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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

India's batsmen fall in a heap

Peter Roebuck | February 15, 2003 17:03 IST

India's batting has wilted before some top-class fast bowling from an impressive Australian trio. After a lively start, notable for rash strokes played by supposedly responsible batsmen, the 'Vindaloos' fell in a heap. Apart from Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian batsmen showed neither the technique or determination needed to score runs on a firm pitch against an attack whose senior members found form on the same morning.

Australia was outstanding and the Indians could not summon the slightest resistance. Sourav Ganguly was the worst offender, failing to set the example expected from a captain. Instead, this struggling and volatile leader played a series of rash strokes. Application was absent from his game as he flailed around, connecting now and then, and more often swishing at thin air. Ganguly's frailty spreads throughout the team, with every batsmen lacking confidence. As usual, the footwork told the story, or the lack of it, for the feet are merely the brains at work.

Not that batting was easy against this precise and penetrating Australian attack. Fast bowlers are going to enjoy themselves in this competition because the pitches are firm and the white ball is swinging enough to provoke interest but not alarm. Hundreds of wides were bowled in the last World Cup because the batch of balls used in that competition curved like a sliced serve. As Chaminda Vaas showed in his demolition of Bangladesh, whose promotion to Test status looks more absurd as the days go by, the 2003 missiles bend helpfully. Accordingly, swing bowlers are back in business.

Once the wickets started falling there was no-one to hold up the side. Brett Lee's opening spell was superb; a display of fast and accurate swing bowling that confirmed his recent improvement. No one finds outswingers moving late and travelling in the outside lane easy to play. Certainly not Indians, raised on docile pitches whose confidence has sunk into their boots. Modern batsman do not play the moving ball well because they hit on the rise and do not put their feet in the correct position. Also, they seem reluctant to dig in. Perhaps, they are used to the easy life, including the glories and rewards of softer tournaments played against milder opponents on gentler surfaces.

Glenn McGrath was his usual self, bowling from close to the stumps and relishing his confrontation with Tendulkar as these supremely skilled cricketers fought like gladiators in an arena.

Jason Gillespie was even better. After Lee's fling with the new ball, the tall and silent South Australian produced a wonderfully controlled spell that squashed any hopes of a recovery. If Gillespie bowled a ball down the leg-side your correspondent must have been dozing. Hardly wasting a delivery, varying his pace cleverly and keeping his arm high, Gillespie nagged away at his opponents, refusing them the respite needed to rebuild the innings.

Australia's pacemen cannot often have bowled as well together. Virender Sehwag did not last long, his feet set in concrete even as his bat flashed far from his body. As accomplished a player as Rahul Dravid was reduced to scratching around like a backyard chook. Dravid, who was dropped at slip -- the only mistake made by an otherwise sharp fielding team -- scored a single run in 23 balls and left with a heavy heart. Somehow the bat did not seem to belong in his hands. He kept waiting for the clouds to clear but they grew thicker till finally he could take it no longer.

None of the remaining batsmen looked likely to last long. Patently, India needs to rethink its strategy. Batsmen must adapt to the conditions. Patience is needed against the new ball, with openers sent out to blunt the attack before gradually building momentum. India's feebleness and the performances on and off the field of Pakistan and England suggest this group is not as strong as it appeared. Reaching the last six might be the easy part.

Ricky Ponting could not have asked for more from his fast bowlers and filedsmen. In 1999, the Australians started slowly, scraped into the later stages and romped to victory. Australia is clearly the best team in the competition and the abject efforts by respected rivals sheds a poor light upon world cricket. Ponting's side is playing excellently and will reach the semi-finals whereupon its fortunes are in the lap of the gods. India and Pakistan have been badly beaten and must put their house in order.

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Sub: It's a mind game

I have no idea how can one justify a loss like this! Any loss can only be justified as a 'sporting loss' if the team ...


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