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Javagal Srinath

History in the making

January 05, 2004

While India are on the doorsteps of creating history, the Australians are truly all at sea. The world champions have slowly succumbed to the guile of the tourists. Steve Waugh's wonderful career is all set for a derailment at his final destination, at least so it looks at the end of the third day at Sydney.

If maestro Sachin Tendulkar and an elegant VVS Laxman played their career's best knocks, it was Anil Kumble and Irfan Pathan who set up the game for the Indians.

The logic of the game is simple. If the batsmen have to excel on a good bowling track, it's the bowlers who are going to win matches on a good batting strip. The Sydney strip initially looked so good for batting that it appeared the game was heading for a tame draw. But stupendous efforts by Kumble and Pathan on the final hours turned the tables in favour of the Indians.

The debate and speculation about Sachin's form finally came to an end when he displayed his class on the first day and translated it into a glorious hundred early on the second day. He not only beat his own expectations but also completely demoralised his detractors when he returned with a career-best 241 not out.

The champion's cautious approach paid off as he really dissected the Australian attack. The changes what he made in his batting in this innings was very much evident. Nothing was driven through the covers on the rise or on the full, thereby avoiding the extravagant shots that cost him on a couple of occasions earlier. The only shots he played on the off side were the glide through the third man area and the cut short. "Avoiding mistakes is as good as innovating," goes the saying. Sachin followed it in ditto by seldom committing any mistake in this innings.

It was the Hyderabadi, Laxman, who set the pace for a long innings. The magician mesmerised the Australians with his brilliant batting. Laxman's silken touch and measured aggression not only made the Australian attack look pedestrian, but also overshadowed his partner, Sachin, by and large. In my opinion, Laxman has played the best cricket amongst the Indians so far on this tour. Laxman is a born again hero on this tour of Australia.

The maiden fifty has exonerated the diminutive wicket-keeper, Parthiv Patel, whose credentials as a batman were always doubted. In fact, he attacked the Australian bowlers disdainfully to send clear signals that he is here to stay.

It was good decision to score 700-plus runs to bat the Australians out of the series.

Sachin's reigning supremacy as the best ever batsman produced by India was yet again reiterated with his unbeaten 241. That takes him only next to VVS Laxman as the highest Indian run-getter in a Test innings. To those people for whom record books are the claim to fame, the innings, declared while was Sachin at 241, is a clear message that this team is all set to erase a lot of such records very soon.

Anil has to be handled very well for the next two days. He has got to bowl a lot of overs and keep pegging at the hosts. The first job on hand is to get them out and enforce the follow-on.

The Indian bowlers surely have a tiring task ahead.

So far, Irfan has been brilliant in this innings. The wicket of Steve Waugh was the ball to remember and the stunning dismissal of Gilchrist will only augment the confidence of the youngster.

Murali Kartik is perhaps realising the difference between domestic and international cricket. I hope he comes to terms with it very soon to be an able ally in the battle with Anil.

Knowing the tenacity of the Australians, the last two days will be a gripping contest. The time, I am sure, is not too far from watching the Indian players turning into true heroes overseas.

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