Tag Archives: Harbhajan Singh

Number Trivia

25

That is the percentage of players in the 16 man squad touring India who have origins or links to the Indian sub-continent – Owais Shah, Amjad Khan, Monty Panesar and Adil Rashid. To add to that,  Ravi Bopara, Sajid Mahmood and Samit Patel have been part of the ODI squad or the Performance squad (or both).

Who would have thought that when India play England, the Indians can’t openly discuss strategy on the field in Hindi or Punjabi?

15

The number of years since England have played a test at Chennai. They lost the last game played here by an innings and 22 runs, but they haven’t done too badly here – of the 7 matches played in Chennai, England and India have won 3 each, while one game was drawn.

325

That’s the number of runs that Yuvraj scored in his last 5 ODI innings. Very impressive. But his last 5 test innings have yielded him a grand total of just 49 runs including 2 ducks. The important thing is that he is in rollicking form at the moment and will be hoping to correct the imbalance in his Test statistics.

All that depends on whether he is picked in the XI, though… 

319

Runs scored by Sehwag the last time India played at Chennai. What is more fascinating is that he scored them of 304 balls. Rahul Dravid played a long innings too – he played 13 balls less than Sehwag. His score: 111

Since his comeback, Sehwag has scored 1353 runs at an average of 61.50.  Only Graeme Smith has scored more runs (1363) than Sehwag this year.

55

The number of wickets taken by Harbhajan Singh this year. He has been the highest wicket taker for India this year, but that doesn’t tell the real story. He has been consistent but not spectacular. For most of the year he has bowled flat and quick. He is now the senior most bowler in the Indian team and he has to take his bowling a couple of notches up.

5000

The number of people deployed at the ground, the hotel and other places for security reasons during England’s stay. With Two thousand police personnel at the stadium alone, one does not have to worry about having enough spectators for the match.

I know what you are thinking – With so many police doing Test duty, would the crime rate go up in the city? The answer is No – the crooks would be too busy watching the game… 🙂

-Mahesh-

Advertisements

They were busy writing books…

The Harbhajan Singh interview… with Harish Kotian @ Rediff.

This interview is 3 days old. I thought I’d wait for some of our own post-series comments to die down before posting this on our blog. Most of you would have seen it, but for those that haven’t it is certainly worth a read!

Two spicy comments that would have most Team India fans in splits:

“I think [the Australians] were busy writing for their books, while we were busy preparing for the [Border-Gavaskar] series.”

and

I think, actually, [Greg Chappell in their dressing room] inspired us. Seeing [Greg Chappell] in their dressing room fired us. Whatever tactics he knew about our team didn’t work at all. In fact, I think he helped us more than he helped them. I think they came too early and must have gone through a lot under him.

These are right up there with “He hasn’t batted long enough against me, so I don’t know,” which Harbhajan Singh said in December 2007 when he was asked what his advantage was over Ponting!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-3

The first session of the days’ play turned out to be attritional cricket at its very best. It was like two heavy weights sizing each other up before delivering a punch. Neither team wanted to land a blow and expose themselves to an upper cut or a hook. This is how the morning was played out.

India bowled Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan for much of the session. And almost all of what they bowled was at least a foot outside the off stump of the two left-handers: Mike Hussey and Simon Katich! For almost the entire morning, they bowled to an 8-1 off-side field!

India had decided that the runs had leaked the previous day and wanted Australia to make the running in this innings from here on in.

This was a test to see whether Australia could indeed make the running. We saw Australia adopt such — outside off-stump — tactics for much of this series when behind the eight-ball. Now it was the turn of Australia to make the running.

This tactic required a shedding of the ego. Dhoni was basically admitting that his strike bowler, Harbhajan Singh, was not capable of getting the sharp turn that Jason Krejza got. This took a lot of courage. It could also bomb badly in Dhoni’s face, but it was certainly a different tactic.

Australia did not take the bait and played safe cricket instead. The two left handers left most of the balls alone. Some of the balls closer to the stump were played straight to a fielder.

For the whole of the morning, just 24 overs had been bowled! This was really a bad over rate. Interestingly, it was the first time in the series we saw Mark Waugh frothing at the mouth about over-rates! It was also the first time that India had really offended on this count. The over-rate was really terrible and several times one wondered what the conversations were that several Indian players were having!

But India wanted to slow the game right down. And it did. Just 42 runs were scored by Australia in the 24 overs! Harbhajan Singh bowled just a few overs before lunch. Australia’s Innings scoring rate had dropped to 3.5 rpo.

One could assume that India had given up on the game — when we hadn’t yet reached the half-way stage of the game! However, another way to interpret it would be that India, with a 1-0 series lead, was asking Australia to make the running if it dared and if it wanted to! It was akin to a soccer team playing defensive, protecting a 1-0 lead. This wasn’t a strategy that one could scoff at. It was a valid one. However, for Dhoni’s sake, I do hope it does not bomb on him.

Simon Katich was dropped by Rahul Dravid in the slips off the second over of the morning off the bowling of Ishant Sharma.

Just before lunch, Zaheer Khan was getting some reverse swing and it was through that that he trapped Simon Katich LBW for a well made 102 off 189 balls. Remembering that he had made his 100 off 139 balls, his last 2 runs had taken a painful 50 balls!

But I do think that the dropped catch of Katich actually worked in India’s favour! Remember that Katich was on 92 off 120 balls at the end of the 2nd days’ play! He was dropped after facing only 5 balls today. Off the dropped catch he took a single to move to 95 off 126 balls. In other words, Katich scored just 7 runs more after the dropped catch, but ate up 63 balls for it!

It was hard to understand Australia’s tactics! Yes, they could not afford to take risks and thrash the ball around, but for a well-set batsman to take 63 balls to make 8 runs was a bit hard to understand even though the Indian bowlers were bowling an off-side line to an 8-1 field.

Australia went to lunch at 231-3 in 73.0 overs. Although Australia had only made 42 runs and lost a wicket, I give this as an even session. The SBS Score reads India-2.5, Australia-4.5;

After lunch, India continued with Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. They were bowling to a left-right combination. This would make India’s defensive tactics that much harder.

A half hour after lunch, we hadn’t seen Amit Mishra or Virender Sehwag have a bowl in the day!

Harbhajan Singh was bowling flat and fast. There wasn’t a doosra in sight and unlike Jason Krejza, he was bowling far too straight for any grip off the foot marks.

When the 80th over was being bowled, Ishant Sharma was in the middle of a spell. Clearly the nw ball wasn’t going to be taken. At the other end, Harbhajan Singh continued to bowl. And there was still no sign of Amit Mishra, Virender Sehwag or the new ball!

Just before the post-lunch drinks’ break, Ishant Sharma bowled a truly wonderful delivery to square Michael Hussey up. The resulting edge was pouched by Dhoni and the score was 255-4. Clarke was gone for a painful 8 off 43 balls. Hussey was still there on 81 from 210 balls!

This got Shane Watson to the crease. It would be interesting to see his approach to the game. There was an opportunity for him to play the style of attacking play that he can and does play regularly.

At the post-lunch drinks break, Australia was 259-4 off 87 overs at a rate of 2.97 rpo. In that session, 14 overs had been bowled for 28 runs with the loss of 1 terrific wicket.

At the half-way stage in the Test match, Australia was 182 runs behind.

There was still a long way to go for Australia in this game. If Australia wanted to win this game, they had to play more brave cricket. This wasn’t, in my view, a win approach. Australia have to try and bat only once in this match. The match was delicately balanced.

This was gripping Test match cricket being played here. The sparring continued between these two proud competitors.

Karma struck again just after the drinks’ break! And the man that Karma struck down was Michael Hussey, the first Australian to admit that the Australians would be happy to see Gautam Gambhir rubbed out of this game!

Hussey tapped a ball from Harbhajan Singh to forward short leg and set off for a run. M. Vijay leapt to his right, grabbed the ball and threw it to Dhoni off balance. Dhoni gathered the ball and broke the stumps. Hussey was gone, run out, for 84 off 216 balls with 8 4s. Australia was 265-5 off 90 overs, still 176 runs behind.

Whatever happens from here, this was already India’s session. It was just top cricket from the Indians. After choking the Australians in the 1st Session, India was right back in the game. Ironically, it was through pace bowling and ground fielding! Who would have thought, especially after Jason Krejza’s 8-fer in India’s 1st Innings!

Immediately after, Shane Watson played on to an over-spun ball that bounced from Harbhajan Singh and it was 265-6! Watson was gone for 2 off 22 balls! Australia had lost 3 wickets for 11 runs in 6 overs!

The ball was 93 overs old and although Virender Sehwag had bowled 1 over up until then on day-3, there was no sign of Amit Mishra! The commentators were ruing Dhoni’s defensive strategy in the mornings’ play. The results were starting to make the commentators look a bit sheepish!

As I’d written in the morning itself, these were brave tactics from India. Now, if they would only tighten up the over rate!

After 47 overs had been bowled in the day, Amit Mishra came in for a bowl.

Brad Haddin was off the mark of the 25th delivery he faced. At the other end, White was on 4 off 20 balls!

In the last session, White and Haddin continued to bat well to frustrate the Indians. Haddin put on 50 runs with White before he was caught freakishly at slips by Dravid off Mishra. The remaining tail-enders put on a few more runs before Australia was wrapped up for 355. White batted well for his 46.

But truth be told. This was an amazing performance by India. It was ugly cricket all right. But in this heavy weight boxing bout, Australia had lost its way. India made sure that it shadow boxed and shadow boxed till it was given an opportunity by an opponent that had seemingly lost the ability to punch. When that opportunity was presented, India slowly but surely crept up on the champion side to come away with an 86 run lead. In the context of this game, this could be plenty.

Australia had scored just 166 runs in the day, from 86 overs, scoring at 1.93 rpo. The innings run rate was just 2.62 rpo. Australia had played into India’s hands today. Jason Krejza’s brilliant debut performance was wiped away by strange tactics from Australia’s batsmen.

This The last session belonged to India too. The SBS Score reads India-4.5, Australia-4.5;

My SBS Score reveals that the match is evenly poised. But of course, it does not take into account the future scenario that Australia will have to bat last on this pitch. Nor does it take into account the fact that Australia has to win this match, while India does not have to!

India will look to play steady and minimal-histrionics cricket for the first two sessions on day-4. Australia has its work cut out. Australia will need an exceptional 1st Session of play to claw its way back into the game. It is possible. You can never write off this Australian side although, on today’s evidence, I am not convinced that this Australian side really wants to win this match!

An exciting day’s cricket awaits us tomorrow.

— 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

Positives and Negatives from the 3rd Test

At the end of each Test of this series, we scored positives and negatives from the Test just Match concluded. At the end of the 1st Test in Bangalore, we scored India just marginally ahead, with 13-12. Mohali was a match in which India-dominated everything and ended up 25-0.

After the conclusion of the 3rd Test, which ended in a draw, both Australia and India can take some positives. I’d like to think that Australia came out of the Test match with their noses in front… just! Both teams need to dwell on a few negatives too.

For each of the dimensions below, I distributed 5 points between the two teams.

The result: India 2.0, Australia 3.0

In my books, both teams came out even from this Test match. Unlike the 1st Test in Bangalore, where Australia may have won had it pressed on with greater urgency — particularly in the timing of the 2nd Innings declaration — there was nothing here in the Delhi pitch to suggest that a result would be possible even if the teams had played on for another day or two! However, after facing a huge mountain, Australia played exceedingly well to come within spitting distance — had to use that term as a tribute to Big Merv, who is there in India at the moment — of the Indian total! Not many teams would have been able to put up such a creditable backs-to-the-wall effort. Australia did, and full marks to them for having done so.

India played 1 bad days’ cricket in 10 days and that basically cost the team. If the Indian team had held its catches, it is remotely likely that India may have gone into the 4th Test 2-0 up! Instead the teams go to Nagpur with a draw sufficient for India to regain Border-Gavaskar Trophy (BGT). Australia needs to win to draw the series and to retain the BGT. Australia will need to make all the running at Nagpur.

India, however, can be satisfied in the continuance of a recent trend (albeit, bucked by the tour of Sri Lanka). Often, India’s famous wins have been immediately followed by an embarrassing loss. Adelaide 2003 and Johannesburg, December 2006 are painful examples. To erase this blot was an important step that India needed to make in order to make that move from being a good team to a very good team.

Consistent performance is what great teams, like Australia, are able to bring to the table. More recently, however, India has been putting in performances like The Oval, 2007 (although I still feel that India should have gone for a victory there) and Adelaide, 2008. And there are other recent examples. Although Colombo 2008 bucked this trend, I do feel that India is slowly turning the corner when it comes to consistency of performance pressure. From that point of view, a draw is something that India will take gladly out of the Kotla game.

A draw was, of course, a terrific result Australia. It keeps Australia in the series. But, unlike Bengaluru (where Australia won 14 of the 15 sessions of the Test match and still drew!), at Kotla, the SBS Score Card at the end of the game read 7.5-7.5! This was an even Test match.

Hence the 2-3 score to Australia on this dimension.

Overall bowling effort: India 3.5, Australia 1.5

I start this by noting that India is the only team that has taken 20 wickets in a Test in this series! At the Kotla, although neither team looked likely to take 20 wickets, only India made something happen with the ball. Even in the 2nd Innings it was more through batting laziness and batting sloppiness that Australia got the four Indian wickets (I am not counting Ishant Sharma’s night-watchman wicket here).

The Australian pacemen were bowling up-and-down stuff and the spinners didn’t do much at all. A concern is that Stuart Clark has just taken 2 wickets in this series thus far — and one of them is Ishant Sharma!

That wasn’t quite the case with the Indian bowlers though. The new ball bowlers made something happen. Amit Mishra, playing in only his second Test match will have learned a lot from the Kotla experience. And Virender Sehwag was a total revelation. Given that India did not have Harbhajan Singh and given that Anil Kumble was out of the Test match for a long period at a crucial time, I thought India came out of this department with a slightly better edge. On this tour, given a slightly more responsive pitch — with more turn through the middle and a bit more bounce — I have greater confidence that the Indian bowlers will use it than I am of the Australian bowlers.

With Harbhajan Singh slotting in for Anil Kumble, I do not see a major change in India’s bowling stocks for the Nagpur Test match.

Australia looks somewhat bereft of ideas in the bowling stakes and needs a bit of an overhaul in this department. It would all depend on the pitch, but Australia does need to look really hard at Jason Krejza. I can’t see the value to the team of Cameron White, especially if he is used after Michael Clarke as a bowler!

Overall batting effort: India 2.0, Australia 3.0

I score Australia ahead in this dimension because of the splendid backs-to-the-wall effort by the team. Not many teams can play as well as Australia did to wipe out a 613 run deficit! The pace was set by the assured manner in which Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich opened. This Zen-like pace was continued right through the innings. Every batsman chipped in and contributed to the team-cause. It wasn’t the most pretty sight, but it doesn’t need to be. Australia has often confused aggression with attractiveness. Ask Gavaskar and he’ll tell you that you can be aggressive even in tight defence! That is what khadoos cricket is. And that is what Australia played. They didn’t let the opposition into the game and slowly shut the door on an Indian victory.

Of course, this followed the khadoos effort of the Indians in the 1st Innings. There are two reasons I give the Australians the edge in this dimension though, (a) All Australian batsmen contributed, while for India, Sehwag and Dravid did not contribute, (b) It is not easy to carry out a backs-to-the-wall effort so clinically and with an absence of panic.

I can’t see Australia changing its batting composition or order.

India, however, will need to get Laxman in at #3 and, unfortunately, this means that Dravid drops to $5 in the Nagpur Test match. This is necessary in my view.

The Fielding, Intensity and Fields: India 2.0, Australia 3.0

This is not really a surprise. There were quite a few lapses in the field from India, particularly on day-4. A few run-out chances went begging. A few sharp chances — particularly close-in — were spilled or not attempted. India does need to lift its game in this regard. Unlike the Bangalore effort, I thought Gautam Gambhir was much sharper at forward short-leg in Delhi. This augurs well for India. However, it is the out-fielding that is of greatest concern. One would have thought that under Dhoni, the fielding intensity would pick up a notch. But strangely, the worst fielding commenced when Dhoni was in charge! Having said that, I am not sure we need to see the captain stomping around in an open demonstration of displeasure.

Leadership: India 2.5, Australia 2.5

The only reason for scoring this even was because of India’s poor intensity on day-4. Ironically, this phase commenced when Dhoni was captaining for Anil Kumble! I thought Dhoni’s tactics in opening with Zaheer Khan and Amit Mishra was a bit strange. Moreover, continuing a somewhat listless Zaheer Khan for a while longer than necessary was also similarly strange. The best bowlers the previous day had been Ishant Sharma and Virender Sehwag and they ought to have opened. Moreover, it may have been easier for Virender Sehwag to bowl with a slightly newer ball which was only 5-6 overs old! Having said this, had Ishant Sharma caught that catch off Amit Mishra’s bowling, who knows how the match would have ended up? But more importantly, it was the lack of intensity on the field on day-4 that the Indian captains (Kumble and Dhoni) need to take responsibility for. It seemed that the Indians had decided that all they needed to do to win the match was to show up on day-4!

Australia would have been way ahead in the leadership stakes but for the somewhat bizarre choices that Ricky Ponting made on the field. He under-used Simon Katich and over used both Shane Watson and Michael Clarke in my view. Simon Katich, the finger spinner, was more likely to cause damage than either Michael Clarke or Cameron White!

So, in terms of the overall result, I score it: India-12, Australia-13!

Overall, Australia can perhaps claim to be marginally ahead at the end of the 3rd Test… just! And that is mainly due to the tremendous batting effort. However, Australia has to make all the running at Nagpur. I do see a danger for Australia in the sense that the bowlers have not really looked likely to take batsmen out and India is the only team to have taken 20 wickets in a match in this series thus far.

Harbhajan Singh should return for India and that should, if nothing else, spice things up! Gautam Gambhir, if he plays, will need to share Chloe Saltu’s headlines with Harbhajan Singh, the player rather than Harbhajan Singh the spectator!

Anil Kumble will be there to see if his ‘Vision’ for Indian cricket is in safe custody. I believe it is. He will want to see that the job that he started will continue through. Sourav Ganguly will be playing his last Test match and V. V. S. Laxman will be playing his 100th Test Match at Nagpur.

Had Kumble played too, five India players will have played 100 or more Test matches in the same Test match — not sure how often that has happened in a Test match!

But all of this will be somewhat irrelevant when the two captains stride out for the toss at Nagpur. It should make for a cracker of a Test match there.

— 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

India Vs Australia :: Test 3 :: Delhi :: Day-1

After the Australian debacle of Mohali, it was a long wait before this Test commenced! There was a lot of talk in the intervening period from both teams and also a well-timed release of explosive excerpts from an autobiography which Tendulkar termed as “loose”! The marketing guys got great value from all of that drama! We had a crack here at i3j3Cricket too at writing Sachin Tendulkar’s yet-to-be-written biography! A lot of fun was had by all, including debates on whether or not Sachin Tendulkar lied at Sydney.

In my view, there is an obsessive interest in the pitch by the Australians when they tour India! If they went in with the attitude that they are hardly likely to get a spinners’ paradise in Perth, the Australians may actually grow to love the conditions in places like Delhi and Mohali. These places, especially with the early starts, afford early seam movement and late Irish movement, particularly given the dry and abrasive pitches.

The Australians also love to over-focus on the toss! Again, the focus shouldn’t be on the toss.

For example, at the Kotla in Delhi, of the toss wins, the bat-first choice has resulted in only 5 wins from 29 games! The bat-first decision resulted in 11 losses at the Kotla! So, the toss should be removed from the minds of the Australians.

In my preview of this game, I said that pace will do as well on the Kotla as spin would. Given that Stuart Clark comes into the side, I give Australia a slight edge in this game!

One other factor that I did not mention in my preview is that India rarely strings a consistent run of wins in any major series involving big teams. A huge win is almost immediately followed up with a poor loss. While Team India has lately begun to show signs of being good overseas travellers, the team will have to work hard to wipe that bad “win one match well but lose the next one immediately” record off its books. And the opportunity to commence this journey would be here at Delhi against the best team in the world at the moment.

Given that I had a migraine today — which, I can assure you wasn’t pre-arranged or pre-ordered — I was lucky to get home early. After a quick sleep, even though the migraine continued unabated, I managed to watch the game through one eye closed (and I realise I leave myself wide open saying this)!

Session-1:

India won the toss and elected to bat. It was quite unusual for Kumble to win the toss, given his general bad toss-luck. But he did win the toss this time! Harbhajan Singh sat out the game with a bruised toe and this enabled Amit Mishra to get his second Test game! As expected Stuart Clark came into the Australian side. This wasn’t a bad move for Australia I thought. With the morning haze and the greenish top, Clark and a fired-up Lee would be able to get a fair bit of seam, I’d have thought.

Indeed, Brett Lee struck very early. In his very second over, Lee got one to nip back in sharply and got Sehwag plumb in front of the wicket. India was 5-1 before the Australians had broken into a sweat.

What I liked about the Australian approach was aggressive intent. Of course, it helped that Australia got the early wicket of Virender Sehwag. But we did see more attacking slips in place and we did see catching positions. This caused doubts to creep into the minds of the batsmen. The going was tough on a pitch that was already showing signs of offering low bounce.

Brett Lee was bowling it at 148 kmph and yet Brad Haddin was collecting it around his knees! An excellent bouncer from Brett Lee struck Rahul Dravid on his chest as he ducked. This was certainly going to be an interesting deck as the match progresses. From that point of view, India would be disappointed at losing local-man Virender Sehwag early. Another local-man, Gautam Gambhir, however, was batting well against two opening bowlers who were bowling well.

The good thing for India, however, was that despite the accurate in-the-corridor bowling by Stuart Clark and Brett Lee, the two batsmen — Gambhir and Dravid — were batting well. Brett Lee, in particular, was bowling more accurately and with more fire than he did at Bangalore or Mohali. The break appeared to have done the Australians a whole lot of good. Early signs were that the scars of Mohali were behind the Australians!

At the end of 10 overs, the India score was 22-1. It did appear as though this would be one of those typical grind-it-out type Tests; one that mimicked last years India Vs Pakistan Test match in which the scoring rate was around the 3 rpo mark for much of the game. At this stage, Stuart Clark had figures of 5-2-4-0! Mitchell Johson was brought in for Brett Lee.

Dravid was actually playing quite well at this stage and had all but pitched his tent on the pitch for a long stay there when, against the run of play, he drove at a Mitchell Johnson ball that was travelling straight to Matthew Hayden at slips. A thick edge meant that the ball travelled to birthday boy, Matthew Hayden, just a bit earlier than Hayden may have expected it! The resulting catch was snapped up and India was 27-2! Dravid had no reason to play at that ball other than the fact, perhaps, that he wasn’t getting any free runs at the other end from Stuart Clark!

At the drinks break, India was 37-2 off 13 overs!

After bowling 7 overs for 5 runs (7-3-5-0), Stuart Clark was replaced by Shane Watson. I didn’t quite understand this move because Clark was bowling very well. His line was immaculate and his length was superb. Another over or two Stuart Clark overs may have been good, I thought.

Gambhir was batting sensibly and Tendulkar was looking quite solid. Mitchell Johnson was bowling to a 7-2 off-side field and one of the 2 leg-side man was a short gully. Mitchell Johnson was sliding it wide off the off stump. After an early play-and-miss, these offers from Johnson weren’t being accepted by Tendulkar. This was good cat-and-mouse stuff from both teams.

I particularly liked the way Gambhir was playing balls outside the off stump. He was leaving it all alone and was comfortable playing the patience game.

It looked as if the Australians had studied Gambhir’s game really well in the break between Tests. He was being presented with several balls outside his off-stump. And he was having none of that! It was also interesting to see the number of Australians that wanted to wish him “good morning” and enquire about his “dinner plans”! If I were Gambhir, I’d feel quite proud of the fact that the Australians had studied his game intensely and the fact that they were all suddenly interested in his dinner plans! This is, to me, a sure sign of respect!

Brett Lee came in for a last burst before the lunch break. Right from word go, Lee was bowling well. The intensity and the speed were back, it seemed. But he was bowling to a Sachin Tendulkar and a Gauram Gambhir that were both playing sensibly.

Shane Watson had, at this stage, bowled 4-2-7-0. It seemed that Shane Watson and Stuart Clark were bowling in a containing role, while Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson attacked.

The last Brett Lee over before lunch saw the bowler bowl to a very innovative field. Just 1 slip oversaw proceedings. However, there was a ring of fielders on the leg-side. Ponting was constantly attacking with inventive fields. It didn’t achieve anything, but it showed to me that this was a team that wanted to make the running in this Test match. The captain wasn’t prepared to wait for the batsman to make a mistake. These were good signs for an Australian fan.

At lunch, India had moved to 67-2 off 26 overs, with Gautam Gambhir on 25 off 80 balls and Sachin Tendulkar on 26 off 45 balls. Shane Watson had figures of 6-3-8-0 although, to be honest, about 30 of the 36 balls were bowled wide off the off-stump and left alone!

The first session, in my books, was Australia’s with the Session-by-Session (SBS) score reading India-0, Australia-1.

Session-2:

The post-lunch session started with Brett Lee bowl to Sachin Tendulkar with just the one slip and a ring of fielders on the leg-side. The over produced a sensational up-and-under cut over the slips cordon to the 3rd-man fence! This was an awesome shot that was manufactured after a late adjustment to an off-stump bouncer. I have only seen Tendulkar and Sehwag play this shot with any semblance of authority and control. I also feel that this shot is also a good indicator that Tendulkar is on top of his game.

Stuart Clark shared the post-lunch attack with Brett Lee. The Australians continued their positive intent after the lunch break. The fields were attacking and, more importantly, there was no deep-point and leg-side sweeper either. When the Australians set fields like this, it is a sure sign that they are playing attacking cricket. The mindset is more important to me than anything else.

Hopefully, the Australian new-age-cricket strategy as well as its author have been thrown out of the Australian dressing room!

At this stage, Tendulkar started to open out and play his shots. Even then, it was good to see the Australians bowl attacking lines to the Little Master. Although the field did spread out a bit, thanks to a flurry of boundaries from Tendulkar’s blade, the Australian intensity wasn’t diminished. Stuart Clark, in particular, continued to bowl superbly to Tendulkar. He was giving nothing away and even bowled a maiden over to a man who appeared to be in superb nick. Tendulkar had moved to 44 off 68 balls at this stage.

The bowling plan was beginning to emerge. Ricky Ponting was going to use Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson in short attacking bursts with Stuart Clark and Shane Watson bowling a defensive, chocking lines. This was not a particularly bad ploy. Mitchell Johnson was offering either enticing sliding slingers outside off stump or cross-seam slower-balls outside off stump. Johnson replaced Brett Lee whose first post-lunch spell was somewhat ordinary. India moved to 102-2 off 35 overs.

Soon after,Tendulkar played a delectable late-cut off Stuart Clark to bring up his 50 off 79 balls. His half-century was vintage Tendulkar and contained 8 boundary hits. He seemed to have a measure of the pitch as well as the bowling. While his 88 at Mohali was made against a somewhat ordinary bowling attack bowling to somewhat defensive fields and on a batting pitch, this half century was against a strong Australian attack that was bowling to intelligent fields.

In this mode, I felt that the only way Tendulkar would get out would be if he got either bored or over-confident. The Australian plan of attack to Tendulkar was somewhat obvious. Stuart Clark was bowling outside off-stump to a 7-2 off-side loaded field. The Australians wanted to choke Tendulkar’s run-scoring opportunities. They nearly had Tendulkar when the batsman tried a paddle sweep off Stuart Clark that rapped him on the pads. Containment was the name of the game!

At the Drinks break, India was on 108-2 off 40 overs at 2.7 rpo. This was tight bowling from Australia and there weren’t too many runs for the taking. The batsmen had dug in for the long haul. Gambhir had moved to 40 off 117 balls and Tendulkar was on 50 off 92. The wicket had flattened out a bit by now. The interesting piece of data at this point was that the partnership had reached 81 runs off 29.2 overs at a run rate of 2.76. In this, Tendulkar had made 50 while Gambhir had made only 25! His role was to keep one end up; an unusual role for him!

Just after the drinks’ break, Cameron White bowled the first bad over of the day; the expensive of the game thus far. The Indians milked him for 11 runs and, in the process, Gautam Gambhir brought up his half century off 120 balls. Soon the century partnership was brought up. The partnership came off 201 balls with Gautam Gambhir scoring 39 of these and Tendulkar making 56 of the runs. The Indians were batting brilliantly at this stage and one sensed a momentum shift in the game. I felt that the foot had come off the pedal the moment Cameron White was brought on. The pressure valve had been irrevocably released.

Not surprisingly, Stuart Clark was rested after a 9-over spell. His figures read 16-5-26-0. Sensational and tight stuff from the big man. Mitchell Johnson came on and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Cameron White would be changed at the other end too. But no, White continued after giving away 25 runs in 3 overs! A wide ball resulted in 3 byes too as Brad Haddin’s horror tour (with the gloves) continued.

Not surprisingly, Shane Watson came back into the attack, perhaps an over or two too late. One would think that he would continue the holding job that Stuart Clark had carried out.

Unfortunately for the Australians, there was nothing in the pitch in this session. So a defensive ploy, achieved through bowling tight lines to a defensive field, was perhaps appropriate at this stage with the hope that the ball will reverse swing in the last session.

The 51st over of the day say an interesting exchange between Gambhir and Watson. All morning, Watson had been repeatedly asking Gambhir about his “post-match dinner plans”. It was all getting a bit tiring, really. Then, when going for the first run of a brace, Watson appeared to show his elbow at Gambhir. On the return journey Gambhir expressed a keen interest to show Watson “I have an elbow too” (in the words of Ravi Shastri, the commentator at the time).

Then just on the stroke of Tea, Sachin Tendulkar nicked one to Brad Haddin to take a good catch low to his right. Tendulkar was gone for 68 and India was 157-3. Again, after putting in the hard work, Tendulkar had departed. On this occasion, admittedly, it was to a very good ball from Mitchell Johnson. Maybe the ball might have been left alone? The partnership was worth 130 runs from 41.1 overs at a run rate of 3.15 — Tendulkar had made 68 off 125 balls with 11 boundary hits (Gambhir had made 52 runs in that partnership). I feel Tendulkar was playing for the Tea break, just as he was perhaps looking for the close of play at Mohali! The fact that he was choked a bit may have contributed to his hang-the-bat-out shot to a good ball from Mitchell Johnson.

A ball later, which enabled V. V. S. Laxman to get off the mark, Tea was called. There was an irony there! India went to Tea at 158-3 with Gambhir on 67 off 155 balls. In that session, 91 runs had come off 26 overs at 3.5 rpo. At this stage, Australia had bowled just 52 overs in the day — and that means they are 8 overs (some 35 minutes short of where they ought to be). I personally believe the viewing public is being short-changed by this sheer incompetence and negligence on Australia’s part. I am hoping that Chris Broad, the Match Referee is going to do something about this pathetically deplorable over rate.

Because of that Sachin Tendulkar wicket on the stroke of Tea, what would have been, undeniably, an India session became a somewhat even session. I would not score this completely even and am forced to go into two decimal places! The SBS score reads: India 0.75, Australia 1.25!

Session-3:

The India batsmen started off positively after Tea against Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson. In particular, Gautam Gambhir was batting splendidly with some wonderfully times strokes on both sides of the wicket. Without too much effort and with somewhat consummate ease, the partnership between Gambhir and Laxman yielded 32 runs from 6.1 overs at a run rate of 5.18!

From nowhere, it seemed, Shane Watson produced a bouncer on off-stump. It had Gambhir fending in an ugly manner. Off his gloves and shoulder the ball flew between the ‘keeper and a really wide 1st slip for a boundary. A regular 1st slip would have caught that comfortably! Gambhir moved to 91 with that stroke but not before reconfirming his post-match dinner plans with Shane Watson!

It seemed that everyone in the Australian team wanted to have dinner with the local Delhi-lad, Gautam Gambhir! In the very next over, perhaps in fear of feeling somewhat lonely at the end of the 1st days’ play and the post-match dinner party plans, Mitchell Johnson bowled a bouncer and enquired in a rather agitated manner about Gambhir’s post-match dinner plans!

The 50 partnership between Gambhir and Laxman came from an elegant front foot cover drive on the up by Laxman. The 50 came off just 51 balls with Laxman having made 17 of these off just 19 balls.

In the same over, Gambhir danced down the wicket to a Shane Watson delivery and smashed the ball for a towering 6! This was a terrific manner to bring up his century! Perhaps he was totally upset and worried at having to spend his entire match fee, shouting dinner for the Australians who all seemed keen join him for dinner that night!

Now while the century at Mohali against the Australians was an excellent one, I feel that this one at Delhi was even better! There wasn’t much pressure on the Indian batsmen in the 2nd Innings at Mohali. Here, there was. India had made a rather ordinary start here at Kotla and the Australians were bowling with a lot of fire initially, at Tendulkar and Gambhir. He weathered the storm in the first session, played steadily in the second session and then, opened out really smartly in the post-Tea session. He had paced his innings beautifully and hit some glorious strokes along the way. The real question for me was one of whether Gautam Gambhir would be able to step it beyond the low 100s and make a really big century. For me, this ability marks out a great player from a good player. Gambhir, by scoring consecutive centuries against a world-class team, has shown that he ought to be considered in the books as a good player. He had to now step up a notch and get a big innings in, especially since he had already worked very hard to “get his eye in”!

Michael Clarke was brought in — perhaps in a bid to repair the over rate, which was going somewhat pear-shaped for Ricky Ponting. One could see that the pitch was offering slow turn for Clarke. Both batsmen were batting well and Ponting was forced to bowl Michael Clarke. If only the Australians had bowled with greater urgency and discipline in the earlier part of the day, Ponting needn’t have gone for the Michael Clarke option in a bid to give the over-rate a hurry along. The Australian sloppiness and tardiness early in the day made for this unprofessional situation. These are the small things that make me feel that this Australian team has a lot of work to do yet on this tour!

As I been saying since the 2007 summer here in Australia, I do hope the Match Referee does something about the appalling over rates of the Australians, in particular.

India’s 250 soon came up from 70 overs at 3.57 rpo. The partnership between Gambhir and Laxman reached 100 runs from 19.2 overs (116 balls) at a rate of 5.17 rpo, of which, Laxman had made 36 and Gambhir 63! This was an impressive partnership, mainly because of the impressive near-Australia-like scoring rate it had been made in. Gambhir was playing majestically at this stage and Laxman was steady — his 36 had come off just 45 balls with minimal fuss!

With a half hour to go to the official close of days’ play, Australia still had 18 overs to bowl. Australia’s over-rate graph was beyond pear-shaped at this stage. In a bid to ensure that his backside wasn’t whipped by the Match Referee even before the end of the days’ play, Ponting brought Simon Katich in to bowl. Now, most Indian fans will remember Simon Katich getting Virender Sehwag out for 194 at the MCG towards the end of the 1st days’ play in 2003! Here at the Kotla, Simon Katich was getting some bite from the pitch and some slow turn. These were good signs for the Indian spinners! And when Gambhir danced down the pitch to hit him for a boundary, Katich also booked himself into Gambhirs’ post-match dinner-party! Gambhir’s party was the place to be it seemed and, with this pleading request from Katich, it appeared as though all XI Australians were booked in on the Gambhir post-days’-play dinner party! Gambhir must have thought to himself, “Such a nice and friendly bunch, this Australian lot, but don’t they have their own things to do?”

In Katich’s next over, he seemed to indicate to Gambhir that he wanted the post-match dinner party to commence even before the days’ play was concluded! It all emanated from Gambhir being blocked from going for a run by the bowler, Katich. In fact, as a result, he had to send Laxman back. He seemed to enquire what the problem was with Katich and this upset the bowler! Katich was perhaps upset that Gambhir did not take the run for, perhaps if he had taken that run, Katich may have scored a choice Diwali sweet off the dinner menu as a present! It was clear to me that this Australian team was run ragged at this stage!

In the next over, Laxman brought up his half century off 70 balls. This was a steady half-century from Laxman; one that contained 3 4s.

Right on the dot at 4.30pm in Delhi (10pm AEST), India had reached 285-3 off 81 overs. This implied that Australia was 9 overs short of its bowling quota at the scheduled close of play — on a day when just 3 wickets had fallen and on a day when there was precious little by way of interruptions! This was an absolute travesty by Australia and needs serious looking-into! Australia was thumbing its nose at the establishment through its bowling-rate recalcitrance.

With 20 minutes to go to the end of days’ play, it appeared as though India was attempting to pull down the shutters. The batsmen started to play cautiously for time. It is at this time, when dusk sets in, that things can happen in India — especially if the batsmen are tired at the end of (an extended) days’ play.

Soon, we had Brett Lee and Stuart Clark bowling in tandem in light that wasn’t quite improving. In the 86th over, the new ball was taken. Brett Lee took the new ball with 5 overs to go to the end of play. There was a little seam movement for Brett Lee and this was encouraging. The Australian bowlers were straining at the leash to get that breakthrough which would bring them back into the session. If things stood this way, this would be India’s session.

When the end of days’ play was called, India had reached 296-3 off 89 overs a a run rate of 3.32. After extending play by half hour, Australia was still an over short of the days’ bowling quota. Gambhir was not out on 149 and Laxman was 54 not out. The partnership between Gambhir and Laxman was already worth 139 runs off 37.1 overs at a rate of 3.73!

The last session belonged to India and the SBS score was: India 1.75, Australia 1.25!

This was Gautam Gambhir’s day though! And the fact that he had the entire Australian team crashing in on his post-match dinner party meant that he had earned the respect of this Australian team; one that doesn’t bother asking after an opposition players’ health or dinner-plans unless they see that player as a ‘danger’! It was great to see Sachin Tendulkar bat brilliantly and it was wonderful to see Laxman play the way he did — poetry in motion. But this was Gambhir’s day and he has some unfinished business to complete tomorrow.

— Mohan