Before the start of the Adelaide test match, Virat Kohli went on record that he will be ‘aggressive’ in his outlook.
The first manifestation of that stated approach appeared to be in the selection of Karn Sharma in the playing eleven. The thinking clearly seemed to be that even if Sharma may prove expensive and give away runs, he being a leg-spinner, would also put in more spinning revolutions on the ball, thereby giving a much better chance at taking wickets - as compared to the overlooked Ashwin or Jadeja.
India are a wonderfully aggressive team when it comes to the short form of the game. In particular, the batting unit, high on the adrenaline shots of the IPL, express themselves with unfettered abandon. Fascinatingly, they respect the opposition enough to consciously inculcate a healthy disrespect for them. The game-plans then invariably include attempts to put the opposition off their game.
That thinking then, is inherently sound. At the highest level of the game, when the opposition has worked out a carefully-thought-through game plan to make you redundant, one simply has to disrupt that game-plan, in order to survive. Continued push-backs are mandated, even to simply stay in the same spot so to speak, leave alone progress. Attack therefore, is the best form of defence – and dare one say, is the only form of defence at most times.
Cut to the longer form of the game.
Survival. Wearing down. Resilience. Patience. ‘Gutsing’ out.
These are words we commonly hear in the context of test matches.
Aggression however, is not a word one normally associates with India and test matches. It seems that India at the outset, generally set out to not lose a test match. Only later, does it appear that the possibly of victory crosses their minds. This seems all the more so in test matches played outside the subcontinent. The reasons are not very hard to fathom: India have historically been poor travellers, with a test match series victory outside India being a rare and precious result, and defeats being more the norm.
The fear of losses then, generally overpowers the desire for victory. Safety first, has generally seemed to be the mantra of the India test team.
It is in that context then, the approach adopted by the India test team led by a stand-in captain, has made an interesting departure. At no point arguably – either on the ground or in the statements to the press - did the team give evidence to suggest that they were playing for a draw. It is of course a different matter that there also lies a valid argument that at some point yesterday, the team probably ought to have nuanced their approach and ‘pulled the shutters down’ and looked to save the day. As the saying goes, ‘Sar salaamat, toh pagadi hazaar – if the head is safe, one can try on a thousand pagadis or headgear – there are yet three more matches in the series.
But that said, for now, the all-or-nothing approach adopted by the team led by the stand-in skipper, is quite fascinating.
The approach if continued – and it’s a big if - will no doubt plunge the followers of the team into the desperately deep and dark abyss of despair from time to time, for inevitably there will be games like yesterday, where defeat will result from possible winning positions.
But that said, make no mistake: the approach will also bring along with it, the exhilarating possibility of achieving breathtaking victories: the possibility of success when all seems lost; results miraculous and awe-inspiring.
Without doubt, it is too early to say; but if the team adopts this ‘take-no-prisoners’ policy as an article of faith, we all would do well to strap on our seat belts, and brace ourselves for a rollicking and roller-coaster ride.
I love rides. How about you?