November 5, 1999

Geoffrey Boycott analyses the first NZ-India one-day match at Rajkot

Geoffrey Boycott

Batting first New Zealand gave an exceptional display of constructive aggression. After the first few overs the openers picked their spot with a mixture of classical shots on the floor and thumping good length balls 'over the top'. The bowlers were powerless to curtail the run rate because the pitch was so true with a nice even bounce. With field restrictions only allowing two men outside the 30 yards circle. Tendulkar did the only thing he could which was to swap the bowlers around and not leave any bowler on for long.

Sadly for India it didn't matter who bowled at which end or where the fielders were placed. It was 'slaughter in the sun' as Spearman in particular pulled and drove with ease. Left hander Twose was a revelation as he got his right leg out of the way to make room for himself and whack the ball into every leg side gap. It was almost as if he was toying with the bowling. At one stage with Astle batting nicely and the dangerous Cairns just beginning to tune up there was a danger of New Zealand scoring 400. But Astle got himself 'bogged down' consciously trying to make sure of his century and in doing so ran Cairns out stupidly. Astle eventually got his hundred but at a cost of doing India a favour of getting rid of the most destructive batsman in the New Zealand team and slowing down his own batting. After that the tempo increased again and with so many wickets in hand the loss of a few didn't hamper the run rate. All it did was flatter a few bowling figures !

For future games it is vital that India find two bowlers who can bowl ' at the death' very straight and in the block hole. Nobody does it consistently and so length balls were being smacked for huge sixes and the scoring of runs could not be controlled. Captain and bowler should be on the same wavelength as to exactly what line and what length the bowler will bowl. When the ball is being walloped all over the ground bowlers one under pressure and can't always think straight. May be Sachin has to be much firmer and tell them where he wants them to bowl. Then they are in trouble if they don't do as he says.

India are notoriously a poor chasing side and if they were to get the huge target then the guys would have to play 'out of their skins' and would need some luck. They got some good fortune when Tendulkar was dropped behind off the 3rd ball and then Nash went off injured after one over. Ganguly made 7 glorious shots for boundaries but Dravid was at his best. Jadeja with Singh got the team in a good position with sensible cricket but just when the tempo needed to be raised Singh holed out in the deep. From then on India committed cricket suicide. Jadeja slogged one up in the air and was dropped. Bharadwaj tried to hit his 2nd ball for 6! He never gave himself time to get in and get used to the pitch or the bowling. A stupid inexperienced shot was followed by Chopra dragging his foot out of the batting crease.

It was daft cricket without any thought being given as to how to win. It was a crucial period in the match when good cricketers use the brains and lesser cricketers lose control Having said that even the captain comes in for criticism of his shot selection. He and Ganguly were scoring at 7 an over and India needed exactly 7 an over to win the match, yet he tried to hit debut boy Styris over the top. An unnecessary shot if ever I saw one, not one batsman carried on to make a hundred. You can't chase big totals if batsmen make elementary errors and nobody consolidates with a big innings at one end.