I remember reading that on the 1952 tour of England the Indian team had a torrid time against Fred Truman. In fact the score in one of the test matches read 0-4 as Fred Truman ran into the Indian team like a veritable tornado. Even seasoned players like Polly Umrigar took guard outside the leg stump as they faced Truman, Statham and company.
This weakness against fast and more particularly against short pitched stuff, has been the bane of Indian cricket. The reason is not far to seek as Indian wickets are placid and soft, more conducive to spin bowling and as such the Indian batsmen grow up on a diet of these wickets, having little or no practice on the faster wickets available abroad.
Right down the ages the Indian teams were tigers at home and lambs abroad. The so called world class batsmen like Gavaskar and Tendulkar including Vengsarkar all abjectly failed abroad. Who can forget the ignoble score of 42 all out against the MCC during the 1974 test at Lords and this with Gavaskar in the ranks? Tendulkar is no better as during the tour of the West Indies in 1998, chasing 120 to win the Indian batting came a cropper. I still remember Geoff Boycott the commentator saying 'India are on their way to a win' as Sidhu hit the first runs. India was certainly on their way, but to defeat as they totaled 83 all out with Tendulkar failing abjectly. Even earlier against South Africa under the captaincy of Azarruddin the Indian facing a rampaging Donald and company succumbed to 66 all out and again to 100 all out. Tendulkar failing badly as Donald clean bowled him. This from a batsman being propagated by his supporters as greater than Bradman.
This weakness is manifested still as in the recent tour of the of South Africa(2010) the Indian team caught on a hard and fast true wicket lost the first test with an abject surrender against the pace of Steyn.
One can accept lack of technique against pace bowling, but what cannot be accepted is the throwing in the towel like at the Kingston test in 1976 against the West Indies. In that test Bashan Singh Bedi declared the Indian innings twice at 306 for 6 and 97 for 5 just to save the tail lenders from the rampaging Holding. True, Holding that day was in sublime form and bowling bumpers and short pitched stuff in a lethal manner, yet the declarations by Bedi must be a world record of a team declaring their innings twice just to avoid facing short pitched bowling. Even during the famous body line series in the thirties where Harold Larwood targeted the bodies of the batsmen, Bradman and company battled it out and never retired from the game.
Much water has flown since that series and the game is greatly regulated, but the Indian team must live up to its reputation as befits a team which is coming from the world power house of cricket, India. The Indian board must also play its part and ensure that fast and true wickets come up. That is not an impossible task.
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