Pakistan in India / News

India v Pakistan, 1st Test, Delhi, 5th day

Suffocating the opposition

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Delhi

November 26, 2007

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"We created pressure by suffocating them and not giving runs" - Anil Kumble, leading from the front, sums up India's victory in the first Test at Delhi © AFP
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There are various ways to celebrate a Test win. Anil Kumble's first triumph as Indian captain, a hard-fought one at the Feroz Shah Kotla, involved "a 15-minute training session with Greg King [the trainer]". Kumble mentioned it more in jest but it summed up India's attitude in this match: staying focussed, fighting hard and not giving up. Ever imagined Kumble guzzling a bottle of champagne and dancing around in a frenzy? Now that's just not cricket.

One Test is too little a time frame to judge anything, leave alone the complex art that is captaincy, but Kumble has already given a few indicators. Before the match, he had written about a document he was preparing for the side, a mission statement that would set the agenda. And by the end, it was clear that one side was responding far better to their leader than the other. Kumble himself made a big impact on the game, something that couldn't be said about Shoaib Malik, his counterpart who's been under fire.

Kumble entrusted Sourav Ganguly with the role of a genuine third seamer, bowling him for a long spell in the first innings and giving him the new ball in the second. He admitted that too much was being read into the latter move but revealed that it was one taken at the spur of the moment. "I just wanted to change ends to Munaf," he said. "I wanted to bowl that over but said, why not try Sourav. After a couple of balls from him, I decided to take the new ball. And he got two wickets. Then, when they were nine down, it was for me to finish it off."

Harbhajan Singh's case was slightly different. He bowled him in short spells in the first innings before giving him an extended run on the third afternoon. Harbhajan himself had spoken about "wanting to bowl longer" but Kumble said it all came down to the nature of the surface. "As a spin bowler I understand the importance of bowling spells. I can put my hand up and say I'm qualified to take a decision on that. Even I bowled five over and six over spells. It was a pitch that was slow and low, without much bounce. Sometimes I felt the fast bowlers needed to bowl long spells. But when I gave him [Harbajhan] a long spell he provided us with wickets."

An unmistakable feature of the Test, though, was India's ability to hang in their and chip away at the opposition. The bowlers stuck to their tasks throughout and wrenched back the initiative just when it appeared lost. Did Pakistan bat badly or were India just good enough to make it appear that way? "Every batsmen would like to think he self-destructed," Kumble said with a wry smile. "But we created that kind of pressure. Zaheer bowled exceptionally well in both innings and bowled with reverse swing. We created pressure by suffocating them and not giving runs. When you know you need to get one wicket and it comes in the first over, it helps."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Players/Officials: Zaheer Khan | Anil Kumble
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