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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Columns > Peter Roebuck

A feeble bowling performance by India

March 23, 2003

Sooner or later the Australian top order was bound to start scoring runs. After a month of scratching around like backyard chooks the senior batsmen found their confidence and their feet and destroyed an attack that deflated as swiftly as a pricked balloon. Within a few overs the mood of the match had been determined as the opening pair carted some woebegone offerings from a previously precise trio of Indian pacemen. Whereas the underdogs appeared overexcited, the Australians had the air of men who had been waiting for this moment with the impatience of children at the back of a queue for ice-cream.

Damien Martyn and Ricky PontingAdam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting had been having a frustrating time. None of them had been able to impose himself upon opposing bowlers in the manner expected before the tournament began. Accordingly, the team had been relying on recoveries arranged by the lower order, whose task it has always been to sort things out when great men have lost their way. These struggles could not last. Sooner or later someone was going to pay. Invited to bat first after dawn had bestowed thunder and lightning upon an alarmed city, the vaunted Australians found their form and tore apart an attack that started like an untamed colt and did not recover.

Gilchrist made nonsense of Sourav Ganguly's timid decision to bowl first on a brown pitch with an assault that confirmed the worst fears of a packed crowd committed to the Indian cause. Presumably, Gilchrist played himself in as he walked to the crease, because he did not waste any time thereafter. If he was nervous, he hid it well, mostly with a stream of uninhibited hooks, cuts and drives. Alas, Zaheer Khan's radar had broken down in the morning rush and Gilchrist was given umpteen opportunities to play his favourite strokes. Within a few balls the crowd had quietened and the underdogs were nursing their wounds.

Gilchrist chose his shots quickly and executed them without inhibition, a combination that put the bowlers under enormous pressure. Repeatedly, he pulled deliveries that another man might have pushed out on the off-side. Nor did the presence of a packed field prevent him from cutting through and over point with the sort of flashing blade more commonly associated with wielders of the epee. From the start, the Australians relished the occasion whereas their opponents were unable to find their usual rhythms and shuffled around or else became reckless.

Matthew Hayden has spent the tournament searching for the footwork that has brought him so many runs. At times he has resembled a long-jumper whose run-up has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. He spent the morning of the match walking up and down the pool in the team hotel either as a means of relaxation or as a way of easing a weary body into the day. Although he was not at his most commanding, and his temper was even worse that usual, an indication of the strain that has fallen upon him, Hayden gave resolute service as the Australians raced away from the starting grid. Amongst the bowlers, only Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh managed to restrain the batsmen, and the latter's off-breaks bounced and turned to a degree calculated to give the Indian captain second, third and fourth thoughts.

Nor did the eventual loss of the openers slow the pace of the innings. By now the Indians were in disarray, a hundred million hopes lying like shattered glass upon the ground. Ricky Ponting started tipping and running and Damien Martyn immediately found a shot over cover that was Caribbean in construction. Momentum was maintained without difficulty. Martyn was delighted to be playing after passing a fitness test, a feat accomplished more by willpower than x-ray, and his relief showed in his every moment at the crease.

After settling, the third-wicket pair cut loose with a memorable attack against some appalling bowling. Neither man played for his hundred any more than had Gilchrist. As the overs started slipping away they stepped down the pitch, swung the bat vigourously and swiped sixes into most corners of a large and overwhelmed ground. Long before the end of the innings the Australians were rampant and their opponents disconsolate.

A close match had been expected between the strongest sides in the competition. Instead, the Indians produced a feeble bowling performance in which their standards fell far below those expected on these great cricketing occasions. The Australians batted formidably well but were assisted by an attack that failed to rise to the occasion. Throughout the tournament the Australians felt they had not played their best cricket, especially with the bat. Happily, the top batsmen found their touch in this eighth final of the game's most prestigious tournament. Much to the dismay of planeloads of Indian supporters, amongst them actors, politicians, businessmen and mere mortals, the opposing bowlers did not turn up and the Australian innings became a massacre of sixes and singles and boundaries as a supposedly strong attack was treated with a disrespect it richly deserved.

Ganguly must have wished he could turn back the clock to 9.30 and start again but sport is not like that. Rather it separates substance from shadow, reality from illusion. Australia took 15 from the first over and did not look back. Perhaps, though, the important decisions were taken earlier as the Indians examined themselves and discovered they did not truly believe this deed could be done.

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Number of User Comments: 134

Sub: RE:Captain is Accountable

It is not the fielding decision that cost India the final, but the poor bowling performance from the pacers. Ganguly deserves praise for the way ...

Posted by arnab

Sub: RE:Ganguly did not give respect to the National Anthem

Well said Harish! Yes, it can be said that , ganguly is a good one day captain.He appears very passionate about his cause and performs ...

Posted by Vimal

Sub: RE:India has become a laughing stock

Harish, you are correct. Nobody bocomes great overnight. So I feel you must have slept during India's matches against England,Srilanka, New Zeland, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and ...

Posted by Rajib

Sub: RE:Not entirely....

Thankx for putting up this point. This could have been really a big turn around in the game as Aussies lost 2 conesecutive wkts. And ...

Posted by Rajib

Sub: OZ and world cup

what ever the result of the toss is one thing which is almost never changing is aussie win.Even if Indians batted first McGrath and co ...

Posted by Balaji


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