There have been lots of brickbats (well deserved) for Parthiv Patel on this forum and at least one passionate 'plea' in his favour (more emotionally charged than otherwise). However, the fact of the matter is that India is in this sorry state of affairs, at the time of writing, in this series not because of Parthiv's keeping (pathetic though its been) but the amazing failure of its much acclaimed batting line up.
Before we start talking of wickets, quality of Australian bowling, bad luck with the toss etc etc, let me clarify that I dont think this is a better Australian attack than 2001. They are more disciplined and cool headed, yes . But better as in bowling more unplayable deliveries, more penetration etc etc, NO SIR . The wickets have been fine. No better or worse than one has seen before in India and the toss has not been THE decisive factor . In the second test, India was in a position to press for a possible victory, inspite of losing the toss, and here in Nagpur, it wouldnt have been surprising (or wrong) if Rahul (had he won the toss) had decided to have a bowl.
More than all this, what really exposes the terrible terrible performance of India's top order is the performance of its lower order. In four completed innings so far, the first five wickets have yielded a grand total of 521 runs (avg 129.25 for 5 !!). Only once have we crossed 125 before losing the fifth wicket ! On the other hand, the last five wickets have yielded 525 runs (avg 130) adding 122, 158, 163 1nd 82 runs in the four innings so far !!
Surely, neither the wickets, nor the Australian bowling can explain India's batting debacle being limited to the top order only. In fact, at least on three occasions, it has been the advent of the new ball that had ended the fightback of the Indian tail.
So whats ailing team India.
There is so much talk of what Ganguly and the new management has done for the Indian team. I am one of those who believes it to be true to an extent. Building team spirit, belief in their abilities, a positive , aggressive, almost Aussie like approach to the game, a confidence in their team by the management that was missing from earlier Indian teams. Look at what happened in this last innings of India and ask yourselves, how much of this is in evidence in the Indian top order.
Where is the confidence in Laxman's batting ? Where is the aggression in Dravid's and Sachin's approach ? Where is the management's confidence in its opening batsman (one test per trial !) ? Does this look like a team that believes it can take on the Aussies ? I dont think the Aussies bowled as well as their figures suggest. They were ALLOWED to dictate. Warne did bowl his quota of short pitched as well as full toss deliveries but with one exception of a pull from Patel and a drive from Kaif, no one was in the mode to take advantage of them. When that happens, the loose balls dry up. The length improves.
Warne has pitched up more in this innings than so far in this series and the reason is that no one has shown the slightest propensity to take him on and drive him as they would have done earlier.
There is something terribly wrong with team India. Much more than Patel's keeping, much more than Sachin's prolonged absence and much more than bad form. This is a team that doesnt seem to believe it can take on the Aussies and no team in that frame of mind can even get close to challenging them.
PS : BTW, the only time the first five wickets added a reasonable score was the 213 in the first innings at Chennai. A point to note here, however, is the role played by night watchman and lower order batsman, Irfan Pathan in salvaging the innings in a second wicket partnership with Dravid !!