Cricket is a game of great uncertainties, they say but it has been quite a while now, that results in Test Cricket have been not very unpredictable. We have had teams from the sub-continent not able to win overseas and we have seen top sides like Australia and South africa look clueless in sub-continent conditions. South Africa’s visit to India at the end of last year and Australia’s ongoing struggles in Sri Lanka only reaffirm this belief.
One reason,I believe that teams like Australia and South Africa struggle in the sub-continent is their lack of belief that they can sucessfully counter-attack. My experience of playing Test Cricket makes me believe that more often than not, when wickets-keep tumbling it becomes very important for the players of ability of Amla,DeVilliers,Warner and Smith to not let the bowlers get into a rhythm, irresepective of the assistance they get from the pitch. In a 3-4 test series, after the initial few innings you have a fair idea of what is going to be on offer. Batsmen of such calibre might fail once or twice trying to counter-attack but they are bound to succeed and once they do so, they can just shift the momentum in favour of their teams.
Whether it be Brian Lara’s series against the Australian’s in 1999 where he scored those magical 213 and 153 not out on difficult surfaces,Kamran Akmal’s counter-attack against us in 2006 where he scored a quick-fire century after we had them 39-6 , Chandimal’s innings against India last year , Sachin’s 155 against South Africa in my debut test or few of my innings including the double century against Sri Lanka at Galle, it proves that if there is a method to madness you can change the course of the game very quickly. Dhoni and Gilchrist as wicket-keepers coming in at number 7 counter-attacked quite successfully as well. Some batsmen might counter-attack like a missile, but others like VVS Laxman who often did so quietly can counter-attack like a painting-brush. But one thing for sure is that though such instances of taking the opposition by surprise happens less frequently, it can become an effective method if done consciously especially when the opposition is on a roll and the bowlers are easily settling into a rhythm. Even in the recently drawn 2nd test between India and West Indies, though Chase played a brilliant innings to save the match for West Indies, it was also Jermaine Blackwood’s brilliant brief counter-attack in both innings that took away the momentum after India were well on top.
I believe teams like Australia and South Africa have players of great calibre who can change the course of the match against any attack on any pitch. They just need to have that positive approach which has more often than not worked for them.