October 27, 2000

India falters but edges past inexperienced Zimbabwe

The rest days during a tournament can sometimes bring about unwarranted hassles for the team management. This was experienced recently by Sourav Ganguly. His statement about a decent personal score resulting in a victory for the team being preferable to a century without serving the team's purpose was made into a sensational item of news in some quarters. Ganguly's fault was in referring to the number of hundreds made, and that gave room for speculation that he was subtly hinting at Sachin Tendulkar. Ganguly should realise that his statements will be dissected, as he is the captain of the team. Fortunately, Tendulkar was professional enough to disregard all these minor issues.

As the controversy was gradually brewing up, the Indians took on Zimbabwe on Diwali day. Ironically, the match had no real sparks or fireworks to go with the occasion. The inexperience in the Zimbabwean ranks and the irritating habit of the Indians to make heavy weather of things highlighted the day's proceedings.

Ganguly obviously felt confident that his team could chase any total. This prompted him to insert the opponents on winning the toss. The Zimbabweans had only an outside chance of qualifying to the final and as such they made a lot of changes to give it all they had. Grant Flower opened with Alistair Campbell and it was very clear that Flower was out of touch. His frustration led him to charge Prasad and this resulted in his downfall.

Campbell, who has been consistent for Zimbabwe in recent times, played an innings which was a good mixture of caution and aggression. He was not provided adequate support by the middle order batsmen, with exception of Andy Flower. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, Andy Flower's dismissal signaled the beginning of the end for them. Campell however, continued responsibly and carried the bat. His innings was uncharacteristic as he is a batsman who basically likes to play shots. Campbell's ton gave Zimbabwe's total a hint of respectability. Despte Campbell's effort, the total was not a difficult target to chase by any standard.

Left arm speedster Zaheer Khan is making his presence felt every time he has the leather sphere in his hands and he once again emerged as the most successful bowler for India. Prasad bowled within himself but showed what experience is all about.

Dravid's injury forced India to start off with the most established opening pair - Ganguly and Tendulkar, with Sriram filling up the vital number three spot. The Indian followers would have expected the match to be more of a formality but the Zimbabweans were determined to give the Indians a run for their money. Tendulkar was dismissed early on, which gave a lot of heart to Heath Streak and his boys. Travis Friend worked up a fair bit of pace as usual and also accounted for Sriram whose mistimed pull was snapped up at fine leg. The Tamil Nadu southpaw would do well to bat normally, as he is capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking over without taking undue risks.

Vinod Kambli, who was given another opportunity to make or break his future in the One-Dayers joined Ganguly out in the middle. He played with aplomb and his partnership with Ganguly consolidated the India innings before Ganguly departed after a responsible knock. At this juncture the Indians had the game in the bag but what transpired shortly was totally unexpected. The Singh twins, Yuvraj and Robin departed in quick succession that made the game evenly poised. Kambli, involved in the mix up with Robin Singh, soon played an indiscrete shot, and he too perished.

Vijay Dahiya and Sunil Joshi stemmed the rot, and played sensibly. Their partnership was vital since an early dismissal of either would have made life miserable for the Indians. Dahiya departed playing a typical One-Day shot and Agarkar's positive attitude ensured a victory for the Indians. The tailenders once again contributed for the Indians and this is one area in which they were found wanting in the past. As for Zimbabwe, they can take heart from the fact that a very promising mediumpacer, Travis Friend, has come along very well.