Australia v India, 1st Test Paper Round December 8, 2003

'Bradman clone not just in technique but in spirit'

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Stellar example of the spirit of cricket: Sachin Tendulkar walks back after being adjudged lbw
© Getty Images

Sourav Ganguly may have scored a stirring century and inspired an incredible day for India, but the column inches in Australian dailies were dominated by an incident which was unfortunate but dramatic, and which made the Indian fightback even more memorable. Steve Bucknor's shocking lbw decision to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar for a third-ball duck, was received with outrage by the entire Australian media.

"Thankfully, Steve Bucknor is Jamaican. If he was an Australian citizen, one hell of a diplomatic row would be under way following his astonishing leg-before verdict against Sachin Tendulkar," announced Mike Coward in The Australian, before adding: "This was an aberration and an insult to the peerless Tendulkar."

Commenting on the decision in the same daily, Robert Craddock brought into focus Bucknor's performance in recent years, which he felt had been steadily deteriorating. "World cricket does not need electronic help to sort out lbw decisions. It just needs better umpiring. Steve Bucknor shouldn't have needed a camera to give Sachin Tendulkar not out when he was struck high ... Bucknor, a delightful fellow, was a great umpire at his zenith but there have been signs in recent times he is slipping and there is a gap emerging between his still high reputation and his performance."

Meanwhile, Rajan Bala of the Asian Age had his own take on Bucknor the umpire: "In an earlier birth Bucknor might have been one of those Roman emperors who ensured that the crowds at the Coliseum were kept in suspense before he gave the thumbs-down signal to end the life of a gladiator or a Christian."

The lbw decision also opened old wounds of Tendulkar being wronged the last time he was in Australia. "Given the fate which befell him on his last visit to Australia four years ago, Tendulkar had every right to be enraged," fumed Coward, reminding readers of the rough decisions - there were arguably three of them in six Test innings - he had copped in 1999-2000, the worst being an lbw verdict when he ducked into a bouncer.

As on that occasion, Tendulkar received this blow with amazing grace, something that wasn't lost on the Australian media. "If there was ever a definitive example of the spirit of cricket, the creed which has so occupied the Australian cricketers and their governors in recent times, this was it," said Coward, while Craddock gushed: "Tendulkar proved he is a Sir Donald Bradman clone not just in technique but in spirit. As he left he did not look back at Bucknor, nor shake his head or even try and look up at the big screen waiting for a television replay. It was inspiring stuff. In a season where we have heard some fairly pretentious chest thumping about the spirit of cricket there we have a stellar example of what it all means."

Meanwhile, there was the small matter of Ganguly's century. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Roebuck extolled not only the batsmanship of Ganguly and VVS Laxman, but also the mental strength that both - especially Ganguly - displayed.

"Because he does not look gritty and tends to wander around with his head apparently in the clouds, Ganguly has been underestimated. He has been mistaken for one of those toffs who featured prominently in the drawing-room dramas of the 1930s. Ganguly's career tells another story, a tale of determination and commitment ... He is an inspirational figure within his team, the only place that matters."

Talking about the innings itself, Roebuck accorded it perhaps the highest accolade: "At times, he resembled Brian Lara, though his shots lack the Trinidadian's brilliance and violence. Throughout, the momentum was carefully controlled and though the climax was exciting the previous passages were more significant because they indicated a weighty and undefeated mind at work."

Laxman's vital innings didn't go unnoticed either. "In his hands, a bat becomes a wand ... He played some sumptuous strokes off the back foot and also flicked the ball to leg with a roll of the wrist so late it was almost a postscript. Watching him bat counts among the joys of the game," wrote Roebuck, before concluding, "This match might peter out but interest has been aroused in the ensuing contests."