January 27, 2002

Indian batsmen must show greater responsibility

Nasser Hussain
© Reuters
The third one-dayer at Chennai was special for the visiting captain Nasser Hussain in more ways than one. He returned to his birthplace as the captain of his adopted country. For one who is not known to wear his heart on his sleeve, he was fairly emotional when he was honoured by the Madras Cricket Club prior to the match. Hussain would have liked to gain his team the lead as the two sides were 1-1 at that stage, but as it turned out his men let him down rather badly on a good batting pitch at the MAC Stadium. The end result might have been close but that could not deny the fact that the visitors were short by at least 30 odd runs.

The Indians took the field under a new leader in Anil Kumble as Ganguly was declared unfit. Kumble's captaincy would have been the focal point and his natural aggression came to the fore as he applied pressure right through the England innings. The visitors lost the plot after the first ten overs because of some very poor shot selection. The fall of Nick Knight and Hussain provided the opening the Indians were looking for and it was at that stage that Kumble decided to choke the visitors by attacking. His fellow bowlers did their bit with Agarkar returning with the best figures. Quite apparently, the bowlers enjoyed playing under a captain who encouraged them to bowl for wickets.

This was one rare occasion where England showed a lack of determination and unfortunately for them it happened when they had the chance to bat the Indians out of the game. Jeremy Snape saved the visitors from total embarrassment with a significant knock but the Indians achieved the target after they almost pressed the selfdestruction button. Sachin Tendulkar walked out to bat with a new partner yet again and also sans his French beard. He was emphatic right from the word go and seemed to have decided that a quick start would give him an opportunity to crack another ton.

Sachin Tendulkar
© AFP
Darren Gough was mauled by Tendulkar and with Sehwag taking the cue from the little master, the visiting captain was driven to despair. The medium pacers (except for Flintoff) were smashed to the ropes with consummate ease. The century partnership for the opening wicket came in brisk time and Snape had to be introduced to effect a breakthrough. Sehwag got himself out going for a slog and after his dismissal, the little master, for some reason, started playing for ones and twos, which appeared pre-meditated. He though had paved the way for an easy victory for his side before he departed but what transpired later can only be repeatedly effected by India.

The batting order was marginally changed with VVS Laxman coming ahead of Dinesh Mongia. The middle order committed hara-kiri as three quick wickets fell with Laxman, Mongia and Sanjay Bangar departing in quick succession. Laxman perished to a terrible shot and but for a slice of luck Badani would also have joined him in the dressing room. However, after that narrow escape, Badani in the company of Ratra ran extremely well between the wickets and almost got his team to the winning post before being dismissed. Ratra once again chipped in with a very useful knock under pressure and in the end it must have been a relief for the Indians that they managed to scrape through.

The selection committee has brought in Mohammad Kaif for Laxman but as long as the batsmen individually take on the responsibility, nothing different will be on display. Winning is the ultimate objective but the Indians would be better off if they start winning in a more convincing manner than they have in this game.