Tag Archives: Ganguly

India regain the Border Gavaskar Trophy

India regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on day-5 of the Nagpur Test. Just around Tea time on day-5 of the Test a crazy day mirrored the somewhat crazy days that had preceded that moment when a crazy LBW decision went in favour of India. This meant that the Test and the series went to India.

Australia started the series with a conditioning camp at the Rajasthan Cricket Academy. Australia ended the series with a Cricket Australia enquiry into the craziness that enveloped the post-Tea session on day-4 of this Test match. James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia has indicated that he wishes to conduct an enquiry into Ricky Ponting’s decisions in this 4th Test match.

Australian media, in a bid to search for excuses, will blame the 3 lost tosses, and perhaps even the pitches. The captain has already alluded to the toss-losses as being significant.

But really, Australia got it wrong with their “new age cricket” strategy. This cost the team the Bangalore Test match and then, the series! Moreover, Australia had a wrong team balance. I really do not know what Cameron White was doing in the team! It was only in the last Test that Jason Krejza had a bowl. And more than batting well and taking wickets, Australia was more interested in the verbals. It is batting and bowling that win matches.

One can’t really blame the toss. Every team learns to deal with it. And as for pitches, I certainly hope India continues to have spinning pitches. You do not travel to Sydney to expect to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa! If you do, you really need to visit a psychiatrist really soon!

India started the last day with a somewhat confused strategy. They attacked and then defended and then attacked and then defended and then attacked again. In the middle there was some ordinary fielding, excellent fielding, ordinary catching and excellent catching too.

The bottom line is that India has a long way to go before becoming a champion team. It is not there yet. But all of that is not quite relevant now. India won the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2-0.

Ishant Sharma was Man of the Series and Jason Krejza was Man of the Match. I think this was about the only thing Chris Broad got right in this series! The most exciting fast bowler in world cricket and the most exciting spinner in world cricket (behind Ajanta Mendis) were recognised!

M. S. Dhoni has had a wonderful initiation to Test cricket. He has won the first 3 Test matches that he has captained! And these weren’t easy oppositions! He has beaten South Africa, Australia and Australia! Admittedly, these were all in India. However, this is not to be scoffed at.

M. S. Dhoni is a man who is, in my view, mature beyond his years. When the 9th wicket fell, he dragged Sourav Ganguly to one side and then handed over the captaincy to the retiring Ganguly. What a wonderful gesture that was? And then, when it came to accepting the trophy, he called over Anil Kumble to the dais to accept the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with him! This was a sign of respect. It was a celebration of two glorious careers.

And in all of this, Gary Kirsten was nowhere to be seen.

India had a mature captain and a coach that did not need to be in the drivers’ seat!

Well done Dhoni. Well done Kirsten. The future of Indian cricket is certainly in good hands.

— Mohan

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“Adjective Watch”: Alive and Kicking!

While we are on the topic of derision, here’s the latest offering from the “Adjective Watch” department of i3j3Cricket!

In his match report, Malcolm Conn of ‘The Australian’ has referred to Harbhajan Singh as “annoying tailender Harbhajan Singh“!

As we know already, several adjectives have been used by the Australian media (Ok! I use the term lightly here) in the last two series to describe players like Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir.

Fine English phrases/words/terms like ‘Serial Pest’, ‘recalcitrant’ and ‘serial offender’ have been used in the past to describe Indian players. And who can forget that pearl, “obnoxious weed”?

All because these Indian players, who are no more competitive than your average Australian player, just look different and eat different food perhaps?

But “Adjective Watch” confirms that “annoying” is a new one, hitherto unused.

Let us therefore applaud Conn’s efforts here. Given that this has been a long tour for him — on the last tour, he despatched Peter Lalor to do duties in faraway, dusty, dirty India — this hitherto unused adjective was a stunning effort from the great Conn.

And after harvesting a truckload of adjectives thrown at him by the Australian media, Harbhajan Singh must believe that he is like God Vishnu; a God of a 100,000 descriptive names! It just keeps getting better for this proud Indian Sikh!

Meanwhile, Steve Waugh wants 8-1 fields banned in Test cricket! The Foxsports report says:

Waugh wants to ban the brickwall tactic of 8-1 field placings after Test cricket was humiliated on the world stage in India.

“It should be outlawed,” said Waugh. It’s negative. It doesn’t entertain and it won’t bring people back to Test cricket.”

Is this the same Steve Waugh who had a 9-0 field for Sourav Ganguly in Kolkata in 2001 in a bid to either humiliate the then Indian captain or deny Ganguly runs (or both)? That’s right. Not 8-1, but a 9-0 field! At that time, Australian media commentators applauded Steve Waugh as a ruthless man with single-minded determination. I wish I could find a YouTube video of that one to slam in front of Steve Waugh!

This series ought to have been titled “Karma Revisited” or “Karma Redefined”!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-2

India ended day-1 probably a bit disappointed at not using its opportunities as wisely as it might have. India was presented with first use of a track that will wear down over the next five days. And yet, 3 of India’s 5 batsmen gave it away, one is woefully out of form and one was on his debut.

The irony of the score — 311 for 5 — wasn’t lost on me! That was precisely the day-1 score for India at Mohali!

Australia will be comfortable that it is still in the game. A few quick wickets in the morning session would get Australia right into the Indian tail. From there, anything could happen.

As they say: The morning session will be crucial for both teams!

Session-1:

India started well and started positively. Australia started with Bertt Lee and Mitchell Johnson — remembering, of course, that the ball was still quite new! Neither of them made a dent in the Indian batting though. Dhoni batted with assurance and confidence. It helped, of course, the the pitch had true bounce (low, but true). Moreover, there wasn’t any movement at all! The only thing that moved was the scoreboard, through singles and twos and the occasional boundary hit.

Ever since he announced his retirement, Sourav Ganguly has been batting with a tightness to his game that has been absent for a long long time. Indeed, one could say that this tightness returned to his game since he got a recall to the Test team 2 years back. But still it always seemed that his wicket could fall anytime. However, now there is an assuredness to his batting. His defence is assured. His technique is good and his run-making skills have improved too.

All of that was to the fore in this mornings’ play. He was the wily old fox, playing in his last Test match for India. And he was playing really really well.

Dhoni was batting with the calm urgency that he always brings to his game. And that is not a paradox. There is a calmness about his batting. Nothing seems to ruffle him. And yet, there is a frenetic and fidgety urgency to his batting.

Lee and Johnson gave way to Krejza and Watson. Different bowlers, same result. The batting continued to dominate. After thrashing Krejza in his first two overs, the Indian batsmen settled down to pick him off for singles and twos. They were hardly troubled by these two bowlers. The field, meanwhile, spread to all parts.

India went to lunch on 404-5 off 113 overs. Just 24 overs had been bowled in the 1st Session. It was a continuation of Australia’s terrible play! Ganguly was on 80 and Dhoni was on 43.

The 1st Session belonged to India. No doubt about that. The SBS Score read: India-2.0, Australia-2.0;

Session-2:

After starting the session with a few bold strokes, Dhoni and Ganguly fell to Jason Krejza in the same over! Dhoni fell trying to attempt a cute paddle-sweep, while Ganguly fell to an excellent slips catch by Michael Clarke. Dhoni was out for 56 while Ganguly was out for 85 of 153 balls! Jason Krejza had a five-wicket haul that included Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman, Dhoni and Ganguly.

India was 423-7. After a somewhat ordinary morning, Australia was coming back strongly into this Test match. But as I said in my report from day-1, a score in excess of 400 would be quite competitive on this wicket. I could be wrong, but I think this could be a competitive total still unless Australia bats out of its collective skin. That would certainly be possible after what we saw in Delhi. However here, we saw Jason Krejza spinning and bouncing quite alarmingly.

HArbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, the two architects of the series turnaround for India were together at the crease now. I consider that it was their partnership in Bengaluru that defined the Indian approach in this series. Without that, I feel India may even have capitulated in that match and perhaps even a few more after that.

These two were again together. In the absence of Gautam Gambhir, they were also on the most wanted list of Australian media reporters!

Soo, Jason Krejza became the highest conceder of runs in a Test match debut! He bettered the 3-204 that Omari Banks had conceded on debut against Australia. Indeed, Banks and Krejza are the only two bowlers to have conceded more than 200 runs on debut!

Jason Krejza soon picked up his 6th wicket, bowling Zaheer Khan off an inside edge. Zaheer Khan went for an expansive off-drive without quite getting to the pitch of the ball. India was 437-8.

Off the very next ball, Krejza had his 7th wicket! He had Amit Mishra bowled first ball and was on a hat-trick. Indeed, although this was Mishra’s 3rd Test match, it was also the first ball he had faced in Test cricket! India was 437-9!

Ishant Sharma survived the hat-trick ball. But this performance by Krejza surely begs the question: What was he doing in this series up until this Test match? Every one except the Australian coach and captain seemed convinced that Krejza had to get a game!

Soon, when Ishant Sharma was caught at forward short-leg by Simon Katich, Jason Krejza joined the ranks of Alf Valentine, Bob Massey and Narendra Hirwani to become the 4th bowler to claim 8 wickets on debut. He had figures of 43.5-1-215-8. Excellent figures. Excellent debut.

[It was later pointed out that Krejza was indeed the 8th bowler to have secured 8 wickets on debut.]

India was all out for 441 and a collapse from 404-5 followed the somewhat silly shot of M. S. Dhoni.

Australia will have to bat really really well. Don’t forget that, unlike Delhi, Australia can’t afford to play the “patience game”. There, after India had made 613 in their 1st Innings, Australia had to play the patience game and build solidly to remain in the series. Here, they have to adopt the “bat well, bat once” approach! But they also have to play positively.

India started off with a bad over from Zaheer Khan in which he gave 10 overs!

In the very second over, Harbhajan Singh came on for a bowl! This was M. S. Dhoni’s stamp on the game with 2 left-handers in for Australia and with Matthew Hayden to contend with. It looked like Harbhajan Singh did not even wait to be handed the ball. He just took it and marked his run-up! It seemed to indicate that this was a ploy worked out in the pre-innings huddle itself.

Full marks to Dhoni! It may not pay off. But this was a top move from India. An aggressive move.

After 2 overs, Ishant Sharma was into the attack. Zaheer Khan was leaking runs at the other end. It wasn’t as if Zaheer Khan was bowling badly, but there wasn’t anything in this pitch for the Indian quick men. There wasn’t much spin in it for Harbhajan Singh either.

Australia, like India, had started well though and reached 31-0 after 6 overs with Zaheer Khan having leaked 20 runs in his first 3 overs.

In the 7th over, Matthew Hayden was run out! Hayden hit the ball to mid-off and set off for a quick run. He was out by about an inch. It was a direct throw.

The man the created the run out? M. Vijay, the debutant… The man that replaced the man that Australia were happy to cynically rub out of the Nagpur Test match!

Is this a definition of Karma?

What’s more? During the run, Matthew Hayden appeared to hit Zaheer Khan who was on his follow through! If Zaheer Khan had gone to the same acting school as Shane Watson did, he’d have rolled on the floor and made a song-and-dance of it! There was karma plastered all over that run out!

Australia was 32-1.

After just one over from Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh was back on! Perhaps because Ricky Ponting was at the crease!

Ishant Sharma was swung around to the other end, perhaps again because of Ricky Ponting’s preference for Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma!

At Tea, Australia was 43-1 off 11 overs. Ponting was 7 and Simon Katich was on 18.

I gave this session to Australia. The Australians had managed to swipe out the last 5 Indian wickets in a tearing hurry for a score of 441. Despite the loss of Matthew Hayden, this was Australia’s session. The SBS Score reads India-2.0, Australia-3.0;

Session-3:

India started the post-Tea session with Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma.

Ishant Sharma was bowling beautifully to Ricky Ponting. His first 3 overs after Tea reminded me of Perth. His length and line were impeccable. And often he even squared up Ponting. He asked several questions off Ponting. This was excellent bowling from the young Ishant Sharma.

There was a lot of chatter from the close-in fielders particularly when Ricky Ponting was facing. I must say I am enjoying Dhoni’s stump-mike “running commentary”!

Is it me or am I right in thinking that Dhoni doesn’t offer as much “commentary” when he is not captain?

Then, an over after Ishant Sharna gave 11 overs to Ricky Ponting to let off the pressure valve just that little bit, Harbhajan then got his 300th wicket. He bowled a flighted ball on the full to Ricky Ponting who rocked back to cut it. It was too close to Ponting’s body and before he could go through with the shot, his stumps had been castled! It was a poor shot more than anything else. Australia was 74-2.

Australia needed to move into a phase of consolidation now. Mike Hussey and Simon Katich did just that. While Hussey buckled down to ensure that Australia did not lose another wicket — scoring 5 off his first 22 balls — Simon Katich continued with positive intent without quite looking to belt the ball out of the park! Katich had 41 from 43 balls! This was good stuff from Katich.

Zaheer Khan replaced Ishant Sharma at this stage and Australia had reached 93-2 off 23 overs.

Simon Katich moved to 50 off 55 balls and took Australia’s score to 98-2. And the very next ball, Australia moved to 100 off 24.5 overs. Katich was playing well and once again proved his value to the team. Katich had made some impressive scores in this series but never converted his good starts to a big one. Perhaps this was his day?

India, I feel, was losing its grip on the game. Of course, Hussey and Katich were both batting brilliantly. No doubt about that. But I felt that Zaheer Khan was over bowled a bit here. While it was understandable that Ishant Sharma was given a long spell, it didn’t seem to make sense to leave Amit Mishra out of the attack, particularly since Zaheer Khan wasn’t really getting much reverse swing.

At the drinks break, Australia was 114-2 off 28.0 overs.

Harbhajan Singh was bowling reasonably well, but wasn’t getting much spin from the pitch! It would be interesting to see what Amit Mishra and Virender Sehwag are able to extract from this pitch.

Interestingly, Amit Mishra replaced Zaheer Khan after the Drinks break.

However, Zaheer Khan continued to bowl from the other end. It didn’t make much sense to me at all really although the ball was starting to reverse just that little bit. I’d have thought that we could have had Virender Sehwag for a few overs! The partnership between Hussey and Katich was already worth 50 runs! This was good batting from these two. The score reached 114-2.

Finally the Zaheer Khan persistence-folly was realised. Virender Sehwag was brought in!

But the Australian batsmen were playing really well and in an assured manner. The singles were coming all too easily and some singles were being converted into 2s too. So this was all quite easy for the Australians.

In my view, Amit Mishra seemed to have lost it a bit after his brilliant debut at Mohali. He seemed to have lost his wonderful flight and loop. Gone also was his googly. Here he seemed to pitch the ball too short too often.

India needed a few tight overs here. It was all too easy for the Australians, who had moved to 143-2.

Batting seemed to be all too easy for these two Australian left-handers. They were handling Sehwag and Mishra quite well. And what’s more? The scoreboard was ticking along quite nicely without too many risks being taken either. Every over had a few singles and every now and then there was a boundary too. Mishra and Sehwag weren’t able to pose too many threats though. The spin off the pitch was slow and innocuous. The partnership had prospered to 83 runs from 22 overs at a healthy run rate of 3.80 rpo.

At exactly 4.30pm IST, there were still 10 overs left to bowl in the days’ play. It was hard to know if this was mainly contributed by Australia’s terrible over rate.

India needed a change with the partnership having reached 97. With 7 overs left in the days’ play (22 mins), Harbhajan Singh came in for a bowl. His first ball was flat and at 85.0 kmph and his second was at 91.2 kmph! The field was spread out by then and the singles were there for the taking!

At the other end, Sachin Tendulkar came on for a bowl, replacing Amit Mishra. Off his first ball, a pulled 4 brought up the 100 partnership. Australia had moved to 177-2. This was good stuff from the Aussies.

Australia ended the day on 189-2. The Hussey-Katich partnership was worth 115 runs. The biggest worry for India would be that the Australians did it easily. There were no worries on the pitch. Most worryingly, though, was that Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra got minimal purchase from this pitch. India have much thinking to do tonight.

This was Australia’s session and the SBS Score reads: India-2.0, Australia-4.0;

Although it seems incredulous, I do believe Australia is ahead in this game, as reflected by the SBS Scores! Australia is 252 behind. There is a lot of cricket left in this match, but with Hussey and Katich batting well and with depth in the batting, Australia are ahead in this game!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-1

Ricky Ponting may have a lot of luck with the Match Referee who has been blind to Australia’s over-rate recalcitrance in all recent Tests. However, one thing that Ricky Ponting has bad luck with is the recent run of tosses! He lost even to Anil Kumble, a man notorious for bad toss-luck! M. S. Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat.

As expected, Harbhajan Singh replaced the retired Anil Kumble and M. Vijay came in for Gautam Gambhir who was rubbed out of this game without a proper appeal! The young opener from Tamil Nadu came in on the back of a double century in the Tamil Nadu game against Maharashtra.

Indeed, that TN-Maharashtra Ranji Trophy game only concludes today! Vijay was pulled out of that game after scoring a record opening stand of 462 in the company of the immensely talented 19-year-old, Abhinav Mukund. Incidentally, Abhinav Mukund, a stylish left-hander and son of former TN player Mukund, went on to make a 300 in that game.

I wrote in my preview of this Test match that Australia had to take Jason Krejza instead of Cameron White and perhaps, Peter Siddle instead of Shane Watson. Instead, however, Jason Krejza came in for Stuart Clark! Shane Watson and Cameron White remained in the side. This was, in my view, a strange tactic from Ponting. Only time will tell if it pays off for the Australians.

Session-1:

The pre-drinks session belonged to India. Australia started off with a Brett Lee wide — it ought to have been two wides in a row really, to match Steve Harmison’s start to the Gabba Test. India started off in a hurry. The rest of the first hour was roughly similar apart from a few false shots and inside edges from the Indian openers.

I was particularly impressed with Murali Vijay. He played with utmost composure a cool head and a tight technique. When he came forward to meet the ball, he did so in an assured manner. When he rocked back, his balance was brilliant.

Just before the drinks’ break, Jason Krejza came in for a bowl. Sehwag hit him for a 4 and a 6 in the same over. Perhaps this was a sign of things to come?

However, there were a few good signs for the Australians. The pitch had bounce and offered some spin. However, most interestingly, the top soil was already starting to crumble!

With the score on 98, Shane Watson bowled a few well-directed bouncers at M. Vijay who ducked easily into these. However, this was followed by another one closer to Mijay’s body. The ball squared him up and the resulting poke was taken by Brad Haddin. M. Vijay had made 33 off 53 balls and the score was 98-1!

At the other end, Sehwag faced up to Jason Krejza who had figures at this stage of 3-0-32-0. However, he was getting some sharp spin and unnerving bounce! Sehwag’s strategy to the first ball he faced from Krejza was strange; he attempted a reverse sweep! At this stage, Sehwag had scored 63 off 58 balls! I didn’t quite see the need for a reverse sweep, but then that’s how the man plays!

The fall of Vijay brought Dravid to the crease. Off the very first ball he faced from Krejza, Dravid lunged forward tentatively and poked the ball off the front foot. The ball bounced awkwardly, ripped and cluttered into his pads before travelling into the safe hands of Simon Katich at forward short leg! Dravid, after looking solid, but unlucky at Bengaluru, Mohali and Delhi, was out for a disconcerting duck off the second ball he faced!

This was good bowling by Krejza and underlined the folly of Australia not including him in previous Test matches.

Soon after, the score was 116-3 when Jason Krejza induced a lazy glide off the back foot from Virender Sehwag. With just 5 minutes to go for lunch, this was perhaps a play-for-lunch shot. The ball took the under-edge of the bat and crashed into the stumps. Krejza had his second wicket in Test cricket! Sehwag was out for 66 off 69 balls with 9 4s and 1 six!. India was 116-3 off 22.3 overs!

V. V. S. Laxman, in his 100th Test match, caressed the first ball he received for an off-driven 3 runs.

India found herself in a hole of her own making really! Jason Krejza was able to crowd the bat with 3-4 fielders now.

At lunch, India was on 122-3 off 24 overs! Only 24 overs were possible by the Australians in a two hour session! But the Match Referee will continue to look to take candy money from a few Australians before training his sights on the over rate!

India had an excellent start to the session, but blew it towards the end with about 25 minutes of madness.

My Session by Session (SBS) scoring gives this session to Australia. The SBS Score reads: India-0, Australia-1.0!

Session-2:

India started the 2nd Session on 122-3 (a run rate of 4.80) with Laxman on 4 off 5 balls and Tendulkar on 16 off 16 balls.

I suspect Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Virender Sehwag would like what they saw of the pre-lunch session. Krejza was able to extract spin and bounce from the pitch! It would be an early call and it is potentially foolish to make a call on an Indian pitch, especially when one is a few thousand miles away and watching on TV! However, I have a feeling that a score of 400 or so in the 1st innings would be quite competitive! The surface was already crumbling and there already was a bowlers’ rough! And we have just completed the 1st Session of the match! Having said this, I realise Dravid got out to a poke and Sehwag got out to a lazy shot. Yet, what was disconcerting was the bounce and spin that Krejza was getting.

Australia are in a good position despite the brisk scoring from the Indians.

Despite going for nearly 8 runs per over at this stage (6-0-48-2), Krejza was actually bowling quite well. He was getting good spin and bounce. His top spin was also working for him and he was able to extract good bounce from it. I didn’t see anything that went on with the arm though and that may make him somewhat predictable perhaps.

There was a pointer though for me that was good about the first session. India didn’t look like a team playing for a draw! This could play into Australia’s hands.

Australia started off after lunch with Jason Krejza and Mitchell Johnson.

Mitchell Johnson started off with a 7-2 off-side field. This meant a lot of off-side bowling! This was a somewhat strange tactic from a team that had to win the match! Agreed this was just Session-2 of a long Test match, but I couldn’t quite understand this from Australia. Sachin Tendulkar, who faced most of these balls, was having nothing to do with these. Perhaps Australia wanted to attack at one end and slow things down at the other end?

Having said that, the first time Johnson strayed onto the pads, Tendulkar was able to whip it through mid-wicket for a four. Still, Johnson continued with a 7-2 field.

Ponting’s approach was to give his pace bowlers short bursts of 4-5 overs. It was a hot day. Nine overs after lunch, Mitchell Johnson was replaced by Brett Lee. India had added 27 runs in the 9 overs after lunch. It was India’s turn to consolidate. The Australian pace bowlers continued to bowl outside off stump although Brett Lee did catch Laxman flush on the shoulder from a fast in-ducking bouncer!

Krejza was bowling steadily and was getting some slow spin and bounce. His figures read a more respectable: 12-1-74-2! He even bowled a maiden over!

The ball was 37 overs old now and was showing some signs of reverse swing. Brett Lee produced an in-swinging yorker, which Laxman kept out. This was starting to make the game just a little interesting. We had an off-spinner playing his first Test match, able to extract some slow spin and bounce from the pitch. We also had a paceman steaming in to bowl with fire at two well set batsmen who were quite intent on staying there.

This was absorbing Test match cricket.

The 50 of the partnership came off a strange, false shot from Laxman! A Jason Krejza ball gripped the surface, bounced and turned a bit. Laxman was into his trademark whip-flick shot before the ball arrived at him. The ball stopped a bit too. The resulting shot just lobbed agonisingly over the head of mid-wicket to reach the boundary fence. Tendulkar and Laxman had made their 50 runs from 14.3 overs at a rate of 3.44 rpo. Tendulkar was on 41 from 55 balls and Laxman was on 19 from 44 balls.

Tendulkar was batting wonderfully. There were no histrionics or thumping off drives. This was a relaxed and in-the-zone outing for Tendulkar. He was looking good.

Drinks was called at this stage.

At this point, Jason Krejza had bowled unchanged since he was introduced! Although he had given away a few runs, it highlighted once again why Krejza’s absence from the team in the first three Tests was beyond belief.

In Jason Krejza’s 14th over on the trot (39th over of the innings) he even bowled from around the wickets. I was getting more and more impressed with this Australian bowler. He wasn’t frightened of tossing it up. He wasn’t fearful of the reputations of the batsmen he was bowling to. Perhaps he had the “temerity” too huh?

In Krejza’s next over, Tendulkar got his half century. He had had a wonderful landmark-loaded series without scoring a big one. This was his 52nd half-century, and with it, Tendulkar had scored his 91st score of 50 or more runs — the highest for any player in the world. The records continued to fall his way. However, he would perhaps agree that nothing would matter to him more than a big match-winning score here.

In the 42nd over Cameron White came in for his first bowl of the match. At the other end, Shane Watson replaced Brett Lee. The ball was starting to “reverse” just that little bit. There was something in it for the pace bowlers now. Perhaps Stuart Clark will have made better use of the conditions? One will never know.

Cameron White had figures of 3-1-3-0 at the end of his 3rd over. However, truth be told. He bowled nonsense really. Most of his balls were nearly a foot outside off stump. But perhaps he was part of the ‘holding pattern’ for this pair (Watson-White) of Australian bowlers.

At Tea India was 202-3 off 51 overs at a rate of just under 4 rpo. In that session, 27 overs had been bowled for 80 runs. India hadn’t lost a wicket in that session in which its run rate was 2.96 rpo. It was a steadying session for India. India won the session and the SBS Score reads: India-1.0, Australia-1.0!

Session-3:

Onto my pet peeve: Australia’s over rate

Up until Tea on day-1 Australia had bowled 51 overs! Of these, 20 overs had been bowled by spinners! This was beyond sloppy territory. The was beyond unprofessional territory. This was even beyond recalcitrance. This was beyond thumb-nose-at-establishment territory even. I am thoroughly gob-smacked that Chris Broad will still do nothing about it!

If Ricky Ponting is serious about getting even with the bowling rate, I’d expect Jason Krejza and Cameron White to do a large bulk of the bowling from overs 50-80 before the new ball is due. It will be interesting to see how this session plays out in this regard. But for me, it will be interesting to see when the Match Referee stops this blatant and continuous insult to the game of cricket itself!

After Tea, Australia started proceedings with Cameron White and Shane Watson. Cameron White continued to bowl nonsense.

The 100 partnership was soon secured. Laxman had 38 runs from 102 balls while 73 from just 103 balls! I hadn’t quite realised that at that stage these two had faced almost the same number of deliveries! Perhaps Cameron White had bowled more nonsense to Laxman than to Tendulkar.

Soon after the century partnership, Tendulkar and Laxman attempted to run the worst run I have seen in a long time! Jason Krejza who collected the ball could have said a brief prayer and composed a song before throwing the ball at the stumps! Tendulkar would have still been out! However, Krejza’s snap throw was wide of the stumps. Tendulkar who had given up on the run arrived in the TV frame a few seconds later! This was the first wrong step that Krejza had made all day!

As if to punish him for that, Ponting had him into the attack the very next over!

Cameron White switched ends and bowled instead of Shane Watson. But it was a case of different ends, same nonsense from White though!

Somehow in this session it looked as if the bite and fizz had been lost in this pitch for the spinners. Krejza wasn’t able to get the bite and purchase that he had received in the 1st Session. I did like how he bowled though. He wasn’t afraid to flight the ball and he copped the occasional hammering that he received.

The two Indian batsmen had pitched their tents for the long haul. This was again an example of khadoos batting. The Australians looked a bit lost. But having said that, this did appear to be a pitch on which one wicket could lead to a clatter of them!

It would be interesting to see Simon Katich in for Cameron White who, in my view, was wasting balls.

In his 18th over, Krejza had given his 100th run for his 2 wickets.

When on 85, with India on 241, Tendulkar miscued an off drive off Jason Krejza. The resulting skier seemed to stay in the skies for an eternity! Mitchell Johnson would have had ample time to say a prayer and compose a song before it landed down on him. Like Ishant Sharma had at Delhi, Mitchell Johnson had dropped an important catch. Had he drop the Border Gavaskar Trophy with it? Too early to tell really. But that was an easy catch if ever there was one!

The very next ball, on his 100th Test match, Laxman had a half-century.

Australia needed a wicket badly at that stage and Mitchell Johnson had let the team down.

Just as he brought Jason Krejza to bowl after being the the culprit of a Tendulkar run-out let-off, Ponting now got Mitchell Johnson in for a bowl. He replaced a listless Cameron White.

The catch drop seemed to have sapped the energy of the Australians. Heads drooped. Shoulders dropped. But there was hope. All Australia needed was a wicket or two, one felt. Wickets would always fall in a heap on this pitch, I felt.

Krejza continued to bowl well at both batsmen. However, for both batsmen the field was well spread. So, they were able to pick the singles and rotate the strike reasonably easily and soon Tendulkar stepped into the 90s for the first time in the series.

Against the run of play, V. V. S. Laxman tried to play a cut to a ball from Jason Krejza that just gripped, turned a bounced a bit. The resulting edge got stuck between Haddin’s legs and India had lost the 4th wicket at the score of 262. Laxman was out for 64 off 141 balls with 5 boundary hits. The partnership was worth 146 runs off 46.1 (at a rate of 3.16 rpo).

Laxman will have wanted a century in his 100th Test and like Sehwag, looked set for it. But like Sehwag, he too was out in the 60s!

Sourav Ganguly came out to play in his last Test match.

When on 96, Tendulkar was let down again off Jason Krejza. An off-drive hung in the air for a long time long time. Brett Lee dropped the resulting hard chance. Given his recent trend of getting out in the 80s and 90s, perhaps Tendulkar was looking a bit nervous and edgy out there? But then, perhaps this was Tendulkar’s day after all?

My question was whether Ponting would bowl Brett Lee now! He did not. Mitchell Johnson continued to bowl. He bowled a maiden over to Tendulkar.

Twice against Jason Krejza, Tendulkar had tried to hit a six on the off-side — perhaps following his sons’ advice — and twice he had been lucky that his miscue wasn’t pouched.

Clearly this was a very important century for this champion player.

The runs dried up for a few overs. Tendulkar was stuck on 99 for 10 balls. It was as if the game stood still for this great player. Ponting had conversations with Jason Krejza to build the psychological pressure on the man.

In the end, Tendulkar got his 40th century; his 10th against Australia. He had come close to century number 40 on several occasions in the recent past. This time, even though he tried very hard to give it away, he got there. His century had taken 166 balls and came with the help of 12 4s. India had reached 277-4 off 75 overs.

Simon Katich then replaced Mitchell Johnson — perhaps this was Ponting’s bid to up the over rate, which continued to be shameful.

At exactly 3 minutes to 10pm AEST (4.30pm IST), exactly 80 overs had been bowled. Of these, spinners had bowled 41 overs! And still, Australia was 9 over short of where it needed to be!

This was outrageous! Nothing else.

Australia took the new ball immediately when it was available. India reached 300 of the first over with the new ball. India’s 300 runs had come in in 81.5 overs (3.69 rpo).

Of the very next over, Sachin Tendulkar’s innings came to an end. He was LBW Mitchell Johnson for 109. Sachin Tendulkar, who was dropped twice in this innings, was out to one of the Australians who had dropped him earlier on when he was 85! This wasn’t really great bowling. Nor was there movement off the pitch. It was a decent ball. However, even with about 11 overs to go for the end of days’ play Tendulkar was already playing for the close. He had pulled down the shutters for the day and that caused him to play with a negative mindset. Just as he had got out to the new ball at Mohali after doing all the hard work earlier, here too, Sachin Tendulkar had fallen with just 20 minutes or so left in the days’ play.

Australia had been let back into the game really. Not once, but several times in the day. First by Virender Sehwag’s lazy shot, then by Laxman’s lazy shot and then by Tendulkar’s shut-shop negative-mindset.

India was 303-5 off 82.5 overs. Tendulkar was out for 109 off 188b with 12 4s. The partnership was worth 41 runs from 14.1 overs off a run rate of 2.89.

India got to 311-5 off 87 overs when the end of the days’ play was called.

Australia ended the day bowling 3 overs short despite the extension of play by half hour.

So what is the Match Referee doing about this?

Although India had batted well, I can’t help but feel that this was a day of missed opportunities and one concern for India. Missed opportunities because I feel Sehwag, Laxman and Tendulkar could have gone on to make more. One concern is the form and the mental state of Rahul Dravid. I am not sure what Paddy Upton is doing in/for this team. But he does need to work on Rahul Dravid to prepare him for the 2nd Innings. The way this match is shaping up, it could be a very important 2nd Innings for India and for Rahul Dravid.

Australia will feel pleased. It was a solid effort from Jason Krejza. If Australia can take the remaining Indian wickets for just 50-60 runs, Australia will be well ahead in this match.

The first session of play tomorrow will be crucial for both teams!

I give the last session to Australia and so, the SBS Score reads: India-1.0, Australia-2.0;

A crazy coincidence:

At Mohali on day-1, India finished at 311-5!

— Mohan

Very Very Special Birthdays

In a series that has already seen a few birthdays, tomorrow (1 November) will be a very very special birthday of a special batsman — V. V. S. Laxman. He is the youngest of the Fab Four — I think Peter Roebuck has termed him Ringo to Ganguly’s Paul, Dravid’s George and Tendulkar’s John! Laxman turns 34 on 1 November 2008.

This series has seen a few birthdays from both teams. Interestingly, most birthdays on this tour so far have been of the over-30s club (if we count players who turned 30 as belonging to the 30s club).

  • Virender Sehwag turned 30 on the last day of the Mohali Test (21 Oct).
  • Anil Kumble turned 38 on the 1st day of the Mohali test (Oct 17).
  • Matthew Hayden turned 37 on the 1st day of the Delhi Test (Oct 29).
  • Zaheer Khan celebrated his 30th birthday a couple of days prior to the start of the Bangalore Test (Oct 7).
  • Stuart Clark celebrated his 33rd birthday on the last day of the Australians’ tour game against Rajasthan (Sept 28).
  • Brad Haddin turned 31 two days after the conclusion of the Mohali Test match (Oct 23).
  • Brett Lee will celebrate his 32nd birthday during the Nagpur Test match (Nov 8).

There are two players that break the over-30s ring to the birthday honours list for this tour:

  • Mitchell Johnson will celebrate his 27th birthday on the last day of the Delhi Test match (Nov 2).
  • Gautam Gambhir celebrated his 27th birthday the day after the Bangalore Test concluded (Oct 4).

I stumbled on all of this when looking up the ages of the Fab Five of Indian cricket. Anil Kumble turned 38 on OCt 17 2009; Rahul Dravid will be 36 on Jan 11 2009; Sourav Ganguly already turned 36 on July 8 2008; Sachin Tendulkar will turn 36 on April 24 2009; Laxman will turn 34 on Nov 1 2008.

While Ganguly has already announced his retirement at the end of the ongoing series against Australia, it is conceivable that Anil Kumble will not be around for long. Kumble will, in all likelihood, be the next “cab off the Fab Five Rank”, especially since India has a captain-in-waiting in (M. S. Dhoni) and also a legspinner-in-waiting (Amit Mishra and two, if you count Piyush Chawla). Anil Kumble can leave the grand stage comfortably, knowing that his art as well as his leadership philosophies are in extremely good hands. Through a combination of luck, opportunity-seizing and design, there appears to be a succession plan in place for his departure with no sudden and gaping holes. What is now required is for Kumble to make his call on when he wishes to step down. I have a feeling that the two Tests against England in December this year will be his last. The thought of packing his bags for a trip to Pakistan early next year (2009) and another one to New Zealand soon after that will be enough to provide that proverbial last straw in a weary camels’ back!

— Mohan

Now Gambhir is on the “hate-list”

Question: What do Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh, Robin Uthappa and now, Gautam Gambhir have in common? (And let us not forget Manoj Prabhakar).

Answer: Local Australian media use adjectives such as “controversial”, “offensive”, “serial offender”, “street-fighter”, “combative” or such normally-pejorative descriptions as a prefix to their names in media reports!

Meanwhile, Merv Hughes (he who spat), Glen McGrath (he who wanted to slit an opposition players’ throat), Steve Waugh (he who coined the term “mental disintegration”), Ricky Ponting (he who had a black eye in a bar brawl), Matthew Hayden (he of “obnoxious weed” fame), et al are prefixed with words such as “saint”, “great”, “former great”, “competitive”, “battler” or “legend”!

One might think that there is something amiss here.

But no! I think the real answer lies in a fear that these new-age Indians have mimicked what the Australians have been doing for 10 years or more. What’s more? Unlike the Fab Five and others before them, this new lot are giving it back as good as they get and are doing it just that little bit better by getting completely under the collective skins of the Australians! No wonder the media lot in Australia are so irked.

The day is not far off, I feel, when the likes of Malcolm Conn will start moving the ICC to stamp out the scourge of sledging from the game!

I do feel that these new-age Indians have a fair bit to go in their studies though! They need to learn (a) to get under the radar, (b) the art of cheap theatrics. They have to learn the art of sledging surreptitiously so that they fall under the radar of the Match Referee. They also need to go to a third-grade Bollywood acting school (or talk to any soccer player) so that the moment they are touched or sledged, they roll about on the floor, flail their arms and go into seizures as though they have been felled by a tornado. They just need to look at a replay of Shane Watson in Delhi or Matthew Hayden at Mohali!

Soon, the Match Referee will start using placative phrases like “you do not want to curb natural aggression in the game” when the Indians sledge too.

But more seriously, I do believe that the Australians can’t stomach the fact that these new-age Indians are giving it back. Nick McCardle and Mark Waugh, the Foxtel TV anchors, asked Alan Border and Brendan Julian, with a fair bit of incredulousness at the post-match interview about the niggle on the field in a manner that suggested that Australia had to have sole ownership of that property!

I do believe that Australian media struggles to accept that the Indians can give back — and even initiate it. More power to the Indians. I personally would like sledging to be stamped out of the game completely — and have written on this before, lest someone accuses me of a “Conn Job”! However, I also believe that a person who throws a stone in an open drain must expect his clothes to get soiled. There are no rules here. I do not believe in either ‘lines’ or ‘sand’ in this game. If you belong to the mafia expect the head of a horse on your doorstep! Simple! You make a choice.

It is time for the Australian media to accept players like Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, et al (the new India players) as nothing other than good old “Aussie Battlers”. Not that these players are the first “Aussie Battlers” either! Players like Arjuna Ranatunga and Javed Miandad come to mind immediately! If these guys played for Australia, they would be celebrated as players who fought for their country with pride and didn’t give an inch on the field. Instead, what we have is this constant denigration through banal sequence of inflammatory adjectives by the media!

Having said all of this, I fully expect Gautam Gambhir to be hauled before the match referee. I expect him to even receive a hefty fine or a suspended sentence. However, if he does get docked, it would not be because of his folly, but because he wasn’t clever enough in his retort to Shane Watson!

Surely, that statement is a travesty in itself and makes a mockery of the game and its proud traditions!

— Mohan

Two funny videos…

Here is a video of Sourav Ganguly batting right-handed! Someone has taken the trouble of converting Sourav Ganguly’s 144 at Brisbane in December 2003. The poster has taken the trouble of converting this 6-minute clip to its horizontal mirror image. Interestingly Sourav Ganguly, like Michael Hussey, started life as a right-hander and converted to left-handed batting later on in their development.

Here below is the Foxtel promo for the ongoing India Vs Australia tour, India, 2008. It features Harbhajan Singh!

— Mohan