Jamie Alter: Throughout the series India\'s players have been sleeping on the job.
Which one of us has hasn't overslept and been late to work? You know the drill: the alarm rings, you're woken from a slumber and reach out a fumbling hand in the dark to slap the snooze button. Even in your dreary state you know it's a bad idea, but you do it anyways. A while later, you're frantically running from the parking lot to the office entrance, a frenzied bundle of emotions as you check your watch again and bound up the steps. You're late, almost out of breath, and could be in dog doo if your boss notices.
Welcome to India's tour of Australia. The team has dozed through two Tests and turned up in Perth looking disheveled, flustered and in dire need of a strong shot of caffeine – or more, many will argue - to stir the senses. Their tardiness in Melbourne and Sydney left them with far too much to catch up on, and after another sorry batting effort and hopeless bowling display on day one in Perth, the remaining days of this Test series look as glum as those leading up to Friday for an office-goer turning up late on Monday morning.
The tone for India's terrible day was set in the morning when, having been put into bat, the batsmen walked out in a daze. Make no mistake; this was nowhere near a lively WACA pitch as had been predicted. Yet again, the batsmen surrendered to a persistent fast-bowling attack – Mitchell Starc's left-arm pace was preferred to Nathan Lyon's offspin – in a manner that has become too frequent. There was a little bit of bounce and some zip off the track, but not more than you would expect from an Australian surface and certainly not enough to threaten India's survival. Their lowest total on tour was all about poor batting, not hostile bowling.
The failings were familiar. Virender Sehwag – again – edged to the slip cordon; Rahul Dravid – again – was bowled; Sachin Tendulkar – again – was dismissed playing an attacking shot; Gautam Gambhir – again – nicked to the wicketkeeper. At 63 for 4, India were sleepwalking.
The man most culpable of turning up to work in his pyjamas has been Sehwag. He has no middle path between attack and defence, as his dismissals in this series show: three attacking shots on the off side and two limp pokes behind the stumps. Today, his meek forward defensive was again swallowed in the slips to leave India at 4 for 1. With the sight of their most explosive player walking back early – again – the tension had set in for India. Sehwag has degenerated as a Test batsman on this tour – he has made 108 runs in five innings, including a chancy 67 in the first inning in Melbourne - and though he is too valuable a player to be jettisoned just yet, he must be put on probation.
Once Tendulkar was gone, working the ball across the stumps instead of defending, India were looking at a weak middle-order for hope. VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli stemmed the rot briefly, but an airy drive outside off stump from Kohli opened the sluice gates. Seven runs later, Laxman – again – picked out first slip, almost as if in resignation. Inevitably, the end was swift.
Vinay Kumar, on debut, had little stacked in his favour, MS Dhoni gave the slips catching practice, Zaheer Khan – again – slogged and Ishant Sharma lasted eight deliveries. A scoreline of 63 for 4 was shoddy, but a collapse of six for 30 in 56 balls was a sackable offence.
No one could point to any demons in the track. This was simply another dreadful effort against a controlled attack. For those who still want to take the pitch into consideration, do have a look at Australia's batting card. Most tellingly, there was a familiarity to India's batting display. The alarm bells have been ringing since the tour of England, but hardly anyone seems to be listening. The seniors seem unable to learn from their mistakes and the repercussions are reaching a calamitous level for India, who have collectively missed the wake-up calls. The lack of determination and application has been damning.
India's toothless attack was exposed by an outstanding century from David Warner, but truth be told India were worst when they succumbed for 161. As Warner biffed Australia toward an indestructible advantage, the match slipped away from India's grasp.
India's Friday bordered on horrible – that it is also the 13th should have no bearing on what has been a frightening tour anyway – and the weekend doesn't look like offering any respite. Come Monday, and they might as well chuck the alarm clock in the dustbin.