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The Wisden Verdict by Anand Vasu in Chittagong
December 23, 2004
When you hear cricketers and former cricketers repeat, ad nauseum, that cricket is a funny game, and that anything can happen in a one-day international, you wonder if they're watching the same game. In the first one-dayer at Chittagong, Bangladesh could do no more than temporarily scare a disorganised and depleted Indian team. Even with massive experimentation, India were too strong, and Bangladesh simply did not have the firepower to convert moments of inspiration into anything more concrete.
For India, it was a day of lost chances for individuals who could ill-afford them. Sridharan Sriram, playing his first ODI for four years, picked up as many wickets as he scored runs, and wasted a chance to get ahead of the likes of Dinesh Mongia in the pecking order. Sriram came in to bat with almost ten overs to go, and literally threw away his wicket after just five balls when he tried to sweep Mohammad Rafique and dragged his foot out of the crease.
Yuvraj Singh got a chance to bat up the order, coming in at No. 3, and had just got going when he was adjudged lbw to a ball that kept low and appeared to have pitched outside the leg stump. MS Dhoni, the batsman everyone wanted to see, lasted just one ball, carelessly running himself out just thinking about stealing a single.
Mohammad Kaif, on the other hand, made sure that his minor promotion, to No. 5, was used to enhance his reputation. The score was 45 for 3 when he walked out to the middle, and against most teams that would constitute a mini-crisis. He chipped, charged, flicked, dabbed and drove his way to a solid partnership of 128 with Rahul Dravid, and ensured that India's decision to rest key personnel did not backfire. Kaif's 80 was ample proof that he is ready to take on more responsibility, should such a situation arise.
One of India's aims in this match was to learn more about the bench strength that they possess. But, save for finding out that Joginder Sharma is a lively medium-pacer who can hold a line, and composed enough to strike his first ball in international cricket - albeit a full-toss - for four, there was little to take on board.
And for Bangladesh, though Dav Whatmore may disagree, the first one-dayer merely confirmed the depressing fact that they don't have the big guns and ammunition to take the attack to the opposition. Just looking at the scoreboard, something that Whatmore insists you should not do in judging the progress of this Bangladesh team, you might believe that the match was a close one. But Sourav Ganguly went so far as to say that India "were never threatened at any stage". The slimness of the margin, 11 runs in the end, came about only after batsmen threw their bats at everything in blind hope after the last lifejackets had been thrown off the raft. Ganguly's counterpart, Habibul Bashar, felt there was more steel in the Bangladeshis. "It was good to see that we could go down fighting," he explained after the match. "Our confidence level can only go up with these kind of performances."
There were times when Bangladesh did actually inch towards gaining the momentum - as they did when reducing India to 45 for 3 - but they could not cash in. In allowing a 100-plus partnership, they let India claw their way back into the match, and calm whatever jangled nerves there might have been in the dressing-room. For a second time in the match, India left the door ajar - losing Dravid, Sriram and Dhoni for the addition of just three runs - and again, Bangladesh merely peered curiously through, instead of actually forcing their way in.
Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar showed that there was little to fear in the Bangladesh attack, carting the bowlers to all parts in a merry stand at the death that ensured that India went well past 200, an eminently defendable score against a line-up prone to collapse.
And when Bangladesh batted, their efforts were a mirror image of their effort on the field - patches of pluckiness, glimpses of hope, passages of rousing play, exemplified by Khaled Mashud's frenetic 50 - but eventually just not tough enough to edge past even this patchwork-quilt Indian team.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge