Category Archives: Australia

Onwards to Adelaide.

 There are seminal, never to be forgotten times in every one’s life. One such for me was actually being present at the Adelaide Oval during India’s famous victory there in 2003.

I contrived to travel to Adelaide on Business and finish all my meetings by lunch, whereupon I took a taxi across town to the Adelaide Oval to a press pass organised by a relative who was with ESPN.

I watched Dravid get his double from the George Giffen stand and post lunch, went up to the press box from where I watched Ajit Agarkar get his immortal 6-for. This was as close to cricketing heaven as it got. I was directly behind the bowler’s arm. On either side were the Channel Nine, ESPN, ABC and other media boxes.

Tony Greig, Ian Healy, Wasim Akram, Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle, Geoff Boycott-they all came to stretch out in this area and grab a drink or two. Gavaskar played tennis ball cricket with, I think, Jim Maxwell’s son while he was waiting for his lunch of naan and subzi from the local Indian restaurant.

Various print and internet journalists flitted about-Roebuck especially stood out in his kurta-particularly appropriate wear for that hot day. When I gushed to Sambit Bal that Cricinfo was my homepage, he asked politely whether I also subscribed to Cricinfo magazine. When I said no, his look, I imagine, seemed to say “Kanja Pisnaari payal” (Tight fisted so-and-so).

It was an unforgettable day, made particularly eventful when India won the next day.

Here’s hoping there’s an encore this time around and we are celebrating it in full measure over the Australia Day/Republic Day long weekend!

Soundar

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Ruffians and Angels…

This was a terrific win by India in Perth. As Mahesh said, this was an inspirational win.

Sunil Gavaskar, in his post-match, called it the “biggest win by Team India ever!”Now that’s a huge call to make!

Angels replace thugs:

This win just showed to me what can happen to a champion team when the common-ruffian and the street-hoon is removed from an Australian cricketer. Here were 11 terrific cricketers playing against a bunch of committed Indians who had a point or two to prove. But unlike previous efforts from these champion cricketers, the thug was replaced by the angel. The Australian players were on a best-behaviour notice. The whole of Australia had spoken. They did not like the hoons that they were getting to see regularly in cricket matches. The angels, who replaced the hoons in the bodies of the Australians were almost on even-keel with the Indians. Soon, Australia crumbled to an embarrassing loss on a wicket that suited Australia’s style of play.

Team-spirit:

This was a huge victory for India after the serious morale-busting loss in Sydney. The team had been through a lot in Sydney. The aftermath was globally embarrassing. The spotlight was constantly on the Indians. Opinions were being expressed by everyone. The team spirit that was on view right through the week was nothing short of sensational.

But the Indians rose above that and were helped by the sportsmen that they faced. The thugs were locked away. India won.

17th win:

In an amazing coincidence, the last time they went for a 17th consecutive win, India stopped Australia in its tracks. So also here at Perth. India won the 17th match and denied Ricky Ponting the 17th that he so badly wanted.

What a start by Kirsten!

And what a brilliant start for Gary Kirsten! This was his first match with the Indian team — and he was at Perth just as an observer! And India won. Hope this points to a better future for the prospects of the Indian team under Gary Kirsten!

Test ranking:

India now have a chance of climbing to 2nd spot on the ICC Test Rankings – India was 3rd on th table on 2 January.

Over-rates:

Finally, it was nice to see Mike Proctor finally fine the Australian team for slow over rates in this match. In my opinion, he ought to have done it in Melbourne and in Sydney too.

Now the show moves to Adelaide and then the ODI circus. Early news is that Ganguly and Dravid have been dropped from the ODI team — we may see them retire from the ODI scene soon.

What a win!!!

Nobody gave the Indians any chance of beating the Aussies at Perth. After the loss at Sydney, people were even asking if India were capable of beating them just about anywhere! But the Perth test ended in a dream result for India with India wrapping the game up in just 4 days!

Start of the day

At the beginning of the day, Australia needed around 350 to win, but had both Ponting and Hussey at the crease. Both were capable of a big score and a long presence at the crease and it was important that India got their wicket early to get ahead in the match. I found it rather surprising that Kumble started the proceedings – I thought the quicks should have been operating on both ends at the beginning of the day. Thankfully, he quickly rectified that and brought on Ishant Sharma for himself. Sharma’s bowling figures of 1 for 63 in 17 overs does not do any justice to the way he bowled this morning. Ponting, arguably the best batsmen in the World today was all at sea against him and had a few close calls, before he edged one to Dravid at first slip. If he continues to bowl this way, he has a great future ahead of him.

Australia went to lunch at 143 for 3. Although they had lost the wicket of Ponting, they had added 77 runs in 25 overs and had successfully negotiated the most important period of the game when the ball was still new and swinging. I am not sure how Mohan would have rated this session in his SBS scorecard, but I would have given .5 to both sides.

Post lunch session

The fourth over after lunch saw RP Singh get the all important wicket of Hussey. Hawk-eye showed the ball go over the stumps and Hussey can consider himself a tad unlucky – but similar decisions were also dished out to Tendulkar and Dhoni in the game. At least the umpires were being consistent.

The next wicket to go was Symonds, whose luck with umpiring decisions in the series finally ran out. After Symonds hit him for a six, Kumble bowled a flat and fast one to trap Symonds plumb before the wicket and Billy Bowden raised his crooked finger – the only problem was that replays showed an inside edge.

With Australia on 177/5 at that stage, India must have sensed a whiff of victory. But Gilchrist and Clarke weren’t done yet. They started putting on a partnership and were threatening to take the game away from India. Kumble then threw the ball to Sehwag and in his very first ball  to Gilchrist, bowled him around the legs – a wicket even Harbhajan Singh would have been proud of. What a huge wicket that was? And in the very next over, he had Brett Lee caught at silly point and Australia were reeling at 7/229. At Tea, Australia were 243/7 and the session clearly belonged to India. The SBS scorecard would have read Australia 4::India 7, but at this stage it didn’t matter who was winning the sessions – the post tea session would pretty much decide who won the game.

Post Tea session

India needed the wicket of Michael Clarke badly and that is what they got. In Kumble’s third over after Tea, he flighted one up to Clarke who came dancing down the pitch. He was beaten by turn and bounce and was smartly stumped by Dhoni. Australia were now 253/8 and needed another 160 runs to win, while all India had to do was take 2 wickets.

With nothing to lose, Johnson and Clarke started hitting out. The hits and mis-hits kept eluding the fielders and what looked like an annoying partnership suddenly grew into a nervous one for the Indians. The bowlers didn’t bowl well during this period either and there was one dropped catch and one “clean bowled” of a no ball. The new ball was soon taken, but the partnership had raced to 73 runs under 13 overs. Pathan eventually got the break through when he dismissed Clark for 32. Dravid then dropped a regulation catch at slip to prolong the match for a few more overs. RP Singh finally got the wicket of Tait to secure a 72 run victory. It also brings to end the 16 match winning streak of the Australians.

It is interesting to note that Australia hadn’t lost at Perth since the West Indian fast bowling attack beat them in the eighties and they haven’t been beaten in Australia since 2003 (when India beat them at Adelaide).

Australia now lead the series 2-1 and have already retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but the Indians would be playing to tie the series at Adelaide. It has been a great summer of cricket so far (in spite of the happenings in Sydney) and I really look forward to the Adelaide game.

-Mahesh-

Australia v India :: Test 3, Perth :: India compile despite crash…

India started Day-3 wishing to capitalise on their great overnight position. India had to consolidate and “play time”. When proceedings commenced it did look as though things would be going India’s way! Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan started with purpose and determination. Good balls were being left alone. Bad balls were being put away and singles were being taken.

Suddenly, Australia got into the game by claiming four quick wickets! Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly left without making too much of a dent on proceedings! This was suddenly starting to look like a nightmare scenario was playing out!

Meanwhile, Irfan Pathan, who had seen 4 of his senior and more illustrious partners depart, was playing a dream innings! India went to lunch on 158-5 off 33.0 overs. Irfan Pathan was on a well made 45 and V. V. S. Laxman was batting on a composed 18! India was, at this stage, just 276 ahead. A few quick wickets could mean curtains for India. Australia had, quite remarkably, clawed itself back into this game! It just goes to show that one can never underestimate this champion team. When the going gets tough, they dig deep.

Sehwag was out to a beautiful ball from Stuart Clark. Rahul Dravid had made a mess of his footwork and poked a fast and furious ball from Brett Lee straight to Adam Gilchsist’s hands. Sachin Tendulkar received a brute of a ball from Brett Lee and was plumb in front — out LBW. And Sourav Ganguly invoked his old bad habits and hung his bat out to dry outside off stump. Things were looking precarious for India.

This session clearly belonged to Australia and the SBS Score reads: Australia, 3.5 :: India, 3.5!

Things were evenly placed at this stage.

Immediately after lunch, Irfan Pathan was out. He had played a brilliant innings and held it all together while his seniors fell around him.

The lunch-to-tea session, however, saw India compile. India compiled slowly and sometimes painfully. However, India did compile and the objective seemed to be to “play time”. V. V. S. Laxman and M. S. Dhoni put away flashy and risky strokes and instead, pushed for singles. There was also the odd boundary. This was good cricket. Ricky Ponting threw down the gauntlet by bowling Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds, his spinners. Yet, the bait wasn’t taken. This was cat-and-mouse stuff that was surely compelling viewing. Dhoni, in particular, curbed his attacking strokes and played the singles and the gaps instead. Laxman was batting beautifully. This was sublime, minimal-risk second-innings batting from this batting artiste.

At Tea, India was 245 for 8. M. S. Dhoni was out caught (apparently) by Adam Gilchrist off Symonds. The lead was 363. It wasn’t quite enough. India needed about 50 runs more to be safe and perhaps even about 90 runs to completely shut Australia out!

Despite the loss of Dhoni (and Pathan earlier in the session), this was India’s session.

The SBS Score reads: Australia, 3.5 :: India, 4.5!

After Tea, India made 49 more runs. Just prior to Tea, I had said that India needed another 50 runs to be safe in this game! Well, thanks to some good batting from R. P. Singh and Laxman’s continued excellence, India got those 50 runs! These will be valuable runs in the context of the game. Australia was set 413 to win and there was an hour to play in the game in this, the 3rd day of the game.

At one stage, India looked unlikely to get to a score of 200. Thanks to some sensible batting from Sehwag (43), Pathan (46), Laxman (79), Dhoni (38) and R. P. Singh (30), India got to 294.

In response, Australia lost two wickets to Irfan Pathan’s seam bowling. The rest of the bowling was a bit ragged. However, in the last over of the day, Anil Kumble got a few to jump and spit!

Ideally, India would have liked to have taken a 3rd wicket — preferrably that of Ricky Ponting. However, the 2 wickets that they have taken is a good start. The bowlers will need to bowl with purpose, nerve and direction to complete the job.

Let us not forget that this champion Australia team is capable of winning it from here although I’d put the match currently at 65-35 in India’s favour!

It is certainly going to be an interesting 4th day. The match will not, I suspect, go to a 5th day. Australia will either win it or lose it on day-4.

What a wonderful Test match and what a superb series of cricket this has been. Full marks to this India Team for having rebounded from the depths of Sydney.

For setting a target of 413 and for taking those 2 wickets, I give this last session to India. The SBS Score reads Australia, 3.5 :: India, 5.5

— Mohan

Good day to be an Indian.

This, or variants thereof, might have been the scenarios in various Australian workplaces this morning as resident Indians walked in the door.

A1: Look who’s here. And wipe that smile off your face.

My Manager (another A): Good to see you mate. Thought you’d be calling in sick from Perth.

Me: Well, the red-eyes going west were all full of those bloody miners on FIFO deals.

A2: I tell you, these Indians, terrorising us Aussies-haven’t heard of sticking to scripts have ya?

A1: Looks a few inches taller don’ he?

Me: I’d suggest that we would still want to wrap things up in 3 days. After all the boys are booked for that trip to Monkey Mia on Saturday morning.

A2: Well, if we bat the way our bowlers bowled at See-wag yesterday evening, your boys might make that trip after all.

Soundar. 

Australia v India :: 3rd Test :: Both teams in an unfamiliar position…

At the end of day-2 of this fascinating Test match in this gripping series between Australia and India, both teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory!

It is not often that Australia is so far behind in a Test match with 3 days to go in a Test match. Conversely, it is not often that India is so far ahead in a Test match with 3 days to go!

It is a wonderful platform for India and needs a few people to stand up and be counted. From here on in, it is a question of whether India believes it can win. The moment India show nerves and self-doubt, in my view, this powerful Australian team still has the ability to climb all over it. So it is going to be a test of nerves, self-belief as well as ability from here.

There is little doubt in my mind, however, that India is on top in this game after 2 days have been completed.

Whichever course this match takes though, there is no doubt in my mind that after the sorry mess and the debacle of Sydney, India has re-grouped well and come out the stronger for it. India is playing with purpose, direction and energy. They are pumped up and want to win. A local news channel in India claimed that the Indians had a 45-minute closed-door session with Gary Kirsten after the end of the 1st days’ play. Much of it concentrated on the team playing with fire and with pride. On the other hand, Australia has looked somewhat listless and de-energised right through this game.

On a day when 297 runs fell for 15 wickets, India came out on top.

The day started with Australia cleaning up the India tail. Starting at 297 for 6, India started sensibly with M. S. Dhoni and Irfan Pathan batting sensibly. Then close to the finish of the hour, it ran away from India and they were down in a heap; all out 330.

One thought that that was about 120 runs short! They may have got there had Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman not given it away as they did!

Australia came out with purpose in their batting. They were, after all, batting in their home den! Most of their batsmen were used to the sting and bounce in the wicket. For all them, hitting on the up and through the line in Perth was as easy as spreading Vegemite on their daily toast!

Indian seam bowling stocks

What they did not account for was accurate, relentless and steady top-class seam bowling. One wished one could bottle the caliber of disciplined bowling that was on display by the Indian seam-bowlers! At the end of the days’ play R. P. Singh said that the bowlers had a meeting prior to the game in which each of them was assigned a task. R. P. Singh’s task was to use the bouncer frequently! Each bowler had “areas to bowl to” agreed to. Now, to plan these things is one thing. To actually go out there and execute these plans is quite something else. The Indian bowlers did that and came out the victors today.

Let us not forget also that this is not actually India’s first line pace attack! Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh and Munaf Patel are back in India, nursing injuries! Given the display of the 3 seam bowlers today and with Pankaj Singh, V. R. V. Singh, Ranadeb Bose and Praveen Kumar waiting in the wings, one might say that the pace bowling stocks aren’t exactly looking bad at the moment!

Pathan’s resurgence

One point that was hammered home forcibly today was Irfan Pathan’s resurgence. I’d like to see Pathan as part of the Indian team mix for a long time to come. He bowled brilliantly. Agreed, he bowled better to left-hand bats than he did to right handed bats. However, his pace was consistently in the high 130s and he had his swing going too; and this was late seing, by the way!

His batting abilities at #8 (in this match) means that India can often go with 4 other bowlers in the team; this is always a plus especially in India where 2 spinners have to play!

1st Session

Given that Australia wrapped up India’s innings close with just 33 added to the India overnight score of 297-6, one may have been tempted to call the 1st session as Australia’s. However, with some clever seam bowling, India managed to get two early wickets — admittedly one dodgy LBW decision when the ball appeared to be heading down leg-side — I’d be tempted to call this an even session. The SBS Score read Australia, 2.0 :: India 2.0 at this stage.

2nd Session

The second session belonged to India though. Australia were on the ropes at 61-5. Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist came up with a breathtaking display of counter-attacking batting. This was counter-punching of the highest caliber that produced a run-a-ball century partnership. However, the Indian bowlers stuck to their task, best displayed by R. P. Singh, in a terrific show of level-headedness in the post-tea session. He was spanked for 3 consecutive 4s by Gilchrist. However, he produced a lifter from just short of a good length. It caught Gilchrist unawares and the resulting edge was poached by Dhoni.

Despite the precarious 60-5 situation that Australia found herself in, the Symonds-Gilchrist fireworks show took Australia to a reasonably comfortable position of 148-5 at Tea. These runs had come off just 31 overs! I just couldn’t believe that this team was under the pump! Visions of Mumbai 2001 flashed in front of me where, from a position of 99-5 Gilchrist and Hayden rescued the team with a gritty and purposeful fight-back. In this session, India missed a catch off Symonds — Tendulkar dropped the edge at 1st slip. Had that catch been taken it would have been an even session.

The SBS Score read Australia, 2.5 :: India, 2.5 at this stage.

3rd Session

The 3rd session belonged totally to India. First India got Australia out for 212. In their response, India lost only 1 wicket — that of the hapless Wasim Jaffer who is having a nightmare series from hell!

Along the way, Anil Kumble got his 600th wicket. What an incredible servant of Indian cricket this amazing cricketer has been! He could come into his own in this Perth wicket which, amazingly, is taking some spin too!

Virender Sehwag was, well, Virender Sehwag. He played and missed several times. But still he scored at a rate that only Sehwag can. The Australians are wary of Sehwag. They want to get him out and see the back of him. In that itself India wins part of the battle. He is still there and that will be a big plus for the tourists as they come out to bat tomorrow.

The fact that Irfan Pathan is there at the crease as a night-watchman is also good for India. He can stick around and make life miserable for the Australians who will need to dislodge him in order to have a crack at the Big 4 to follow: Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman!

The SBS Score reads Australia, 2.5 :: India, 3.5 at this stage. India are ahead. It is an unusual position for this team. But one that India needs to capitalise on.

Strategy from here

Anil Kumble, in a post-match interview, said that the strategy would be one of playing time; the runs will come. I have some sympathy with this strategy. Firstly, we have just finished day-2. There is a lot of time left in this game! India should focus on playing out each session and slowly, batting Australia out of this Test match! India is 170 runs ahead at this stage. At the end of tomorrow, if India bats all three sessions, the team could well be 450 runs ahead! This will require some patience and a lot of determination.

In post-match interviews Adam Gilchrist did admit — as most people will — that India is in the drivers’ seat in this match. However, he did say that the Australian team relished the challenge and that they would dig deep to come after the Indians.

If Australia get India out cheaply, they could win from here too! But it would require a special effort from them and some clumsy batting from the Indians.

A match that is interestingly poised…

— Mohan

Reversal of roles…

This was supposed to be the wicket where India would struggle and Australia would win in 3 days. That is what everyone had us believe. Instead, at the end of Day 2 at the WACA, we have India on top with a lead of 170 runs, with 9 wickets still remaining (it could have been 10 – had Jaffer not played that stroke in the penultimate over of the day)

You could actually be excused for thinking that it was the other way around – Australia had scored 330 in the first innings and India was all out for 212. But, no! It was the Aussies who seemed to struggle against the bounce and just lasted 50 overs against a largely inexperienced bowling attack.

The Indians started out quite well yesterday, but basically handed the momentum to the Aussies in the last session of play yesterday.  When India were all out for 330 this morning, I thought they were at least 70 runs short of a decent 1st innings score on a pitch where they weren’t expected to score high. The bowlers swung the momentum back India’s way.

It is going to be an interesting day’s play tomorrow and would be nice if India capitalize on the lead they already have and build on it. Although India is on top at the moment, the game is far from over – one bad session for India and Australia will be back in the game.

I think players from both camps realize that. As they say it aint over till the fat lady sings…

-Mahesh-