November 30, 1999

What will the Australian victory margin be?

When India landed in Australia the speculations began. Would the Indians actually manage to draw a Test match? Steve Waugh went on record to say that the Pakistanis were a better overall side than the Indians. This after beating the Pakistanis 3-0 in a three match series. What does this say about what he thinks of the outcome of the series versus India? Not very much for India I'm afraid.

Opinions were varied on the outcome of the series. The optimists said India would lose 2-0. The realists pegged it at 3-0. After being crushed by Queensland the Indians are well on the way to fulfilling this prophecy. A Queensland side with almost no players knocking on immediate Australian selection had no trouble in inflicting a morale crushing 10 wicket loss on India.

The trouble started when India batted first. It couldn't quite have started before that, could it? One of India's first choice openers Devang Gandhi began his tour badly by being cleaned up for a duck. Sadagopan Ramesh managed to notch up a respectable 43 in the context of what was to follow. Sachin Tendulkar (83) and VVS Laxman (113) were the only two batsmen who provided some to the fragile batting. Laxman's hundred poses a serious problem for the selectors. Before he left for the tour, Laxman was told that he would only be played as an opening batsman. Now will they play Laxman ahead of Gandhi? Can they keep Laxman out of the side after he followed up his first innings hundred with a 73 that was the top score for the Indians?

After making a less than impressive 277 India followed their sad batting performance with an even more unimpressive bowling show. India's ace spinner Anil Kumble, who was tipped to do well on the bouncy tracks in Australia could not even take the wicket of a tailender in the match. Figures of 26-0-121-0 are the kind that should cause a bowler to spend a couple of days in the nets before returning to mainstream society. In contrast T Kumaran, the latest find, managed a strong performance with a five wicket haul. All this after M Love had helped himself to 120 runs and Symonds continued to torment anyone whose passport bore the entry "Indian" in the Nationality column. Symonds blasted 161 including 26 fours and 1 six. In the end Queensland made 401.

In reply, India once again crumbled. This time unable to muster even the 277 they managed ion the first innings. Once again Laxman batted well, making 73 of India's 204 runs. The rest of the batsmen did little of note.

Vijay Bharadwaj, the 'all rounder' from Karnataka had match pickings of 4-0-29-0 and scored 5 and 0. He now occupies the spot that the former captain Mohammad Azharuddin was firmly ensconced in, not more than six months ago.

Having set Queensland a challenging 81 for victory, the Indians could not even salvage some pride by taking a few wickets. Jimmy Maher (20) and Stuart Law (60) remained unbeaten as Queensland romped home.

The morale in the Indian camp will be low. In this case, given the task ahead of them and their prospects, rightly so.

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