Daily Archives: 3 February 2008

Australia v India :: ODI :: “Hard but Fair”

India won the toss and started positively by chosing to bat first in overcast conditions in this, the first match of a tri-series ODI that involves Australia, India and Sri Lanka! Electing to bat first was a bold move. Most of the Channel-9 commentators and ABC commentators felt that this was a wrong move, especially since Australia went into the game with 4 pace bowlers!

Manoj Tiwary was chosen ahead of Praveen Kumar. Rohit Sharma was there, one thought, for an injured Yuvraj Singh. Dinesh Karthik also missed out.

The Channel-9 commentators thought that 240 would be a par score on this pitch under such conditions.

Healey started off by saying that India would be 40-5. Lawry said no way would India be 40-5 and attempted to shut Healey up. The former Australian ‘keeper said “Ok they would be 30-6 then!”

This brings to sharp focus the insular nature of commentary in Australia. Commetartors such as Robin Jackman, Geoff Boycott, Tony Greig, Ian Chappell, Michael Slater, Greg Blewett, Bruce Yardley, et al are regularly invited to Indian homes via TC sets. We still have on Channel-9 a paranoia-stricken and xenofobia-stricken approach that sees a clutch of former Australian cricketers willing Australia on to victory. Nothing wrong with that, but perhaps balance and perspective suffers as a result. But then, as Lalors would have us believe, Australian sport is about being “hard but fair”!

India started off steadily, but in the 4th over, Sehwag chose to cut a Nathan Bracken delivery close to his chest. The resulting under edge crashed onto his leg stump! India was 13-1. Soon after, through a freak hit-wicket dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar, India was 26-2! At the end of 8 overs, India was on 27-2. Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir had to now hold the innings together. The 9th over saw 11 runs come to Gautam Gambhir from 30-year-old Ashley Noffke’s debut over in ODI cricket. At the end of 10 overs, India was 44-2. Early marks had gone to Australia although the pitch wasn’t really doing anything! The batsman had basically handed the initiative to Australia.

The 11th over saw a dogs’ breakfast of a fielding from James Hopes who put in a fielding effort that Munaf Patel would have been proud of! I am not sure if Peter Lalor is going to write about it though! He may not have even observed it — most of his type are oblivious to internal blemishes by the Australians! Their mirrors just see the bad and unruly behaviour of crowds in Mohali! The rest of their world is somewhat perfect! The end of the over saw India reach 52-2, not quite the five-down-for-nothing that Healey had bleated about!

The 13th over saw two catches dropped at slip by Mike Hussey at 2nd slip and Ricky Ponting respectively! Gautam Gambhir poked at two Mitchell Johnson deliveries and down went two catches. In the very next over, bad judgement from James Hopes meant that a skier was put down in the deep off a Rohit Sharma dance-down-the-pitch shot. I am sure Lalor was watching these too, but I am sure he will have bad India fielding and bad India over rates to write about later on in the night! The Australian catching, truth be said, has been woeful all summer.

Gambhir was living dangerously. He had played some excellent shots, no doubt, but his off-side pokes were either being spilled or were falling in vacant paddocks.

The two Indian youngsters got the score moving nicely till the 20th over when Gambhir fell LBW to Mitchell Johnson — a bowler who’d probably, by then, lost confidence in his colleagues’ ability to catch the ball — for 39 off 51 balls. India was 91-3. This bought debutant Manoj Tiwary to the crease. He played and missed and copped a verbal spray from Mitchell Johnson immediately. “Welcome to cricket in Australia, but don’t worry we play hard but fair”, was the message — at least, that is what a Lalor would have you believe! At the end of the 20th over, the score was 92-3.

Tiwary had just come into the country for 24 hours as cover for Yuvraj Singh and seemed like he may have wanted a bit more time before he was thrown into the deep end! The Australians were testing him with the short stuff. Immediately, Rohit Sharma departed and it was 93-4. Tiwary did look totally uncomfortable and out of place! He didn’t seem to belong on this stage. And he did not last long. Tiwary was probably chosen ahead of the more settled and acclimatised Dinesh Karthik (or even Praveen Kumar) for his bowling prowess. One only hopes that he bowls really well.

M. S. Dhoni and Robin Uthappa reconstructed the innings slowly. Almost against the run of play, Uthappa gloved a rising delivery from Noffke to lob an easy catch to Michael Clarke. Once again, a good start was ruined by some reckless middle-order display.

After losing 4 wickets for 11 runs, India was badly on the back foot. The scoring rate dipped and crease-occupation was the name of the game. India crawled to 111-6 at the end of 30 overs, when the second drinks break was taken. The Australian over-rate was woeful — as it has been all summer; something that most match referees seem to be blind to these days! This perhaps forced Australia to use Michael Clarke’s left-arm spin.

Singles were the order of the day and India limped to 120-6 off 34 overs, when the mandatory ball change happened. At this stage is was nearly 90 balls and 68 mins since the last boundary had been scored! Things were turning out to be painfully slow for India at this stage. A rain break of over an hour reduced the game to a 45-over-a-side match along with a retention of the 45-minute dinner break! This is a bizzrre ruling? Why not eat into the dinner break?

This was followed by a few overs of acceleration from the Indians. Then, in an over from Noffke, a huge appeal for caught behind was turned down. The Australians were, of course offended. The crowd was also offended. Naturally. They’d have expected him to walk, because he is not Australiàn. Only Australians like the Gentleman Roy are allowed to stay their ground! The boos from the “hard but fair” Gabba crowd continued through the over.

When Pathan was out a few balls later he was roundly booed by the crowd. The poor crowd. It had to draw breath immediately to welcome Harbhajan Singh to the crease with a continuation of the boo-rhythm! The crowds’ aggression was perhaps understandable, although a Lalor would have you believe that the only hostile crowds come from Mohali or Mumbai! Sir, if you please, crowds in Australia play “hard but fair”. Do you mind!

While the crowds’ “hard but fair” hostility was understandable, Ian Healeys’ Laloristic commentary cry of, “Yeah! Stick it to him. Get right into him” commendation of the boos was thoroughly deplorable and despicable as Harbhajan Singh walked in to bat! Mind you, it was all “hard but fair” so it was all thoroughly ok! No problems there at all. The crowds at Mohali, sir? Naah! They are ruffians who won’t quite know the meaning of either “hard” or “fair”.

Harbhajan Singh came out in determined fashion. He combined some unorthodox shots with clever nudges and kept the scoreboard ticking along with Dhoni.

Dhoni lasted till the last over and then got out. The poor crowd. Had to draw breath once again to give a “hard but fair” (but of course) response to Sree Santh. Soon, the crowd had to draw its breath again to give a “hard but fair” send off to Harbhajan Singh as Singh got out. Just as it had given a “hard but fair” boo of no-ball every time Muralitharan came out to bowl.

India finished at 194 all out at the end of the 45th over.

Further rains meant that the game was reduced to a 43-over party with Australia needing to make 192 to win.

India, one felt, had one pace bowler less for this responsive track. Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Manoj Tiwary would need to combine to bowl 8-9 overs.

India’s best chance lay in taking a few quick early wickets. The “hard but fair” crowd continued to boo Harbhajan Singh as he fielded or stopped balls. But these are of course, unlike Mohali or Mumbai, friendly Laloristic environs.

India started badly. Pathan bowled down legside to a packed outside field and Sree Santh was intent on pitching in his half of the pitch! And then, against the run of play, Gilchrist edged a down-the-legside ball from Sree Santh to Dhoni behind the stumps.

Soon after that there was yet another extended rain-break. When the players came back, the game was shortened to a 26-over game with a target of 141. This would be a stiff target. Soon after resumption, both James Hopes (bowled Ishant Sharma) and Ricky Ponting (brilliantly caught by Sehwag in the slips off Sree Santh) fell cheaply and Australia were 39-3. Sreesanth and Sharma were, by now, bowling quite brilliantly.

With Australia on 51-3, though, the game was interrupted yet again by a rain break. And this was the end of the game. Both teams share two points in this circus.

The next match is a India Vs Sri Lanka tie… No “hard and fair” game that!

— Mohan