Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne, 5th day December 31, 2003

Ganguly ends speculation over Tendulkar's 'demotion'

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Sourav Ganguly battled on after being hit on the head

Sourav Ganguly has put to rest the speculations that has raged over Sachin Tendulkar's 'demotion' in the batting order in the second innings, and that should be that. When pushed to answer what prompted the decision, Ganguly clarified that Tendulkar hadn't suggested the move, but when given an option, had a shown an inclination to save himself for the battle the next day.

"It's not that he suggested it," Ganguly said, "I asked him after they got bowled out that evening if we were to lose early wickets would he still like to go out for the last four or five overs. He said he wouldn't mind coming the next day. I said fair enough. He deserves that consideration after the amount of runs he has scored for the country.

"It wasn't the best time to bat. And when you haven't got runs in your last two or three innings it does become a bit harder when you come out to bat in the last five or six overs of the day. Sachin is the best batsman in the world and he is one of our key members. And there are times in your career when you have to look after certain people. I don't think there is anything wrong in that. We want him to fire, and if he could have converted that knock into a hundred, me coming at number four would have done the job."

Not to anybody's surprise Ganguly held the batting collapse in the first innings responsible for the defeat. "We were in good positions in the match, but we failed to capitalise on them," he said, "we ended the first day on 336 for four and then got bowled out for 366. That's where we lost the game. Of course, Zaheer [Khan] pulling a muscle before lunch on the second day didn't help", he added, because it left India with three bowlers for most of the match. "But in end, if we had put up a few more runs in the first innings, it would have helped. On a fifth-day MCG pitch, about 225 to 230 runs would have been competitive."

Ganguly said his head had been a bit sore after he took a blow from Brad Williams but that he had to return to bat because India were still in the game then. "Steve had come back to bat the earlier day and put on a partnership of 60 valuable runs," he said, "and if I had stuck around for a bit more, it could have been different."

When asked if he and Dravid had been a bit too aggressive for their own good after the tea-break Ganguly asserted that the objective at that point was not saving the game but putting runs on the board. "It was tea on the fourth day, not the fifth, there was plenty of time left in the game for us to try to save it. We had to score runs. If a bad ball came along, you had to put it away. That's the way I play my game and that's how I have scored all my runs. If I suddenly tried to change that one afternoon, it wouldn't have worked."

Has the momentum now swung in Australia's favour? "Sydney is a new day," Ganguly said, "It's a new game. It's going to be different. It's the same situation that Australia were in after Adelaide. When two good sides play its the small, small sessions which will make the difference."