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Javagal Srinath

Write Sachin off at your own peril

December 15, 2003

As I finished watching the third day's proceedings at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday, my first feeling was that it was yet another stupendous effort by the Indian batsmen to negate the advantage that the Australians had held for the first two days. Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman not only frustrated the mighty Aussies, but drove home the message that the Indians cannot be tamed as easily as some had thought.

Terrific together: Laxman congratulates Dravid on reaching his centuryAustralia won the toss and scored more than 500 runs. Yet they could not gag India in any way. It's a great feeling. If they have missed their three frontline bowlers so far, we too took the field without two of our top strikers and with a debutant in tow. We have fought it out so far and I am sure we will come out in flying colours at the end of the tour.

For India, it was certainly not a great start to the match. They lost two of their key bowlers, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, to injury and then lost the toss on a wicket that is still full of runs. Winning the toss is very important to win a Test match on a wicket like this. But Sourav Ganguly was not lucky enough this time around.

Australia piled up a huge score of 556, but I feel it could have been reduced by at least 100. A lot of runs were given away through the slip cordon as there was no fielder in the third-man region. I don't blame anyone for this. I know that no bowler would like to operate on the first day with a fielder at third-man because it could be a waste of a fielder. But the reality remains that the Aussies managed to get a lot of runs through this region.

India's bowling department may have suffered an upset because of the absence of Zaheer and Harbhajan, but it had a lot of positives too. While Ashish Nehra bowled his best, debutant Irfan Pathan showed that he has the ability to put the ball in the right spot. Then there was the evergreen Anil Kumble, who once again walked away with a five-wicket haul despite being hit hard on the opening day.

It pained me to see some people rushing in to write off Kumble at the end of the first day. Some even went to the extent of questioning his inclusion in the team. Firstly, these things should not be discussed in the middle of a Test match and an important tour. And I strongly believe that Kumble still has a lot of things to offer. Didn't it show his class when he captured three wickets in one over at the end? I am not one who has a great passion for records, but I don't remember any other Indian spinner, apart from E A S Prasanna, bowling with such authority outside India.

Coming back to the Australian batting, I watched Ponting with awe. Except for that one occasion when everyone around, except the umpire, thought Ajit Agarkar had trapped him plumb in front, the Aussie captain-in-waiting looked to be a man in total control. At this rate, I have a strong feeling that Ponting might end up breaking a whole lot of batting records. After all, he still has at least eight years of international cricket left in him.

The Indian batting had a few unfortunate hiccups. Sehwag flattered to deceive. I thought he was good for a three-figure knock when he gave away his wicket. I think Sehwag should apply himself more. After all, this is a wicket on which the bowler has to wait for the batsman to make a mistake. So why commit harakiri?

Most unfortunate was Ganguly's dismissal. I know it's not easy to judge a run, but both Dravid and Ganguly, especially the former, should have been more cautious. It was Dravid's call, but I am also sure the skipper must have pardoned him long before the day ended. He had to. After all, what an innings Dravid is playing at the moment! The Aussies are finding it extremely difficult to contain his measured aggression.

The same can be said about Laxman. He made up for the century he missed at Brisbane, that too at a time when India needed those runs badly. To me, Laxman is the brightest spot in Indian cricket at the moment.

Test cricket is serious business, but sometimes it evokes a few funny comments also. But the one I heard this time was the funniest. There are some people who are now questioning Sachin Tendulkar's utility as an international batsman as he hasn't scored too many runs in his last few innings. It's really funny, I must say, and I need not to explain why. All I can say is that it is good for the team. From my experience I know that it is only an indication of what is in the offing. Let me assure you, it is just the calm before the storm. Soon enough you will see the real Sachin Tendulkar.

Previous column: Ganguly has matured into a great leader

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