December 12, 2000

The Indian skipper did just about everything right

Sourav Ganguly had made it very clear that his bowlers have been found wanting during this series against Zimbabwe. If his intention was to prove a point to his bowlers, then one must hand out to him as he did it in style by reaping a five-wicket haul at Kanpur. He stuck to the basics of bowling stump to stump on a pitch which was on the lower side bounce wise. The skipper also demonstrated what batting was all about in the afternoon although he would have liked to time his shots better. Then, of course the pitch at Green Park was never a total delight for stroke makers.

Except for the toss, nothing went right for Heath Streak and his team on a day when they would have hoped to square the one-day series. The batting was strengthened with the inclusion of Trevor Madando at the top and the relegation of Guy Whittal to number six. The obvious strategy would have been to bat first and pile up enough runs to put under pressure. Considering that the visiting bowlers have been totally exposed in India, the Zimbabweans got into the game with the right idea. Unfortunately it was their batting which let them down badly on a day when it mattered the most.

Campbell and Madando provided a start, which was important, as the team was packed with batsmen. Madando was as usual hesitant in his footwork and his tendency to play across the line led to his downfall. After Agarkar accounted for both the openers the Zimbabwe batting line up made heavy weather of things by adopting over cautious methods. Ganguly does bowl line and length fairly consistently but not many would expect him to dismiss half the side and that too in a one-day international. He just ran through the Zimbabwe middle order and Whittal's run out added to the woes of the visitors. Agarkar came back towards the end and mopped up the tailenders to return with impressive figures.

The Indian skipper did just about everything right including the final playing eleven. Joshi, Yuvraj Singh and Sodhi were dropped and rightfully so as they have not done enough to warrant a place in the team. While Joshi has been below par right through the series, Yuvraj Singh has not done much since his sensational innings against Australia in Nairobi. With these decisions, the message that current form is the only criterion has been established and one hopes that it is maintained in the future too. On a day when Ganguly stood out in all departments of the game, it was a bit disappointing to see the way his appealing went overboard.

It was just not that Ganguly was singularly guilty of going against the grain, the visitors also got involved in acts that are euphemistically called as gamesmanship. It was rather strange since both the sides have exhibited exemplary behaviour right through the series. It was understandable in the case of the visitors as the Indian opening pair just about finished the match without any trouble at all. Tendulkar and Ganguly played a bit of a mixed innings as the ball started squatting far too much in the second half of the game. Still the pair thrilled the spectators with some magnificent shots before Tendulkar became a victim of the low bounce.

Besides the fact that the pitch was a reasonable one, serious thought must be given before the BCCI gives a match to Kanpur. The spectators were outrageous in their behaviour pelting things at the players. If that is their way of celebrating they might as well do it at home in the comfort of their living rooms watching the television. Not that there is a scarcity of venues in this country.