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Full marks to Rohan Gavaskar

Faisal Shariff | September 11, 2003 09:26 IST

 In the end Tendulkar and Gavaskar made the difference.

Returning to competitive cricket after a deserving six-month break, Sachin Tendulkar swung back into action with a bowling spell that choked the Senior Indian side's riposte and saw India A win the opening match of the TVS Salve Challenger by 27 runs on Wednesday.

His bowling figures of 28 runs off 10 consecutive overs and the prize wicket of VVS Laxman swung the game India A's way.

Rohan Gavaskar's knock of 79 ensured that India A's total was a match-winning one.

There was a disconcerting feeling of individualism in the opening tie of the series where personal targets overruled team requirements; a recipe fatal for any team sport.

But first the positives from the match.

L Balaji's five-wicket haul must put him in good stead for the challenges the Indian team faces ahead. On a track where his bowling partner Zaheer Khan was smashed for 70 runs off his 10 overs without a single wicket, Balaji's performance deserves more than a passing glance. After a disastrous one-day international debut against the West Indies, Balaji started from scratch and looked the best bowler on view. He stuck to the basics, bowled straight and fast and returned figures of 5 for 50. A welcome contingency plan for India's fast bowling department in case Javagal Srinath finally calls it a day.

VVS Laxman is back sans all the shortcomings which were printed about him ad nausea. He did not miss a chance for a quick single, judged his runs judiciously and ran his threes comfortably. His fielding has been updated and has improved by leaps and bounds, literally. His batting has lost none of its flair and the middle of his bat still sounds sweet. All Laxman fans can stop worrying about his place in the Test squad and take joy from the fact that he is a serious contender for the one-day side as well.

Tendulkar's return is more an event than a positive. He must take credit for majority of the gate collections at the Chinnaswamy stadium. Even though the pigeons hovering over the ground outnumbered the spectators, it failed to dampen Tendulkar's return to competitive cricket. He was, however, more successful with the ball, swinging it prodigiously to worry batsmen of the caliber of Laxman.

Rohan Sunil Gavaskar must now be a serious contender for a shy at international cricket this season. Batting with composure beyond his years, he turned the game around for India A, batting with equal measure of aggression and caution. It will truly be sad if he is not given a chance, on a circuit driven by personal enmities and one-upmanship, just because his family name is Gavaskar.

Rohan deserves as much of a chance for the national team as Hemang Badani and S Sriram. The duo dictated terms at the crease but was guilty of failing to convert well-deserved fifties into match-winning centuries.

Parthiv Patel and Ajay Ratra kept wickets competitively and there was little to choose between the two; both however returned to the pavilions without scoring a single run, giving their third competitor, Tilak Naidu a chance to snatch the limelight in Thursday's game.

On the downside was the attitude of certain players in contention for berths in the national side. Personal agendas navigated their performances ahead of team performances. The decision to return to the zonal teams for the Duleep Trophy seems so apt.

Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Jaffer's promising but brief stints at the crease were disappointing. Here were two leading contenders for the Test opening slots, playing complacent cricket with the focus sharply on them. Chances will be far and few from hereon for them.

Sanjay Bangar played a knock that could be best defined as solid, but was a misfit in the given circumstances. Slow starters generally face this problem. In their game plan to accelerate at a later stage, if they are dismissed mid-way through the innings, the entire blame of the defeat lands at their doorstep.

Bangar has all the shots in the book and an unflustered exterior, but needs to accelerate his scoring rate to break into the one-day outfit.

Sodhi must count himself as one of the chief beneficiaries of bad luck. Walking into bat with 100 runs required off the last ten overs, the young Turk failed to find the big shots, looking unfairly unfit for the level.

Ambati Rayudu's case was a mixed bag. A huge vote of confidence to be sent in to open the innings when the side already had four openers was dampened by a run-out which was not entirely his fault.

Ganguly's judgement of the single still remains a perennial problem.

Ganguly's team's campaign in this tourney could end on Thursday with another defeat. A win for them could make for an absorbing final league match between Kumble's India A and Rahul Dravid's India B.

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