that the game wants to project? Definitely not. But like I said, it is fun to watch. 

Steve Smith is otherworldly

Virat Kohli has scored loads of runs in this series, but he hasn’t had what Steve Smith has shown. There are times when a batsman is in such good form that it looks like they are playing a different sport. He has never looked in trouble, and when he has got out more often than not it is because he has been too confident in his abilities. The moment when you could tell that he was batting on a different level to anyone else in the world right now came in Australia’s second innings. The pitch was starting to turn significantly, and Ravi Ashwin was creating difficulties for some. Not for Smith though. In the 22nd over Ashwin bowled a ball that pitched outside off stump and was turning into him. Smith took a few steps down the pitch, got inside the line of the ball and smoked it over extra cover for six. You just have to smile and shake your head in confused awe. 

Spidercam is naughty 

The only moment in the Test where Smith looked out of his depth was when Lokesh Rahul hit a ball from Shane Watson straight up in the air. Smith, fielding at slip ran towards the ball to try and take the catch. As one of the best fielders in the world it was a chance he would have expected to take with alacrity. Instead he misjudged where the ball was going to land, and despite a dive he could not collect the chance. Straight away Smith blamed the Spidercam, a piece of camera equipment suspended above the ground on a series of wires and pulleys. He seemed to say “f***ing wire” and spent the next two overs giving the camera dirty looks. Channel Nine, the host broadcaster, denied that the ball had hit the wires, but it was above Smith as he tried to make the catch. It probably shouldn’t have been. 

Replays are only as good as the people watching them

The antipathy that the Indian cricketing authorities have towards the Umpire Decision Review system is much discussed. Every time you see an Indian player frustrated at a poor decision it is difficult not to say “review it”. It isn’t funny anymore, but it is still as relevant. DRS increases the number of correct decisions. It doesn’t eradicate bad ones or prevent “howlers”. More correct decisions is undoubtedly a good thing. The problem so often is that technology is only as good as the people using it. In this Test Bhuvnewar Kumar appeared to edge the ball to first slip. It was referred by Umpire Kettleborough to his colleague Simon Fry who was acting as Third Umpire. The replays were clear to almost everyone watching that Bhuvi had hit the ball into the ground. Everyone apart from Simon Fry. Umpires make mistakes, that does not mean that DRS isn’t to the benefit of international cricket.

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