March 17, 2001

Boon makes rematch a mismatch

In the end it was an anti-climax. The Tied Test rematch was a pale imitation of the original. "David Boon spoilt the game", said Roger Binny after the game and he was on the ball. The tubby Tasmanian who hit a century in the Tied Test, blasted another as the Aussies dissected the Indians in a ruthless performance to win by seven wickets.

The Indians seemed to approach the game with a slight hint of levity, even stretching the rules a bit to play 12 men. Apparently the organisers made a late discovery that Binny, the 12th man in 1986, had not been invited and so struck a compromise by letting Binny bat and Raju Kulkarni bowl. Confusion also abounded over the scoring; KS Mani, the official scorer for the Tied Test used the old system by which no balls and wides were not counted as runs when scored off but Doordarshan followed the new pattern; finally the old order made way for the new.

With makeshift stands erected at the Guru Nanak College ground in Chennnai on Saturday, there was a good sprinkling of loyal devotees, most of whom looked too young to have witnessed the original. The old firm of Gavaskar and Srikkanth looked good for a while, putting on 48 in less than ten overs. Sunny's driving in the V was graceful as ever while Srikkanth unleashed several powerful forcing shots square on the off side. The impact of time was most conspicuous in the fielding which was rather ordinary at times but Greg Matthews, still a veritable livewire at 41, produced the game's magical moment, diving to his left to clutch a full blooded drive from Srikkanth.

A trim and dapper looking Jimmy Amarnath struck 48 before knocking a Border full toss into the hands of midwicket. The only player on either side still active in first class cricket Chandrakant Pandit, who led Madhya Pradesh into the Ranji Trophy quarter finals recently, top scored with 59. The rest of the batting caved in to Matthews (4/38), bowling in his trademark baggy green cap along with a pair of yellow sneakers.

Maninder Singh walked out at No.9, a minor promotion, and unlike last time there were no nervous prods or pushes as he played Matthews. Although he finished with a Test average of 3.8, Maninder later acquired considerable batting pretensions, even making a first class century. He hit Border for a six and four over midwicket, gesturing in mock triumph to the dressing room each time, as India wound up at 222.

With Boon disdainfully cutting the bowling into smithereens, Australia strolled home with more than 10 overs to sapre. The 40-year-old, who bowed out of first class cricket in September 1999, struck a lightning 102 in just 69 minutes. He brought up his 100 by lofting Shivlal Yadav for a six over long off that seared into the media enclosure and threatened to decapitate one of the inhabitants.

Next ball `Boonie' holed out to Maninder at long on. There was no relief to be had for the besieged Indian fielders. Dean Jones exhibited a clean display of hitting, mostly in the direction of midwicket, Srikkanth disappearing for 26 in one over. Jones carved out a half century from just 29 balls before he was stumped by Kiran More. Ten bowlers were used by Shastri and the game ended when Kulkarni bowled a wide with his first ball.

The match ended in the early afternoon, perhaps for the best since the heat and humidity did throw an oppressive shadow over the game like in the original. As Ravi Shastri said in his post match comments, the occasion was paramount, not the actual happenings. Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away, goes the saying. But even if the protagonists themselves fade with the relentless passage of time, their memories will live on forever. And as Border hoped, maybe, just maybe, this reunion would lead to a greater appreciation of a fantastic Test match, even if it came 15 years too late.