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Kumble, Harbhajan tops

October 21, 2004 18:53 IST

The end of the Chennai Test heralded a week-long break from cricket and its rigours for members of the Australia and India teams. It also allows time to sit back and review the showing of the Indians.

India's performance hasn't been bad, but the Aussies have been more consistent. The visitors executed their plans to a 'T' and reaped the rewards. A fightback by the Indians in the drawn second Test in Chennai has now heated up the series.

The team's report card:

Akash Chopra: C

Thought to be the answer to India's opening woes and Virender Sehwag's preferred partner for the slot, Chopra found himself out of the team without doing much wrong. The Delhi opener does not have the confidence of India skipper Sourav Ganguly and there are many who believe he needs to play more shots. But the bottom line is that an opener is supposed to see off the new ball and Chopra does that better than Yuvraj. Ganguly has said it is unfair to drop a player after just one bad Test, but with Chopra he has done exactly that.

Chopra failed with the bat in both his innings but that was more due to the umpires' incompetence than his own errors.

1 Test, 2 innings, 5 runs at an average of 2.50

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Rahul Dravid: B

India's best bat in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, he looked like getting into his stride as the second Test came to an end. The gritty 60 in the second innings of the first Test is exactly what the team needs of him. Luck and the inside edges haven't gone his way and the right-hander will be hoping for a change in fortunes in the remaining Tests.

2 Tests, 3 innings, 86 runs with a highest of 60 at 28.66

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Sourav Ganguly: C

Ganguly's captaincy has been spot on but he hasn't managed to sparkle with the bat after his first innings in Bangalore. During the innings of 45 he displayed the timing that he is famous for, but in subsequent innings he looked increasingly edgy outside the off-stump. The Aussies have done well to exploit his weakness.

Ganguly can inspire and we need to look no further than the classic 144 he scored in the first Test of India's last tour to Australia at Brisbane. Another innings in the same vein from him is needed to lift team morale.

2 Tests, 3 innings, 59 runs with a highest of 45 at 19.66

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Harbhajan Singh: A

Harbhajan SinghHe is known as the scourge of the Aussies and with good reason. The young Sikh proved once again that the best team in world inspires him to perform well above the normal. 16 wickets, at 26.37, is good pickings, though it could have been better. The Aussies are playing him better than they did in 2001 but they still fear him.

He has already bowled 147 overs, the most among the Indian bowlers, and there are still two Tests to go. The 42 runs he scored in the second innings was entertaining while it lasted and showed that if he decides to avoid the hook shot he might trouble the Aussie bowlers as well.

2 Tests, 16 wickets at 26.37 with a best of 6-78

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Anil Kumble: A+

415 wickets and counting...

Anil KumbleThe way Kumble is bowling at the moment there seems to be no stopping him. A return of 18 wickets in two Tests shows that the leg-spinner is really at the top of his game. His variation -- the googly, the top-spinner, the ball bowled slightly slower through the air – had the Aussies in a spin.

In Harbhajan he seems to have found the perfect partner to augment his skills. India need the spinners to continue performing the way they are if they harbour any hope of success against the Aussies.

2 Tests, 18 wickets at 22.33 with a best of 7-48

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V V S Laxman: C

The Aussies consider him to be India's most dangerous batsman. As a consequence they have worked hard to come up with a plan against him. The dainty flicks on the leg-side that used to fetch him four in 2001 have been blocked as have been many of his other favourite strokes. Laxman does not look out of form but Australians' strategy is frustrating him.

The Aussies have made their move; now it is up to Laxman to respond.

2 Tests, 38 runs at 12.66

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Parthiv Patel: D

"The bowlers felt Parthiv needs to be given one last chance," said skipper Ganguly after the team selection for the third Test. That statement says everything about Parthiv's performance behind the stumps. The 19-year-old is struggling with the rigours of wicket-keeping. But for a very good showing in Nagpur next week, he very well may lose his place in the side. Dropping catches and missing regulation collections do not inspire confidence in anyone, most of all in himself.

His performance with the bat though was impressive (he averages 34.66 with the bat, the third highest average in the Indian team). He showed pluck and resolve and if India was in a position to win the second Test, it was because of his efforts along with those of Sehwag and Kaif.

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Irfan Pathan: B+

This lad has the potential to become one of the best cricketers India has ever produced. He is dedicated, bowls his heart out and never takes a backward step. Even on a slow track in Bangalore, he was making the Aussies think. The confidence he has with the bat may see him develop into a top-quality all-rounder as well.

He suffered an injury to his ribs in Chennai and that will keep him out of the third Test in Nagpur.

2 Tests, 2 wickets at 84.00 and 104 runs at 33.33

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Virender Sehwag: A

The biggest plus for India from the Chennai Test, without any argument, is Sehwag's return to form. Without him firing on all cylinders, and with Tendulkar missing from the line-up, India were looking ordinary. But after struggling in the ODIs and getting a horrible leg-before decision in the second innings at Bangalore, his 155 in Chennai put India on the path to victory.

Sehwag is the lynchpin for the India; if he fires, he puts the Aussies on the backfoot straightaway.

2 Tests, 206 runs with a highest of 155 at 68.66

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Zaheer Khan: C

He redeemed himself in the second innings of the Chennai Test, but other than that has largely looked listless and not troubled the Aussies at all. It was surprising to see him get a place ahead of Ajit Agarkar in the first Test but Ganguly has confidence in him. A fit Zaheer is a better bowler than Agarkar, but right now he seems to be functioning at only 80 per cent, which is not good enough in international cricket.

2 Tests, 2 wickets at 92.50

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Yuvraj Singh: C

The Indian team has three openers and Yuvraj Singh in the newest batsman to be thrust into the position. As an opener, they say Yuvraj lacks technique, but in domestic cricket the left-hander has an average of 70-plus in the openers' slot. His place is on the line and if he doesn't succeed then Chopra will find himself back in the side. Pressure sometimes brings out the best in a cricketer; at times it can also consigns a player to obscurity. Yuvraj belongs to the former catergory.

2 Tests, 47 runs at 15.66

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Mohammad Kaif: A

Played his first Test since 2001 and scored a brilliant 64 in Chennai before succumbing to the heat and dehydration. His brilliant fielding gave the Indian team the much-needed spark. His wristy strokes and footwork against the spinners reminded one of the Indian batsmen of yore.

1 Test, 64 runs at an average of 64.00

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Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik and Sachin Tendulkar are yet to play a Test in the series.

Ashish Magotra