The last few agonising days have been spent listening and reading to the various theories of India's loss. They range from god-awful umpiring from the two men in the middle to the pathetic batting by the Indians. I find it quite bewildering and in no small measure belittling to the Aussies that none of the theories give them any credit. To me we lost because they played better and allowed us to play only so well. Here are some of the reasons why they won:
1) Preparation: the Aussies were better prepared than the Indians. Looks like they have been planning this since the series down under. This was well illustrated with the fields set by Gilchrist in both the innings. The field was fairly defensive just a slip and a gully and a five-four off side field. Defence, it seems, is the best form of offence. This allowed the bowlers to bowl straight and on a wicket-to-wicket line. This is well borne out by the fact that no less than 11 Indian batsmen fell either bowled or LBW. This also prevented the Indians from scoring a lot of boundaries which they thrive on.
2) Bowling: The best laid plans can come to grief if badly executed. This match was won and lost by the pace bowlers. Spin played a part but the pace was vital. Our new ball bowlers kept it tight. Pathan looked threatening at times but Zaheer was struggling for rhythm. Their new ball bowlers were relentless. They were able to extract more bounce from the wickets probably because they are taller. They found appreciable seam movement and used the reverse swing to excellent effect and above all bowled to the plan. In effect the Indian batsmen couldn't relax at any point in time. No one could ever feel set (admittedly not many of them played long enough for that).
3) Batting: As with their field placement the Aussie batting was conservative and had none of the bravado you usually associate with the Aussies. Mathew Hayden who swept the spinners to distraction kept the sweep in the bag. Gilchrist's slog sweep has dented many a ad hoarding but he hardly unsheathed the deadly weapon and when he did it was controlled and along the ground. Katich and Clarke used their feet to the spinners. It almost felt that they were Ranji veterans. During India's tour to Australia I thought that Katich was the best player of spin outside India and his performance in the first innings just confirmed my belief. Instead of the usual Gung-ho approach we saw a more traditional style from the Aussies a slow start, a steady consolidation and an explosion in the end as the bowlers wilted.
4) Fielding: In terms of performance while fielding things were more even, we didn't drop any easy catches whereas they dropped a couple and we even scored a run-out. But as usual their ground fielding was better than ours. What made the difference was they had better more innovative fields set to our batsmen while we stuck to the traditional fields. They played chess in the field and we couldn't wiggle out of their opening gambit.
But all said and done the match was closer than the score suggests. Though we were out of it virtually from day three, there were key moments in the game where it could have gone either way. That it didn't suggests that the Aussies played the big points better than the Indians. But all is not lost. The fight shown by the lower order and Harbhajan's form are glimmers of hope. We also know their plans now and can prepare accordingly. I once saw a sportsstar print ad. It ended by describing the poster which was of Lee and Hesh. "Beware", it said, "when you put it on the wall. 'coz when their backs are on it they fight back". Suits this Indian team to the T.