January 26, 2002

Ratra has been impressive

The fluctuating fortunes in the India-­England one-day series have not only covered up for some mediocre cricket but have also brought back memories of the limited overs contest between the two countries held on the previous tour nine years ago. That too was a six-match series, and at the halfway mark England led 2-1. They went on to increase the lead by winning the fourth game before India fought back to win the last two games and level the series 3-3.


The young wicketkeeper is a bundle of energy and has always been in the thick of action. His work behind the stumps has been exemplary and he is always goading the bowlers and other teammates along. He is no rabbit with the bat too and has verily proved to be a find. He has certainly lived up to the promise he held out while keeping for the victorious under-19 team in Sri Lanka two years ago and it is to be hoped that the selectors will persist with him.
At the halfway mark this time, the situation is reversed with India leading 2-1 but if the three games have proved anything, it is that there is not much to choose between the teams and one cannot discount a close series this time too.

The contestants have had both moments to savour and disappointments. India have stuck to their plan of playing six batsmen and four bowlers. Actually, in the absence of a genuine all rounder, they have few other options. But it is good to see Ajit Agarkar finally come good. The slim utility player from Bombay has had his critics who feel that he has had more than his faire share of opportunities. That he is talented, no one will deny. But he has not done his admirable gifts much justice. He has all the qualities to make him a genuine all rounder in one day cricket ­ he certainly cannot command a place in the Test side ­ and his form particularly with the ball but also to some extent with the bat has seen to it that India stays ahead at the halfway mark in the series.

Another plus point from India's viewpoint is the encouraging showing of Ajay Ratra. The young wicketkeeper is a bundle of energy and has always been in the thick of action. His work behind the stumps has been exemplary and he is always goading the bowlers and other teammates along. He is no rabbit with the bat too and has verily proved to be a find. He has certainly lived up to the promise he held out while keeping for the victorious under-19 team in Sri Lanka two years ago and it is to be hoped that the selectors will persist with him. Certainly the unhappy scenario of the last couple of years when the selectors tried out half a dozen stumpers should not be repeated. India has found an able young keeper and Ratra should be encouraged.

Sourav Ganguly's injury was a blessing in disguise. His withdrawal proved two things ­ that there is a readymade opening pair in Tendulkar and Sehwag should Ganguly the batsman be unavailable. and also that there is excellent leadership material in Anil Kumble should Ganguly the captain have to drop out for any reason. Ganguly has been woefully out of touch and even though he would have been disappointed at missing out on a vital encounter, perhaps the enforced rest will do him a world of good and he could even recover his form. In the meantime, Sehwag showed, not for the first time, that he can be a match for Ganguly in stroke play and run production. And Kumble proved that he has the qualities to lead the country ­ perhaps even on a long-term basis. He has probably not been given enough credit for Karnataka's excellent record in the Ranji Trophy under his captaincy. There was something refreshingly different about his approach at Chennai on Friday.

If there have been disappointments from the Indian viewpoint, it is that the batting and bowling lacks consistency. England has wasted no time in exploiting the chinks in the Indian armour and they may well do so again before the series is over. But then India can take heart from the fact that consistency has not been England's forte too. There are certain inherent weakness in their batting and bowling and this probably cost them victory in the first game. Batting without a sense of purpose and direction saw them lose the third match rather tamely but it was a really fine performance that saw them clinch the Cuttack tie. However, they are over dependent on two or three batsmen and a couple of bowlers and that is not the kind of situation an international team should find themselves in.