December 6, 2000

Indians made the most of the slog overs

There was a great hue and cry about the pitches in our country exactly a year ago when the Indian team was faring badly in Australia. The pitch at the Motera Stadium at Ahmedabad was nothing to write home about as the top surface just kept coming off repeatedly. Ironically the curator at the Motera is a member of the pitches committee of the BCCI. Yet the score card of both the sides suggest that the pitch was one hell of a belter. One wonders whether the batting needs to be complemented or the bowling deserves to be criticised severely. The Indians coasted to a convincing victory and everything will be forgiven and forgotten as a result.

Saurav Ganguly dictated the course of the game from the outset despite losing Sachin Tendulkar early on. His timing was as good as ever on a pitch, which was not a paradise for stroke play. Dravid played the second fiddle role to perfection and watched his skipper unleash strokes all round the wicket. Travis Friend did work up good pace and accounted for Tendulkar with a peach of a delivery. Tendulkar was surprised by not only the pace but also the bounce extracted by Friend.

The second wicket partnership between Rahul Dravid and Ganguly virtually sealed the fate of the visitors. It has to be mentioned that the visitors really made a mess of things with their innocuous attack. The lack of a reasonably good spinner in their ranks was felt rather badly. The medium pace oriented attack was also guilty of conceding too many extras by way of wides and no balls.

The dropped chances compounded the misery of the Zimbabwean captain, Heath Streak. He could only watch Ganguly plunder his bowlers with his customary elegance and pluck. The Indian skipper reached his century and he celebrated the occasion with some explosive blows. Sunil Joshi made merry in the latter stages of the innings hitting a few lusty blows. Anything above 250 was a stiff target on a deteriorating surface and the Indians would have settled for that. But what ensued in the final ten overs was something incredible and this was one occasion the hosts made the most of the slog.

Chasing 300 plus successfully even on a firm pitch is not an everyday occurrence, but the manner in which the visitors started their innings only reaffirmed the result. Marillier appeared like one who was in a hurry to get back into the dressing room for a shower. His repeated thrusts at thin air rubbed off on even Stuart Carlisle who is a batsman in the conventional mode. While Prasad brought Marillier's misery to an end, Zaheer Khan with sheer pace beat Carlisle. Alistair Campbell played some attractive shots and a big innings was required from either Campbell or Andy Flower for Zimbabwe to make a match of it. But the problem was going to be the spinners for the visitors and the introduction of Tendulkar portended the things to come for Zimbabwe. Campbell was dismissed in his first over and the purchase he obtained from the track put paid to Zimbabwe's hopes.

Sridharan Sriram, who did an opportunity to bat, utilised the helpful pitch to end up with three wickets. This would make the youngster feel much better as he is under minute observation at the moment. He has to be encouraged, as Sodhi as yet cannot be termed as an all-rounder. With Robin Singh out of the side, Sriram appears the best bet to fill up the all-rounder's slot.