Melbourne:India's defensive tactics on the third day of the ongoing fourth Test against Australia came in for scathing criticism from the media Down Under which lambasted the hosts for "killing the game" and showing scant respect for the spectators with their "negative" approach.
"Towards the end of the first session the screen reported that 'of 100 balls bowled today, the Aussies have left 59'. But the message was the wrong way around. It ought to have read: 'Of 100 balls delivered this morning, India directed 59 wide of the wickets'," noted cricket writer Peter Roebuck wrote in a column for the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.
"It's hard to remember a more cynical display from a side that commands such widespread affection, a side that represents both the mightiest force and future of the game. On this evidence the Indians are more concerned with ends than means," he fumed.
Just 166 runs were scored on the third day with Indian bowlers bowling a line wide outside off stump. The tactics, however boring, handed India a substantial 86-run lead going into the fourth day.
Roebuck said if teams start relying on such a negative approach then it should not surprise anyone if people don't turn up to watch Test cricket, which is already battling dwindling fan interest.
"Does Test cricket want to survive? Does it even care? Both sides have played a boring game, aiming wide of the sticks whenever it suited them, stifling stroke play, killing the game.
"Unsurprisingly, the stands have been almost empty. It's not much fun to sit exposed to the sun for hours on end watching seamers send the ball wide of the sticks and batsmen shouldering arms, or spinners aiming into the rough outside leg stump, daring batsmen to roll the dice.
"Joining the dots it is called in the jargon. Spectators ought to have been paid to attend but instead were forced to take a rickshaw to a distant ground, buy a ticket for all five days and survive numerous glares and searches from security officers," Roebuck wrote.
He said India's tactics were so outrageous that Australians, for once, earned a right to question the host team's spirit.
"On this occasion the Australian batsmen were not to blame for the banality of the morning 'play'. Rightly, the occupants refused to throw their bats at wide deliveries. As the balls flew past almost out of reach they have every right to echo Anil Kumble's withering remark after the SCG Test that only one team had played in the spirit of the game."
'The Australian' said India's approach strangulated the game.
"Bowling defensively against an Australian side which trails 1-0 and must win this match to level the series and retain the Trophy, India appeared as through it was content with a draw but is now well placed to win.
"The sparse crowds which inhabited this magnificent but inaccessible new arena in the middle of nowhere have little reason to bother returning next time India play a Test here.
'The Courier Mail' echoed the view and criticised Dhoni's men for slowing down the match.
"In a city known for its oranges, India began to squeeze the life out of Australia's bid to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as the fourth Test slowed to snail's pace.
"Chasing India's first innings total of 441, the tourists were bowled out for 355 shortly before stumps on a third day marred by India's overly defensive field placings.