November 24, 2000

Indians greet Wright with sound welcome gift

Ganguly and his boys have given a good welcome gift to their new coach, John Wright, by winning the Test match at the Feroz Shah Kotla. It was the second successive victory for Ganguly's gang and the pattern was almost the same both in Bangladesh and the Kotla. It is not often a side ends up losing a Test match after notching up 400 plus in the first innings. While one can attribute the reversal in Bangladesh to the latter's inexperience, the Zimbabweans made the Indians work hard for their victory.

The Indians made a strong reply in the first innings, which was set up by the dashing Dravid along with Tendulkar. Dravid carried on to remain unbeaten in the first and also the second innings as well. The remarkable aspect of his double hundred was the way he paced his innings. He saw Tendulkar take total charge when the second new ball was taken, smashing the ball with effortless majesty. Tendulkar's departure brought Ganguly out in the middle but he found the going difficult as it was not easy playing shots when the ball was old.

Dravid not only tied one end up but he also ensured that the visitors could not put the brakes on the Indian scoring rate. Ganguly had to declare at some point of time to try and enforce a victory on the final day. The general consensus was that the Indian captain would carry on until he had a lead of 150 runs. This is where Ganguly surprised everyone with his early declaration but to me it appeared that sound logical thought brought about the "surprise declaration". Ganguly must have realised that he had only four bowlers and also that if they had to score quick runs in the final session of the match, then he could fancy the team's chances.

Though the declaration may have been a product of good thinking, it was Srinath who set the game up for the Indians on the fourth evening. He made early inroads into the Zimbabwe batting line up and they hardly recovered. Srinath deservedly was adjudged as the man of the match and it was a pleasure to see a fast bowler succeeding on a pitch devoid of pace. It was the length he bowled which was instrumental for his haul of wickets. Agarkar bowled well in patches but the spinners were thoroughly disappointing in both the innings.

Andy Flower would like to roll out the pitch in New Delhi and carry it along with him as he has got great knocks for his side at this venue. He tried his best to stand between India and victory but unfortunately none of his team mates could measure upto Flower's resolve and determination. Whittall played a shocking shot in the dying moments on the fourth day, which proved to be the turning point. He is capable of playing big knocks and his side needs his contributions badly. The top order of the visiting team is not faring as well as required and until they provide a good start it will be an uphill task for Zimbabwe in the Test matches.

Ganguly must be inwardly having the laugh of his time as his team once again rallied back to win a Test after being virtually piled up against a wall in the first half of the match. His decision of playing four bowlers was debated with some fervour but the end result has gone in Ganguly's favour. The close-in catching of the Indians has to be improved and they were fortunate enough to get away after dropping a fair number of catches. I am sure Wright would have worked out the areas his boys have to work on and hopefully the catching would be far better in Nagpur.