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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

India left dizzy by Gillespie

Prem Panicker | February 15, 2003 21:17 IST

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There are some games that deny analysis; that, in fact, defy reason.

India versus Australia at SuperSport Park, Centurion, today was one such game -- a no-contest, in which India stayed competitive for maybe the first six overs before pressing the self-destruct button. From then on, till Australia sealed a nine-wicket win, there was just one team on the park.

In its previous Cup outing, India had failed to last the distance against Holland's bowling -- and yet, every indication (even the tarot reader the television commentary team has roped in as an "innovation") spoke of a much better performance.

Leave the stars, and tarot cards out of it -- the pitch, as chief curator Herbert Smith told my colleague Faisal Shariff, was one on which a decent side would expect, batting first, to score 250 as the bare minimum, and would need 280 to be competitive. He also said that the track could take a bit of turn into the second session.

Locals, like Barry Richards, warned before the game that there is a tendency for some rain towards the latter part of the day, in these parts.

Put those two factors together, and it was imperative for India to take first strike. Sourav Ganguly got the team off to a great start when, going in with an unchanged line-up from the Holland game, he called right and without hesitation, opted to bat.

Sachin Tendulkar opened with Sourav Ganguly. Noticeable, first up, was two things: One, there was little in the deck for the Aussie quicks; two, Ganguly was handling the bowling much better, in far more assured fashion, than he has in recent times.

Brett Lee, given the new ball ahead of Jason Gillespie, looked to use pace and bounce to blast out the Indian batsmen. Ganguly got right behind the ball to deliveries on the stumps, worked the ball around from ball one and Tendulkar, after a watchful start, went after McGrath in the 5th over, taking 14 in the over including two superbly timed and executed fours.

It was almost a game within a game. McGrath was looking to get Tendulkar playing him square. Tendulkar, after reading the line for an over, responded with a fierce cut, followed by a screaming extra cover drive. In between, he kept walking across the stumps, changing the line on the bowler and working him off his body onto the on side to run easy twos.

At the end of five overs, the score was 22/0 -- and things were looking good.

Then -- without warning, without explanation, without reason -- the wheels came off. Lee bowled wide enough of off stump to have the umpire limbering up his arm muscles to call the wide. Ganguly, without even moving into line, flung his bat at it, got the edge, and cued a celebratory dance between the bowler and keeper Adam Gilchrist.

Virender Sehwag started with a fluent four to an attempted yorker by Lee -- but in the fast bowler's next over, chased a ball that perhaps was even wider than the one Ganguly went after.

Rahul Dravid came in -- and got stuck, for all of 23 deliveries. The batsman who through 2002 could hardly put a foot wrong, has been out of touch this year -- and he carried that baggage into this game. Lucky to be put down at first slip by Damien Martyn when he pushed hard at an ordinary Lee delivery outside off stump, Dravid looked a mental wreck as he pushed and prodded around.

The two wickets, and the vice-captain's form, had the unfortunate side-effect of pushing Sachin Tendulkar into his shell. You could almost see Tendulkar, who looked in prime touch till that point, mentally going uh-oh, maybe I need to cut back on the strokes and play safe just in case there is a collapse on the cards.

There was. Jason Gillespie -- to my mind, Australia's finest fast bowler in this squad -- came in at first change and began with a short, quick delivery around off that jagged back a bit off the seam. Dravid, up on his toes, looked to force through point -- a shot not only out of character but, considering the ball was bouncing chest high as it came to him, completely unnecessary as well. The thick inner edge guided the ball onto the stumps, and India had gone from 22/0 to 44/3.

Worse followed. Yuvraj, looking to force McGrath off his pads, played around a delivery that hit him on line around line of leg and middle. There was some doubt about whether the ball had pitched outside leg, some doubt about whether it would have gone above the stumps -- but neither doubt influenced Umpire Ashoka de Silva's decision.

Mohammad Kaif, with overs to play with and time to play himself in, came walking in next -- and did his own cause no good when, to a short, lifting delivery from Gillespie around middle stump, flashed into a hook. The inward movement off the seam and awkward bounce cramped the shot, the batsman got the ball high on the bat and Symonds, coming in off the line from midwicket, held an easy catch. 50/5 the score -- and only 18 overs had been bowled when India found itself with its last recognized pair at the crease.

The more hyped batsmen in this lineup probably need to learn a lesson from Dinesh Mongia. His form has been bad, his confidence would not have been helped by all the talk of his being a spare wheel in the side, and the debate about his inclusion in the squad at the expense of VVS Laxman.

Yet, it was Mongia who put the past behind him; Mongia, who refused to be defined by recent form; Mongia, who played with the calm good sense the earlier batsmen had failed to show. My colleague Krishna Prasad and I were in fact making that point in course of our audio commentary -- a more thoughtful team management would have sent Mongia ahead of both Yuvraj and Kaif, who are essentially finishers and would be far more at ease coming out a little later in the program.

In terms of batting, this was the most convincing period of the match, with Mongia getting nicely behind the line to the pacemen and Tendulkar looking to downshift, and settle down for a long knock.

And then, came a wicket that can only be described as mind over batter. Tendulkar had for a while eschewed the big shots and looked to work the ball around. Every time fine leg was brought up inside the circle, he made a point of going across his stumps and working it past that fielder.

Gillespie must have been watching. A cleverly disguised back-of-the-hand slower ball saw Tendulkar walking across to his off-stump, looking to tuck to fine leg, misreading the pace and being rapped on his pads -- that was the thinking bowler's response to a well-set batsman, and that dismissal with the score on 78/6 nailed India's hide to the mast.

Mongia, with just the tail for company, decided he needed to put some runs on the board while the going was good. Full marks Ponting -- seeing that Mongia was driving well and feeling comfortable with that shot, the Aussie skipper pushed him out of that comfort zone by putting a man in his face at a very short cover. Mongia got a ball on driving length from Lee, looked to change the angle of the bat to beat that short fielder and angle it wide of him, and had Symonds at orthodox cover diving to hold in style.

Harbhajan Singh with his flamboyance, and Anil Kumble, with obduracy and good sense, then showed their batting betters how easy this track was. The former kept stepping to leg and slapping Lee around the park, while the latter meticulously got behind the line of everything hurled at him. Lee, around this period, lost it a bit -- time and again the bowler preferred to follow Harbhajan, even when the off-spinner stepped four, five paces outside his leg stump and all three sticks were exposed for a quick yorker.

Ponting, who never seems to let up, promptly took Lee off, and his spinners Brad Hogg and Darren Lehmann finished things off quickly, India being bowled out in the 42nd over with just 125 on the board.

All the Aussie bowlers got wickets with the exception of Andrew Symonds -- but the bowler of the morning was easily Gillespie. Fast, incisive, with infinite variety to his bowling, the tall seam bowler never let up an inch, and the pressure he exerted had to, in large part, be credited with the fact that India never managed a fightback.

126 is no sort of target for India to defend -- so what chances did the team have? There was one -- with nothing to lose, go for broke. Bowl Harbhajan in the first over, given the presence of two left handers at the wicket, who would both have come out primed to play pace. If a quick wicket went, that would put Ponting on the plate, against Harbhajan who, when the two last squared off, appeared to have the Australian batsman's number.

India, however, went the traditional route, Srinath and Zaheer posed no threat to batsmen who have faced -- and faced down -- far more lethal bowling, and runs came almost at will.

Harbhajan was brought on in the 9th over -- and noticeably, Gilchrist struggled, actively looking to work the single and let Hayden take the off-spinner. Kumble, brought on in the next over, was even more impressive, bowling a lot freer than we have seen him in recent times -- more flight, more loop, good control and enough variation to keep both batsmen guessing.

Gilchrist, looking to break free from the trap, gave him the charge and was beaten and stumped (at the second attempt, by Dravid). But by then, there was a hundred on the board, and Ponting -- again, looking all at sea initially against the spinners -- took over the onus of scoring, racing to a run a ball 24 and seeing his team past the target with no further alarms.

It was a professional, measured performance by the Australians -- the absolute opposite from the Indians. What more is there to say, really?

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Number of User Comments: 33

Sub: People never change..

Yeah I agree India did very badly, but this same team pull out a outstanding win in Lords I heard a lot of praise from ...

Posted by Bala

Sub: Scorecard with the article

Hello : The scorecard that you have with your articles are incomplete. They have just the batting scores. Could you add the bowling, FOW etc ...

Posted by Adarsh

Sub: It's time to think ahead

Yea, They lost, it does not mean India has desipated all its power therewith. Let's wait and hope it comes colorful in the forthcoming matches. ...

Posted by Biju

Sub: Sub: Time we concentrate on our work

Having seen such a pathetic performance I feel we should get out of World cup fever and start concentrating on our day to day work. ...

Posted by Srini



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