January 29, 2002

A meek English surrender at Green Park

The overnight rain may have tried to play spoilsport to start with at the Green Park Oval in Kanpur, but it did not completely succeed. When the overs are cut short in a limited-overs game, all the planning done on the eve of the match comes to little fruition, and what matters most is how well the teams adapt to the conditions on the day.

The pitch at the Green Park Oval was one factor that remained the same, helping the captains in some measure in their decision-making. The surface has not really changed since my playing days, and, on Monday, it played true to its nature, keeping low and making strokeplay a difficult proposition.


It is about time that the selectors gave some thought to playing five specialist bowlers in the side. It makes no sense to me when I see the part-time bowlers going for more than 60 runs. It puts pressure on the specialist bowlers who generally do a good job of containment and taking wickets.
But when England batted first, Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight seemed to have few problems with the bounce, finding the gaps in the field regularly and ensuring a brisk scoring rate. Knight in particular played a good hand to keep things going for England. Once again, however, indiscreet shots played by the top order pushed England into an abyss.

I felt that England could easily have scored around 245 runs in their 39 overs, especially given the magnificent start that their openers provided them. The Indian bowling was yet again found wanting under pressure, giving away runs at almost 5.34 per over. Keeping an eye on the 2003 World Cup, the efforts in the field are also simply not good enough. The Indian fielding may sport an improved look, but that is of little consequence when one looks at the runs given away.

It is about time that the selectors gave some thought to playing five specialist bowlers in the side. It makes no sense to me when I see the part-time bowlers going for more than 60 runs. It puts pressure on the specialist bowlers who generally do a good job of containment and taking wickets. Conceding runs in the middle overs also puts tremendous pressure on those bowling in the death.

Ajay Ratra, in my view, was disappointing behind the stumps, and this is one of many areas that needs to be looked at closely by the selectors. We have tried and tested too many wicket-keepers in the recent past, and it is quite frustrating not to see a genuine stumper come through. The next World Cup is barely one year away, and urgent action needs to be taken to build a fighting unit that will be a strong contender to win the trophy.

England, on their part, were taken aback by the events transpiring in the Indian innings. There were a couple of decisions initially that should have gone in their favour. Getting Sachin Tendulkar out with the very first delivery of an innings would have made a big difference. The brilliance of the strokeplay that ensued was there to be seen, and I hope that these two will continue to open the innings for India in one-day internationals.

Having said that, though, there is little excuse for the way the English bowled at Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Instead of putting those initial disappointments behind them, they let their shoulder droop and bowled without any purpose. They simply gave up, and this allowed Tendulkar and Sehwag to simply annihilate the bowling. By doing so, England have almost ceded their chances of squaring the series, and they do not have anyone to blame but themselves for throwing the advantage away by batting badly after winning the toss.