Monday, Nov 03, 2003
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The Indian bowling was not seen in good light during the Mumbai match of the TVS ODI Tri-series. On a pitch where the ball turned and jumped from the very beginning, the Indian spinners bowled too short, and allowed the Australian batsmen score some easy but vital runs.
Later, under the lights of this day-night contest on Saturday, part-time left-arm spinner Michael Clarke showed the virtues of a good line and length. Clarke picked up four wickets, including the crucial ones of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh, and he did no more than land the ball in the right area and allow the pitch to do the rest.
It was always going to be difficult for India to chase a 280-plus score on a pitch that was not suitable for a limited-overs match. Paceman Ajit Agarkar, who produced a couple of well-directed yorkers, was the only exception in the Indian bowling, as the others disappointed. Zaheer Khan appears undone by attacking batsmen as Adam Gilchrist has shown us in the World Cup final and in this series. The left-arm paceman appears to be trying too hard against Gilchrist and his length and direction suffers.
Zaheer needs to look at his left-arm counterpart in the Australian side, Nathan Bracken. The Aussie is rather inexperienced at the international level, however, he had an outstanding game in Mumbai, getting his basics right and making the best use of the available conditions. Let's not forget that Bracken too has to operate against two explosive ODI openers in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
The Indians allowed the Aussies to get off the hook. I was surprised that when Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds were involved in that important stand, the part-time spinners were employed. A couple of wickets at that stage could have turned the match in India's favour. We should have had our frontline spinners on.
There is no harm in changing your strategy against a particular opponent and I have nothing against a spinner sharing the new ball. However, it must be a specialist bowler and not a non-regular one like Sehwag.
Martyn played a wonderful knock under the circumstances, and his range of strokes shows us the ability in him. He controlled the Australian innings well, providing it with much stability. Martyn consolidated in the middle overs and exploded towards the end. The notable aspect of the Australian batting is that the run-rate, despite the loss of wickets, seldom slows down. This is one of the principal reasons why the Aussies are able to recover so often. In Mumbai too, the runs were coming at such a good clip that the pressure never eased on the Indian attack.
The Indian batsmen were always up against it, and though Tendulkar and Dravid made a brave effort, the Aussies kept the match firmly under their control. They were lucky with the toss though. It was that much tougher for the team chasing.
By K. Srikkanth
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