October 23, 2000

The Indians have to get the right formula

The decision of promoting Rahul Dravid to open the innings came as a sort of a bolt from the blue at a time when the middle order needed to retain all the strength it could muster intact. Dravid went on to be the top scorer in the innings but still the move does not somehow convince one and all. Sourav Ganguly can be appreciated for going down the order but the shuffle in the batting order was not all that imperative. Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly have been very successful at the top over the years and to break that combination may raise more questions than it could solve. With Tendulkar getting a hundred in the previous match and Ganguly performing so well at Nairobi it was incomprehensible why the combination was dislodged.

Ganguly's strategy of wanting to go after the spinners in the middle order himself is alright but for one accustomed to opening the innings it will not be that easy to tonk the ball out of the park immediately on arrival at the crease. The left and right combination has made it difficult for the bowlers across the globe and that was one of the prime factors for their success. It may be well a case of trying to get Dravid to break the shackles by making him open. Dravid made the most of the opportunity by playing a substantial knock but it remains to be seen as to how long this move will be continued.

As to their encounter against Zimbabwe, it was a tight finish with the Indians really having to work hard for their triumph. Guy Whitall dropped Tendulkar in the first over before Streak had him caught at the wicket. Dravid started off in his usual cautious manner and with the wickets falling regularly, he had to direct the course of the innings, which he did until he got out. Vinod Kambli has promised much in every innings so far after his comeback but has not gone on to fulfil the same. Travis Friend, the young medium pacer was lively and was easily the best Zimbabwean bowler on view. His gestures to the umpire also indicated that he is not kept himself abreast with the latest amendments in the laws of the game.

Yuvraj Singh made a useful contribution and his partnership with Dravid was the onset of the Indian hustle in the innings. He was the second batsmen to be dismissed going far too across after Ganguly was caught down the leg side. Robin Singh was unfortunate to be run out as the ball deflected off the bowler's hand and his departure meant that the Indian tail had to wag, and wag well, to put up a more than fighting total on the board. Much to the delight of everyone, the tailenders made use of every scoring opportunity with Vijay Dahiya playing the dominant role.

Though the Indians had enough runs on the board and got a couple of early wickets, the Zimbabweans made a fantastic fightback with Stuart Carlisle and Andy Flower putting the Indian bowlers to the sword. Flower is in ominous form and his wicket was required for the Indians to get back into the game. As usual it was Tendulkar who provided the breakthrough when a top-edged sweep from Flower found Joshi with unerring precision. The middle order batsmen of Zimbabwe did not surrender meekly, contrary to expectations and finally fell short by the much-dreaded number-13 runs.

Zimbabwe has lost both the games it has played so far and they have to win in order to stay in the tournament. India meets Zimbabwe again the next time around in the round robin stage and a victory would ensure the Indians a place in the final. The Indians somehow have to get the right formula in order not to falter at the crucial juncture.