December 7, 2001

A harrowing four days for England at Mohali

The first Test at Mohali ended in a predictable manner with the visitors caving meekly. The middle-order batsmen were incapable of countering the guile of the spin twins, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. There was not even an iota of resistance and, considering that the pitch still played well, the visitors would not be pleased with their performance. Nasser Hussain appeared courageous in his comments after the game, but if his side can fight back in the remaining two Tests, it would be a bigger surprise for him rather than for the Indian cricketers.

Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble

The openers, Mark Butcher and Marcus Trescothick, triggered the collapse with some very poor shot selection against debutant Tinu Yohannan. The Indians have gained a promising medium-pacer in Yohannan and, though he is short on experience, he showed good temperament for a rookie. He was wayward at times, but he came back well in both innings to account for the openers. The fact that he dismissed the openers means that he has the ability to bowl well with the new ball. He can only get better, especially if he bowls in tandem with Javagal Srinath once the latter returns to the side. Iqbal Siddiqui may be enthusiastic and jovial, but it does seem that he has been given a break rather late in the day. He is not quick enough to surprise batsmen at the top level, and his control over line and length is nothing spectacular.

England were looking to Graham Thorpe to rewrite the script in this match, but his stroke-filled innings proved inadequate under the circumstances. He has shown that he is capable of tackling spinners and will be a thorn in the Indian flesh. Thorpe and Hussain apart, the current English batting line-up looks too inexperienced to handle the pressures of playing under Indian conditions. They have a couple of all-rounders in the side, but they will realize soon that the Tests are a different ball game altogether from the first-class matches. Matthew Hoggard looks to be a hard-working medium-pacer, and he must be pleased with the way he bowled in this Test.

The Indian spinners have ample reasons to be pleased too. Harbhajan Singh has once again got into the wicket-taking act after a very ordinary tour of South Africa. He bowls better with the ball used in Tests at home, although he believes otherwise. Kumble, the Man of the Match, is back to his tormenting best, and the Englishmen must be dreading the proposition of facing him on more helpful tracks. Kumble must have enjoyed this haul, for this spell would have gotten rid of any doubts that he had in his mind. There was talk of him being dropped in Port Elizabeth, which upset him visibly, but he is too hardened a professional to let circumstances get the better of him. He seemed a bit emotional after the match, which is very unlike him, and Sourav Ganguly can be sure of Kumble delivering in the remainder of the series.

Deep Dasgupta has done a good job in this Test, and it is imperative that he keeps his fitness levels up because of his dual role. The think-tank must give a lot of thought when they decide the combination for the next match and seriously consider sending Dasgupta in to bat lower down the order. Agreed that he has a ton at the top of the order, but if at all he has to be on the field for a day and a half, it will only compound his problems. Of course, the other way of looking at it is that the performance of the English batsmen does not encourage this line of thought.