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India beat Netherlands by 182 runs
Prem Panicker | March 07, 2007 00:02 IST
Last Updated: March 07, 2007 09:04 IST
There is just so much value you can attach to the India versus Netherlands warm-up at the spanking new Trelawney Stadium in Jamaica -- and form certainly wasn't one of them.
India historically have a tendency to step down the gears when confronted with what it rates as sub-standard opposition -- as if it just couldn't be bothered to turn it on. That attitude almost spelt disaster four years ago, when India met the Netherlands in its first game of the 2003 World Cup. Remember that game?
This one was almost a reprise; given its warm-up status, a full-fledged match report seems overkill. So, a few random observations, in no particular order:
Judged by some of the high-scoring warm-up games played yesterday, the pitches for this World Cup should be reasonably batsman-friendly. You couldn't say that, not really, about this one, though. The wicket on offer had cracks; it had bounce, in some areas more than others. The ball didn't come on the way freewheeling batsmen like it to -- there was just enough 'hold' to put batsmen off their timing. And even early on in the first session, there was the sort of turn you expect on subcontinental tracks.
The outfield is uncharacteristic of one day stadia in that it is way too slow -- shots hit well struggled to make the fence. One reason could be over-watering -- if that is the case, it is a disease the sun will cure before the real action begins; if, though, it is the nature of this ground, batsmen are in for some hard yards.
India opened with Virender Sehwag partnering Sourav Ganguly. The left-hander looked out of sorts, without however indicating anything like a loss of form -- it looked, merely, like he wasn't mentally 'up' for the game. You couldn't say the same of Sehwag, though. The batsman needs time in the middle to rediscover touch and form; the 36 deliveries he faced for his 28 were unimpressive, to put it mildly.
Two of his fours came in an endless first over when young Jonkman, clearly nervous, sent down a profusion of no-balls. Barring those gifts, there was no authority in his presence, no conviction to his play -- clearly, he is not anywhere near prime form. The problem with an off-form Sehwag is not so much the batting front, but the bowling -- Sehwag in the XI provides a fifth bowler who can bowl tight wicket to wicket lines in the middle overs; Sehwag on the bench reduces India's support bowling to Sachin, who can be expensive, Sourav with his seam up, and Yuvraj, who hasn't done much bowling since his comeback from injury.
Robin Uthappa threw it away with an injudicious cut at a ball too close to him, but during his brief stay in the middle, indicated not only that he was in touch, but that he feels equally at home batting off either foot. It would be a surprise, travesty even, if he doesn't open for India when it opens its campaign March 17 against Bangladesh.
Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh (despite an all too brief stay) all looked in touch. That said, the first two batsmen never really looked to work singles to the extent they could have, against bowling that was up there in the Ranji class, at best.
Tendulkar, for instance, scored 32 runs off just 7 scoring shots; the other 51 deliveries produced just 29 runs. Dravid, (who incidentally didn't do even as well as Tendulkar in this regard) before the team left India, made the point that the batsmen will need to make 30-odd extra runs to provide cover for the fielding -- to do that, the dots to singles equation has to be consistently, and considerably, more in the batsmen's favor.
Dhoni got a hit in the 42nd over but never really took to the task on a pitch that was increasingly variable in bounce.
India raised the 300 without batting at anything over 50 per cent, which should tell you something. More to the immediate point, India managed to stave off the ignominy of being bowled out inside the distance, as the Dutch had done in the opener in WC 2003.The wicket is playing one too many tricks; with Munaf, Sreesanth, Pathan, Kumble and Bajji bowling, India packs too many guns for the minnows. The outcome is not in doubt -- the real point of interest in the second half is seeing how Pathan, to a lesser extent Sreesanth and Kumble, go.
PostScript: The Netherlands had just one bowler with street cred: Ryan ten Doeschate, who has been earning a bit of a rep with Essex. And he went on to take a five-for 57.
Even absent Zaheer Khan and to a lesser extent Ajit Agarkar, India packed too many guns, of a caliber the Netherlands was unused to, for them to make any sort of fist of a chase of 300. The real point of interest was not the result, but an opportunity to see how the Indian bowlers would do. Irfan Pathan -- whose form is crucial to India's hopes of playing five bowlers -- took the new ball and produced a spell of 6-2-12-1.
Impressive though that seems, those figures were helped considerably by a Dutch lineup that didn't have the batting nous to cope on a wicket of uncertain bounce. In actual fact, Pathan looked better than at the height of his slump -- but that is the best you can say at this point.
He continues to run through the crease rather than hit it in the bowling stride; he continues to fall away to the right thanks to a leading arm that comes down too quickly during the delivery -- as a result, he loses both pace and control. The 'cup half full' way of looking at it is that he had a decent outing, didn't get collared, and could with another such outing begin the process of regaining rhythm and confidence both.
Sreesanth, who shared the new ball with Pathan, was the more consistently incisive: pacy, with good seam positions and great shape to the deliveries. If he went wicketless (7-1-24-0), it was more because the Dutch top order wasn't quite good enough to touch the deliveries he bent away from them at speed.
Munaf Patel bowled well within himself; clearly he was merely confirming fitness, as opposed to really trying. Just occasionally, he served up reminders of what he is capable of with sharp pace, lift and late movement outside the off, but for the most part of his 8-0-30-1, he was content to amble in and slip the ball down the corridor.
Harbhajan Singh tends to get contemptuous of batsmen -- not just minnows, either -- who don't read him too well. The Dutch batsmen didn't, and Bajji responded with an array of doosras that left the batsmen helpless, clueless and, on two occasions, stranded.
Anil Kumble came to the bowling crease after the Dutch had lost four -- and with the sort of variable bounce he likes, against batsmen who would not come onto the front foot, did well enough; Yuvraj Singh got a bowl and struck with his first ball, then again in his second over... Lambs to the slaughter pretty much described the second half of this game; the Indians got to exercise their bowling muscles at an intensity slightly greater than a tough net session, but that was about it.
A tougher test comes Friday, when India take on the hosts West Indies at the same venue. That game, more than this one, will serve as an effective index of bowling form -- especially of the likes of Pathan and, to a lesser extent perhaps, Kumble.
You would expect both to play; if India is looking to fine tune its starting lineup, you would also expect Ajit Agarkar to get a game, so the tour management can get a fix on whether he, or Sreesanth, should partner Zaheer and Munaf in the seam department.
For the record, India won by 182 runs, bowling out the Netherlands for 118; Yuvraj took the last two wickets off successive deliveries and is potentially in line for a hat-trick when next he bowls.
Virender Sehwag b Ten Doeschate 28
Fall of wickets: 1-60, 2-64, 3-82, 4-198, 5-244, 6-248, 7-251, 8-283, 9-284.
Bowling: Mark Jonkman 5-0-36-0, Darron Reekers 8-1-34-1, Ryan ten Doeschate 10-1-57-5, Tim de Leede 10-1-41-1, W Stellng 5-0-33-0, Mohammad Kashif 5-0-44-0, Peter Borren 7-0-45-2.
B Zuiderent c Karthik b Patel 32
Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-56, 3-64, 4-69, 5-100, 6-102, 7-105, 8-105, 9-118
Bowling: Pathan 6-2-12-1, Sreesanth 7-1-24-0, Patel 8-0-30-1, Harbhajan Singh 8-0-24-2, Kumble 5-1-14-2, Yuvraj Singh 3.5-2-12-4.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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