ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v Australia, World Cup 2011 warm-up match
Chawla turns it around
Nagraj Gollapudi at the Chinnaswamy Stadium
February 13, 2011
Let's give Piyush Chawla his due: he spun the ball with control, stuck to a disciplined line, and firmly wrenched the match out of Australia's grasp. It was a match-winning performance in his first-ever one-dayer in India, when anything less would've have probably hurt his ambitions, especially given the raging debate that had erupted in the wake of his selection to the Indian World Cup squad.
Though a performance like today's in a warm-up is not enough justification for his inclusion, Chawla at least showed visible signs that he has been working hard on getting his legbreak right. In the past he has struggled to spin the delivery Shane Warne built his legend on, and being just 22 then, Chawla was reluctant to admit his limitation. Having recently returned to the national team after a three-year hiatus, he appears to be steadily regaining lost ground.
Chawla had watched Jason Krejza turn the ball big in the afternoon and when his turn came to bowl, Australia were a comfortable 72 for 1. Shane Watson and Tim Paine had taken advantage of the hard ball and the absence of swing in the first ten overs to give Australia a confident start. Chawla's first ball slipped down the leg side for five wides. The dew, perhaps. He rubbed his palms dry and started afresh. The legbreak came out nicely, but Paine safely left it alone. He worked on that delivery for the next four overs, keeping Ricky Ponting busy without ever giving him width.
With a small target to defend, Dhoni knew he had no option but to attack, and that pressure could only be built through the various spinners at his disposal. Along with Chawla, the trio of R Aswhin, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh tied down the Australians with smart variations. The batsmen were kept hungry with barely a bad ball on offer.
Chawla found his voice immediately in his second spell. The reputation of Michael Clarke as one of the better players of spin had already taken a beating when the Australian vice-captain failed badly during the Test series in India last year. Chawla was aware of Clarke's tendency to charge to kill the spin. So he pushed in a couple of sliders, then followed it with a fast-ish leg break. Clarke tried cutting with hard hands, only to play on.
Chawla's biggest victory though was to keep Ponting silent. "That is probably the best I've seen him bowl," Ponting said in praise of Chawla. "He spun the ball a bit more tonight. His control was pretty good. He along with the other spinners did a good job and some of our new batsmen found it difficult. You can see that from the low scores in the middle order as it was hard to start against that spin bowling tonight."
The handsome crowd, who had started to fill in an hour before the match started, played the supporting act. Their roars enlivened the atmosphere. Chawla kept his emotions in check. Two perfect legbreaks with successive deliveries got the better of Cameron White and David Hussey. Desperate, Callum Fergusson tried to take on the lethal legbreak and was bitten.
As Ponting admitted, it was a lesson for his batsmen to understand the conditions today. "It was an unusual one-day wicket. I don't remember the last wicket that spun that much. But you have to find a way sometimes to combat good spin bowling in tough conditions like today."
In contrast, Dhoni was a happy man, saying he was confident Chawla would perform even if he had gone wicketless on his return to international cricket in the final match of the ODI series in South Africa in January. "His first game after returning to play for the country was under pressure, which is quite acceptable," Dhoni said. "[Today], it was a wicket which was turning a bit and he made the batsmen really think hard about the variations that he has got."
Dhoni agreed it was a tough wicket to bat on, but felt the Australians succumbed to pressure and that was the turning point. "Initially, when the fast bowlers were on the ball was coming on nicely but once we got couple of wickets in the middle, the ball was spinning. And once you are under pressure and you want to win the game desperately the pressure keeps mounting . It may have happened with the Australian side."
At the same time he pointed out that such a turner would be hard to find during the World Cup. "This is a sort wicket to be provided in Test matches, where the ball took spin after two hours," Dhoni said. Yet, Chawla, for one, would not mind such a pitch.