Come rain, hail or shine, this Indian team has given its supporters something to smile about this season. In Sydney last night, the Indians, first of all, posted a huge target without assistance from their swashbucklers and then all but pulled off a remarkable win, which surely would have been theirs if not for the rain and Messrs Duckworth and Lewis!
The SCG officials were taking their time to check each and every bag for aluminium cans and the like (cans are banned as they could be used as missiles), so by the time I actually got to my seat in the Bradman stand our revered captain was back in the pavilion. Thoughts of the last India-Australia ODI I attended at the SCG in January 2000 (when India was dismissed for 100) flashed through my mind. As I settled down in my seat among a sea of Indian supporters my nerves settled as Laxman and little Partiv Patel consolidated the situation for India.
If nothing else, Patel must be commended for his guts while batting. Brett Lee was steaming in at the quickest he has been all season reaching 154 km/hr at times and here was this 18-year-old, scoring almost a-run-a-ball against him!
A lot has been already been written about VVS. In the shadows of the impending retirement from first-class cricket of the Waugh twins, New South Wales should seriously think about getting Laxman here as their overseas player because this guy just loves the SCG and seems to get a 100 each time he walks out on to this hallowed turf. Yesterday (as like most of the season) he was timing the ball like a rolex!
When Dravid came out to bat, fresh from the ball-tampering fine, a few 'boos' could be heard from the locals but these were soon drowned out by the cheers of the Indian fans. I'd estimate that 70 per cent of the crowd was supporting India yesterday. Those who watched on TV would have seen the scores of Indian flags around the ground. Whenever India hit a four, reached a significant landmark or got a wicket, one could hear loud applause amidst shouts of 'Jeete ga be Jeeta ga - India Jeete Ga!" The Aussie players must have thought their sub-continental tour had started already.
I was one of the lucky 39,000 spectators at the SCG who got to witness young Yuvraj's first century of significance and with that innings he not only announced his presence as a one-day player to be feared, but as a strong contender for Test selection. When he hit Harvey for his second six, the thunder in the stadium was louder than what the Gods could produce prior to the downpour.
As we shared our bhajjis and pakoras among each other, the cricket pundits were in speculation about the Indian total. The run-rate was around 5 by the 40th over and a 300 total was there for the taking. Laxman slowed down a little bit in the 90s and the revised target among my fellow-Indian fans was about 270. That was of course changed when Yuvraj took command in the 49th over.
Gilchrist commenced the Aussie innings in his familiar, extravagant style and the noise in the SCG was unusually subdued! Despite taking Katich's wicket, Pathan seemed a little rattled as he bowled a succession of wides. When the rains came down in the tenth over, the Aussies were extremely well placed and any reduced target would have been in their favour. About an hour later, the ground staff finally removed the covers to reveal a soaked square, a darkened pitch and a damp outfield. Lots of saw dust was dumped around the ground to soak up the rain. The fielding side was surely going to struggle with a wet ball that was going to be hard to grip.
The players finally came out to bat after a break of about 100 minutes. For the next ten overs or so, the Aussies were in auto-pilot mode and the 225 revised total looked like it was going to be surpassed without the loss of any other wickets. Light rain started to fall again in the 21st over. If the Aussies didn't face 25 overs and the match was called off, then a no result would have been declared. The Indians appeared to be taking their time in between deliveries and some Aussie fans near me suggested that they were waiting for more rain before the 25th over!
Just about then Yuvraj injured himself going for one of those dynamic saves that he is renowned for. As he hobbled off the ground and the drizzle ceased, the Indian effort surely was lost. Nobody told this to Pathan. Coming back for his final (7th) over he changed the course of the match with two successive wickets. The Indian chants echoed around the ground once more and we had a match again. From that point onwards, the Indian bowlers bowled superbly. Kartik was getting subtle turn and took a blinder to get dismiss Gilchrist while Ganguly was able to baffle the middle order batsman on a few occasions with his wobblers.
In the last over, when Australia needed 11, the tables had turned once again and the odds were with India. Of course, Brett Lee had other ideas and we all know what happened in the end! Despite the loss the Indian fans could hold their heads (and flags) up high. Any match which was rain affected was going to be a difficult one. We now look forward to the finals where, hopefully, we can claim our revenge!
- India still has many more matches to play in the VB series Down Under. If you are one of those who will be at the grounds watching the matches do write in and share your experience.