India’s missing link: No. 6
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The highlight, or the standout feature, of any New Zealand practice session almost always occurs right at the winding down end of it, when Chris Martin straddles out to bat. Knees poking ahead of sagging pad flaps, big-helmet-on-tiny-skull Martin marches in with a purpose — knowing fully well that all eyes in the vicinity are plastered on him.
It's 'Learn to bat like Chris Martin' (http://goo.gl/vxx6w ), the highly recommended YouTube video, in real time. On Wednesday, a couple of days before the start of the second and final Test, Martin discovered a few new ways of getting dismissed at NCA's training area. On the sidelines, a camp bruised by the result at Hyderabad, de-stressed as one. You see, little is expected of a number eleven batsman in Test cricket; lesser still from a person with 35 Test ducks to his credit.
History is rarely altered by the willow of a man batting last. It is, however, almost dependent on the success and failures of the batsman who is considered the 'last recognised' one. The number six man, a person who bats just above the 'keeper and the tail, has and continues to determine the true mettle of a batting line-up. And it is no coincidence that teams with a powerhouse in that position have gone on to dominate the rankings — Garry Sobers in the 50s and 60s, Clive Lloyd in the 70s and 80s, Steve Waugh in the early 90s who handed the position over to Ricky Ponting until the early 2000s.
Plenty of expectations
They were all part of sides that sat on the throne. As were India when VVS Laxman predominantly performed rescue acts at six, followed by England with Ian Bell defining a packed order, and subsequently as AB de Villiers fired on all cylinders for South Africa. They were all number one not just due to their venerated top-order, but also due to an enterprising player who walked in at four-drop and kept pedal pressed on metal. Ever since India lost its crown though, the think-tank has unfortunately treated that spot as the Kiwis do Martin — with zero expectations and plenty of experiments.
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