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The critics must be eating their words now
December 09, 2003
India's performance in the first Test must have silenced quite a few doubting Thomases. Not many of these people could have predicted such a fine show by India. Rather, they had forecast a gloomy five days and sheer embarrassment for Ganguly's boys.
These critics had based their views mainly on the results in the recently concluded triangular series in India and India's performance on previous tours of Australia. Now, after the end of this Test match, these cynical minds must be scurrying for cover!
The match might have ended without a result, but from India's point of view this is something more than just a draw. The Indians have taken a big leap with a lot of good things coming their way, whereas the Australians will have to reorganise to keep their home record intact.
The Australians had almost made it a habit to score a thumping win over their opponents in the first game, when the visitors would be still looking to come to terms with the wickets. The hosts always took advantage of the first Test result, which would have a huge psychological impact on the touring team.
But Ganguly played an innings of character. The skipper coming ahead of V V S Laxman was itself an indicator that he intended to lead from the front. Being an aggressive player, Sourav never allowed the Australian bowlers to settle down to their line and length. The strength of his batting was that even the good balls bowled in the right areas were put to the sword. His way of handling the short-pitched stuff was superb as the Australian bowlers delivered too many of those, only to get a good measure of the wicket.
The captain's good form always lifts the team's morale. The skipper's attitude and body language on the field convey more important messages to the opponents than verbal communications. Sourav is the kind of player who goes from strength to strength. He needed those runs badly to restructure his career and carry on the good work of captaincy.
Akash Chopra looked compact enough to negotiate the new ball. A sound temperament, which is a necessity at this level, seems to be his strength. I am sure the team management will want him to capitalise on his good start and make big scores. After all, the opener has the most difficult job at hand.
Laxman's affinity for the Australian attack continued at the Gabba. He has been in tremendous form from the beginning of the season and scored heavily against the Kiwis back home. Laxman coming in at number 6 also shows the batting depth of the team. But his missing the three-figure mark here will pinch Laxman later in his career. He has got to be more resolute once he gets close to the magic figure.
A century throws a different light on a batsman's career. Those landmarks are not only confidence-building, but also inspire teammates to set high standards for one another. While I appreciate Laxman's great habit of scoring against the Australians, I feel that not scoring the hundred after having done all the hard work is too costly a miss.
The importance of partnerships in a cricket match is often spoken about, and the Sourav-Laxman partnership had a telling effect on the Australian bowling attack. It was not as if the Aussie bowling was all mediocre. The high-quality batting made the hosts' bowlers look pedestrian.
Parthiv Patel and Ajit Agarkar then continued the good work to torment the hosts. The biggest plus point of this Test match from the Indian point of view was the team taking the lead without Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar contributing. That makes the Indian batting look more formidable than ever. And now I am sure the best two players will bid strongly to contribute their might in the rest of the Test matches.
The Australians played typically aggressive cricket while batting and bowling in the second innings to make some dents in the psychological advantage that India had gained in this Test. But Rahul and the classy Laxman replied very well to leave the Indians with an edge over the hosts.
Finally, the Indians did have a strong hold on the entire Test match. Though some are of the opinion that the first day's honours belonged to the Australians, I beg to differ. The first day's effort by our bowlers was only the investment to reap rewards the next day. At least, I would like to look at it that way.
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