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India in 2009

Hot in Tests, not in the short formats

India scaled the peaks in the few Tests they played, but it wasn't all sunny in limited-overs cricket

Sidharth Monga

December 31, 2009

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and Haroon Lorgat pose with the  ICC Test Championship mace pose with the  ICC Test Championship mace, New Delhi, December 27, 2009
Sehwag and Dhoni were two of India's three standout performers in 2009 © ICC
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This year the space-time India inhabited was anything but the year 2009. Their batsmen challenged norms, redefined audacity, and went at a pace that wouldn't be out of place in 2019. Their fielding - and for the major part their bowling - slipped into an era gone by: in the limited-overs game, they would have been put to shame by some sides from 1999. In a period of three weeks India beat their record for highest Test score in a day, then beat it again, conceded more runs in a day than they had ever before, and a higher total in India than ever before. In ODIs they led the way both in scoring 300-plus totals (10 times) and conceding them (nine times).

What India sowed in 2008, they reaped in 2009, becoming the No. 1 side in ODIs for a brief while, and ending the year as the No. 1 Test side, despite having played only six Tests. Three of those were away matches against seventh-ranked New Zealand, and the others were home games against Sri Lanka, who had never previously won in India. In a frenzied year of extremes - unbelievable batting performances, first win in New Zealand in 40 years, fielding bordering on the ridiculous, first-round exits from two world events, and then the eventual rise to top of Test rankings - they found time to show character and save two Tests from losing positions.

In a crunched calendar they also found time to provide some comic relief through the leaked sex dossier and the parading of team unity in a press conference. Around those two trivial events lurked a serious doubt regarding the techniques of the new batting stars and the sudden bare look that the fast-bowling cupboard wore.

The first ones to panic after the bouncers exposed some of the younger batsmen at the World Twenty20 were the selectors. Back came Rahul Dravid, out went the youngsters. The Champions Trophy on bouncy pitches in South Africa negotiated, out went Dravid and back came the youngsters. The message sent to both parties could not have been worse: Dravid was left with reason to be feel slighted; the Rohit Sharmas and the Suresh Rainas were effectively told that they could not be trusted.

The next ones to panic were the BCCI, who summarily sacked without reason and without notice Venkatesh Prasad, the bowling coach, and Robin Singh, the fielding coach, a day before Diwali. Towards the end of the year, when the bowlers were struggling to defend 414 in an ODI and the fielders were dropping catches like hot bricks, Prasad and Robin would have spared themselves a smile. As the last match of the year, the Delhi ODI, proved, the board still had more sacking to do.

If the youngsters were still finding their feet, it was reassuring how Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS Laxman - part of the infamous voluntary-retirement scheme last year - looked good to last beyond 2011, the year of the devil, the year of the World Cup. Twice Tendulkar, now 20 years old in international cricket, threatened to score a double-century in an ODI; Dravid finally got rid of his temporary habit of fluffing good starts; and although Laxman scored just one century, not many can find fault with an average of 67.28.

The positives of 2009, though, can best be summed up by the contributions of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni. Sehwag represented ambition, creativity and disrespect for decorum. His two ODI centuries in fewer than 70 balls, his 284 runs in one Test day, his admission that he felt sorry for the bowlers he dismantled, the way he played around with the definition of a bad ball, were pure joy.


Gautam Gambhir drives, New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Napier, 4th day, March 29, 2009
Gambhir: five Tests, four hundreds © Getty Images
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Gambhir embodied ruthlessness and toughness, batting in the Dravid mould, drawing the Napier Test by playing out of his skin, overseeing the Ahmedabad draw, scoring four centuries in nine Test innings, and twice getting 150 in the ODIs.

Dhoni, safe, inconspicuous and still an unbeaten captain in Tests, was the rock around which the ODI team flourished. He let the flashier batsmen play their natural games, yet finished as the world's joint-highest run-getter for the year and reinforced his reputation as the best ODI batsman in the world.

The year, which ended as it began, with ODI series wins against Sri Lanka, seemed too long. When India were failing in the limited-overs formats, their impressive showing in New Zealand was forgotten. When their last Test of the year took them to No. 1, the BCCI started to try and squeeze more Tests into the programme, to defend the ranking. Suddenly it was as if the World Twenty20, the Champions Trophy, the loss to a second-string Australia, hadn't happened. Yes, there was no time in 2009 to pause and reflect. Yes, we don't know which year India actually inhabited.

High point
Getting to No. 1 was reward for hard work over the decade, not just this year. It had been a long journey towards the top, which started perhaps from the time India won the Kolkata Test of 2001. There were many obstacles they had to clear along the way: start fighting outside the subcontinent, find suitable openers, find genuine fast bowlers, finish games, salvage draws from impossible situations. It took them 10 years to get there, and obviously it was going to be a special moment when they finally did, through their win in the Brabourne Test, marked by a Sehwag special.

Low point
Since Dhoni has become captain, India have enjoyed a proud record in bilateral series. They were not hot in the world events, though. They hardly put up a defence of their World Twenty20 crown, and fizzled out of the Champions Trophy without a fight. Is it the knockout atmosphere that is getting to them? They will want to prove otherwise.

What 2010 holds
Thankfully there seems to be an acknowledgment that being No. 1 in ICC rankings and being the best are not synonymous. To become the best, India need to beat South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka away. That journey will start towards the end of 2010, with India travelling to South Africa. Apart from that, the board will have to find time to arrange more Test matches for an aspiring side: six is not nearly enough.

Limited-overs cricket will keep putting pressure on the bowlers and fielders. They will get a go at the World Twenty20 again, before the road to the 2011 World Cup begins.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Posted by Sach_is_Life on (January 1, 2010, 19:08 GMT)

Contd...Regarding Sporting declarations,Yeah.. I do agree that Aus did that quite a few times and I'm not expecting this Indian side to do the same in near future and there are several reasons for that ..I dont want to go deep into those reasons as that'll start another discussion but my point is Aus never do that against the teams like India and SA and the best example is Sydney 2008 where Ponting didn't declare the innings untill India's chances are out of the equation even though they are on the verge of equalling 16 consec wins once again( ofcourse they went on to win that test match thanks to Clarke and ...) infact they're afraid of enforce the follow on to name a few..Bangalore and Nagpur in 2004..So its like the Aus teams are sportive all the time and the others not.. infact Smith did that last time agnst Aus and lost that Test Match and even KP did that in India and went on to lose that test match and its nothing to do with the No 1 position r dominating the others,IMO.

Posted by Sach_is_Life on (January 1, 2010, 18:44 GMT)

@santhoshkudva..Thats what I'm trying to say..Don't you think its too early to ask Team India 2 achieve everything? It took 35 years 2 beat India in India 4 them,thanks 4 bloody politics in BCCI but you want this Indian team 2 do all these things in the early days..and my point is its a continuous process n it took 2-3 years of consistent performance from Team India 2 reach this stage.I didn't said that they r unbeatable like Aus (in late 90s and early00s) but my point is it is unfair 2 degrade the achievements of this Indian side and its too early 2 ask them 2 be like that Aus side when the Aus team itself took 35 yrs 2 beat a mediocre Indian side in India and we r not that bad in SA and Aus as everyone thinks we almost won a series in Aus n lost a close battle in SA and again i'm not trying to say that I'm happy with this almost thing but yeah..no one can write off this Indian Teams chances in Aus r SA anymore and they knew it and I believe the series wins in Aus n SA r not far away.

Posted by santhoshkudva on (January 1, 2010, 16:46 GMT)

..contd... sach is life, i also commented that being number one is more than just statistics. here is something that the 'former' number one team has done: 1-won 16 tests on the trot, done it twice 2-beat south africa on every tour since their readmission 3-whitewashed england 5-0. even though this was at home, we must bear in mind that we are content with 1-0 series victories over england at home. and also bear in mind, the 5-0 was 'ACHIEVED WITH PURPOSE' 4-go to england and win atleast 3 tests in a series. we win one, and hang on to draws in the other tests 5-respect test cricket.

Posted by santhoshkudva on (January 1, 2010, 16:35 GMT)

sach is life, to answer your question, Australia won a test series in india in 2004, not too long back. may i put the question back to you, how many times have we done the same in Australia? and would you please tell me if Australia would have batted a second time against england resting on a 360 run lead and with a day and half left? and about the declarations coming against weaker teams, it is not the strength of the opponent, but the situation in which they declare. would any Indian captain dare to dangle a 4th innings carrot in front of an opponent? and where were you when Deep dasgupta and our Wall put ahmedabad to sleep with little over 300 to get and 10 wickets intact on the final day? sorry to say this, but the way we play test cricket is appalling. if the risk of a defeat is involved, we are more than happy playing out a draw. also, don't let the smokescreen of tumbling records on flat tracks deceive you.

Posted by Sach_is_Life on (January 1, 2010, 11:50 GMT)

@ santhoshkudva ....Simple Question - How many times that unbeatable Aus beats India in India ? Do you know that India haven't lost a test match since SL tour last year that is in last 12 matches where they won 8 test matches both home and away against teams like Aus,SL,Eng,Nz. So,wat else you want them to do? Don't you think that thats enough for a team to justify their position as NUMBER 1.Is it their fault that Aus was not formidable as they used to be and BTW, I think you didn't remember that India was the only team that gave them sleepless times both home and away from 2001 onwards.Regarding that sporting declarations,How many times that happend against India? It is one thing to do that against teams WI,PAK in Aus and to that against India,SA.Ask them to do the same against all the teams both home and away ..then we can talk abt it..and dont forget that this is the begining for the Team India and lets hope that they'll dominate the cricket world like Aus did for long time..!

Posted by dpkhbk on (January 1, 2010, 9:15 GMT)

Here are dhonis performances in odi world cup and champions trophy

World Cup 2007-2007 3 29 29 9.66 \ Champions Trophy 2006-2009 6 89 51 22.25

isnt three major tournaments enough to tell the quality of the batsman?go and check for yourself the performances of sachin kp ricky ponting in world cups and champions trophy.Dhoni is not even comparable to them.how can he be the best odi batsman around?his only hope is 2011 wc in india where the pitches are flat.But i dont see him winning any matches for india even then. As for short pitched stuff he is weak and that shows in his test performances.(bcos that is where u cant escape from it bcos no limit of ten overs)

here are them: in australia avg v Australia 4 141 38 17.62in sa: v South Africa 2 104 47 26.00 If any of us hope that dhoni is going to win any major tournament then sorry if we win 2011 wc it wil be primarily cos of sachinsehwag n the rest.

Posted by PcDadda on (January 1, 2010, 5:19 GMT)

Monga seems to have forgotten that in 2009 India won 4 bilateral series and ended up with the best win-loss record in ODIs among all test playing nations (bar Bangladesh, whose ODI wins were largely against Zimbabwe). Why are we hell-bent on damning the Indian side's achievements so much? Ironically, it is always the Indian media which is at the forefront of this negative campaign.

Posted by sap1979 on (January 1, 2010, 3:40 GMT)

As far as flat pitches, as soon as a juicy wicket was made in Delhi guess what happened? Wasn't it some of the Lankan posters who were complaining about flat pitches?

Posted by santhoshkudva on (January 1, 2010, 2:54 GMT)

yes, we are number one because some other team had a bad year. everybody here answer one question honestly, would we still have been number one if Australia were as formidable as they were three years back? the point that i am trying to make is, Australia were number one purely on their own terms. no matter how good other teams became, Australia always managed to raise the bar. and number one is more than just statistics: they visit other countries and murder them. while all other countries consider overseas victories as 'bonuses'. how many teams can boast of sporting declarations, and are always seeking out results in tests? how many Indian teams are looking for victories if the second innings start on an even footing? we are always looking to draw tests in such conditions.

Posted by Maui3 on (January 1, 2010, 0:45 GMT)

Agree with some posters here. Lots of negativity about Indias number # 1 ranking. Why does India's #1 have be compared with how Australia performed when they were #1. Australia in this decade and WI in 1980 were the two of the three best ever side to play test cricket. Indis'a #1 ranking is based on comparison with other team at this point in time, and has nothing to do with comparing with Australian team of 5 years ago. Also, as some pointed out, the only team that can match up with India right now is SA, not Australia, which is at about par with England and SL. Given India's current batting lineup, I cant see any team getting them out twice cheaply in a test match (at home or away). BTW, Mendis was a freak bowler, who is now decoded and the 76 allout against SA, has more to do with Indian focussing on IPL hype than on playing test cricket.

Posted by SRT_Jammy_Dada_VVS_and_Anil_legends on (January 1, 2010, 0:37 GMT)

The highlight was undoubtedly claiming the Number 1 spot in Tests. But unfortunately the administrators and the BCCI seem determined to bring the team down. The lowlight was their shocking treatment of one of India's greats Rahul Dravid soon after his recall to the ODI team. Having performed better than all of the other batsmen except Sachin in his 5 ODI innings on pitches considered bowler-friendly, the selectors then dropped him without any justifiable reason whatsoever for the Australia ODI series. It was thus no surprise that the youngsters failed to perform as we lost at home in embarrassing fashion. India will be back on track in the ODIs once Dravid is recalled, which should be now.

Posted by AvidCricFan on (December 31, 2009, 23:34 GMT)

For India to be considered dominant team, it has to do good in ICC events as well as overseas trips to stronger teams. M Vijay and Jadeja need to be given more chances. Jadeja has good potential to fill in the allrounder spot. Players like Parthiv and Irfan Pathan needs to be looked at again. Parthiv has shown tremendous form in domestic tournament and has better temperament than Rohit Sharma or Karthik. Yusouf Pathan and Karthik can be sent back to play domestic cricket.

Posted by starjay on (December 31, 2009, 17:29 GMT)

Sadly there is always a mark of pessimism associated with Indian cricket. When this sort of pessimism comes from Indian cricket followers it's even disheartening. People please grow up ! Australia remained number 1 without winning a single series in India and Sri Lanka until the 2000s. Where were some of you with your pessimism back then ? Whenever India takes on the mantle at the top there is somebody always to remark negatively. As soon as England beat Australia in the recently concluded Ashes series, the British press along with a lot of folks thought England were the next big thing in test cricket. I have this firm belief and let me say it: India will be the number 1 in tests and ODIs during the 2010s. Australia are a good side but they would probably only end up in the top 3 on a rotation basis along with South Africa, England and Sri Lanka. India have a good mix of youth and experience. Now it's up to the BCCI to stop preparing flat pitches and schedule more test cricket.

Posted by SAIROSHAN on (December 31, 2009, 17:07 GMT)

dhoni is a FOX...I totally agree with dpkhbk.......... i havent seen Dhoni coming comin in front and leading the side by example when the team is in trouble.If openers fails,dhoni is a scared cat to come in front and face the attack.........

Posted by James35 on (December 31, 2009, 17:05 GMT)

India will not do well in shorter formats, especially T20 going forward unless their bowling & fielding improves. India's main strength is batting and T20 is a format which rewards better bowling more than better batting. This is contrary to popular belief that T20 format favors batsmen. If one has to play only 20 overs, any ordinary batting side can slog and put up 150-200 on the board, even 200+ on a lucky day. You don't need Tendulkar or Sehwag to do that. But if the bowlers can consistently defend a score between 150-200 then that side will stand out from the rest. This is demonstrated by NSW in the Champions League. They won it based on their bowling not their batting. India's current bowling attack struggle to defend even 200+. Their poor run in T20 will continue if they don't improve.

Posted by arup_g on (December 31, 2009, 15:57 GMT)

@ dpkhbk...that comment will nonsense! Dhoni deserves to be number 1 batsman in ODI's becuase he knows how to pace and innings the right way! Whether he bats at 3 or 5/6, he knows how to do the right way! He isn't selfish in any way, because if he was he would be hitting the amount of 6's he does!

As for India in general...It's important they play as much test cricket as possible over the next few years and bring in youngsters like Pujara, Badrinath, Sharma slowly into the test format. India are still in need of a quality world class all-rounder, which is what will make them a world class number 1 team. Pathan showed promise, but detered away too easily. It may require Yuvraj to keep on batting the way he is, but also bowl 10 overs in every ODI!

India MUST work on their fielding. How can a team that fielded Jadeja, Raina, Yuvraj, Gambhir and Dhoni drop so many catches, when the test team of Laxman, Dravid, Sehwag and Sachin outfielded Sri Lanka!

Posted by mcsundar on (December 31, 2009, 14:23 GMT)

To dpkhbk: Dhoni is weak against short pitched bowling? Ask Shoaib Akhtar and Dale Steyn and they will tell you. Against spin? He is one of the most comfortable batsman against the spinners. He has handled Murali with absolute ease. And he was the one of the first few who tamed Mendis. And dont forget that he is a keeper first and also the captain. His batting is a bonus for the team.

Posted by princevithu90 on (December 31, 2009, 14:00 GMT)

Bring back The Wall i say, n we'll get back no1 in odi's too! ;) <Jammy 4eva! B)>

Posted by muthu77 on (December 31, 2009, 13:51 GMT)

Fair assessment of the Indian team. If you take out the two ICC events, India did not fare that badly in ODIs either. However, if India has to be termed as a champion team like the Australians, they ought to win the ICC events which has all the countries playing. When playing in a Bilateral series or Tri series, the Indians get the feel of the conditions and go on to win, but when it comes to ICC events they do not have the time to adjust to various team strategies and that is the issue. As a true Indian fan, I hope they go on to win majority of the ICC events in the coming decade.

Posted by AndyCharmer on (December 31, 2009, 13:38 GMT)

Click on the list of highest rungetters for 2009 which will reveal interesting statistics. Whilst Dhoni and Ponting are the highest run getters, it is interesting to see Dilshan's and Tendulkars performance. Dilshan is slightly ahead. These two are the best in 2009. Dilshan with 1000 runs from 19 innings, averaging 55.5 and strike rate over 100 followed by Sachin - 970 runs from 20 innings, averaging 54 and strike rate of 94 are head and shoulders above the rest. These two should be rated the best for 2009.

Posted by Indian_Alps on (December 31, 2009, 13:24 GMT)

dpkhbk,

If Dhoni was not the captain and had scored runs at this positions .. then one would praise him about his flexibility about playing at any order. He may not be technically as good as other batsmen you mentioned, but he is highly effective. And he has scored runs against all oppositions everywhere. Remember the last tour of SA, where we got murdered in ODIs, only Dhoni and Dravid played the short-pitched balls better. Give Dhoni his credit.

Posted by idontknowidontcare on (December 31, 2009, 13:12 GMT)

Well, who cares about the circus anyway? I don't care if India is last in the joke formats. They are now No. 1 in Tests and I would hope they retain that spot for a long time.

Posted by dpkhbk on (December 31, 2009, 10:46 GMT)

aah!cant somebody stop this stupid commentary about dhoni being the best one day batsman.Dhoni has played selfishly for himself and boosted his average cleverly in odis.he comes in at number three if the pitch is flat and there is good opening partnership and goes and hides at 5 and 6 if the pitch is doing something or th ball is swinging and the openers have not put on good stand.Is dhoni a better odi batsman than kp,devilliers,sehwag,sachin or ricky ponting?hell no!look at his performance in major tournaments for goodness sake.It is a flop show .He is weak against good short pitched bowling and isnt that good a player of spin either .

Posted by Tijara on (December 31, 2009, 9:39 GMT)

India can afford to have a separate team for T20s, i.e. no common players with ODI and test squad. That will ensure that more tests and ODIs can be played.

Posted by Gopes_On_Dopes on (December 31, 2009, 9:35 GMT)

SA and SL away are the only challenges remaining now. The current Aus team cant defeat us anywhere in Tests. This is assuming there won't be any more Sydney like Test matches. Also pretty amused by how ppl consider the Test no 1 spot as a three horse race. Who's the third team? Australia???

Its quite different in the one day arena though where on current form the Aussies can definitely claim a stake of being the best team.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 31, 2009, 7:09 GMT)

Australia, when #1 for so long, beat every side home and away except India away until 2004 and were always striving to complete that. They were the ONLY country to beat SAf at home during the 90's and still only one of 2 sides (with England) to have beaten SAf there since their re-introduction so not sure how SAf has "some of the worst home records"? India have yet to beat Australia, SAf AND Sri Lanka at home.. that's 3 of the top test playing countries of the world, that my friend is the reason why India is marked with a question mark. If and when they ever do that, there will be no doubt about their deserved title, until then, the #1 crown will rotate amonst 3 teams many times until a dominant side stands up and represents real authority over rivals such as the great West Indies sides of the 80's to mid 90's and Australia until recently. I would suggest the same for ODI's as well.

Posted by jazzaaaaaaaa on (December 31, 2009, 6:42 GMT)

I actually think the low point for India was losing the 7 match odi series to a 2nd string Australia at home when Australia had 10 players missing (Bracken, Lee, Siddle, Clark, Hopes, Henriques, Ferguson, Haddin, Paine, and even Marsh for a few matches) after they lead the series 2-1 to then go on and lose the next 3. I certainly want to see how India go against SA and Aus away from home, they play in SA next year, and then they play in Aus the year after. In 2 years I expect Australia to be a dominant side again with this current bowling attack. Will Tendulkar, Laxman, and Dravid be around by then? Will the young batsman be able to handle the conditions? Will they have the quality with their fast bowlers? And add to that Harbhajan has a terrible record in Australia. It'll be a massive Test for them and from this far out I'm not sure if the Indians would be up to it just yet.

Posted by phoenix_29 on (December 31, 2009, 6:34 GMT)

2010..will be a test for indian nerves,2 V BD,2 V RSA, 3 V NZ, 3 in SA(10 tests,5 v SA,2 v BD, 3v NZ...series in South Africa will be a real test.India has won only 1 out of 12 tests it has played over there,losing 6 & Drawing 5.....

Posted by ChandraKS on (December 31, 2009, 5:57 GMT)

Australia were number 1 for umpteen years without winning a series in India and hardly playing any matches in Pakistan and SAF became no 1 with one of the worst home records in recent times and not beating India.

As far as playing test matches are concerned as usual nobody quotes statistics correctly. Who has played more test matches in the last 3 years? Australia or India? -----------------------------> India

How many countries have played more test matches than India during the last 3 years? ----------------------------> 1

Posted by cricconnossieur on (December 31, 2009, 5:44 GMT)

For team India to consolidate the No.1 ranking in tests, the format that matters in cricketing circles, they must persist with the new fab five: Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman. It should also preserve its fast bowlers for the longer format . This set of batsmen and fast bowlers are key to its dream of acieving victories in SA and Aus. The best of the rest, consisting of Yuvraj, Raina, Rohit, Karthik, Jadeja, Kohli, would form the core to excel in the shorter formats. These players are all rounders and they are likely to play humongous amount of cricket and hence unlikely to be available fresh and mentally and technically ready for Test cricket. Sehwag and Gambhir also need to watchout on the amount of limited overs cricket that they play. Irfan Pathan is worth a re-look as long as he is not expected to bowl at blistering pace and take 5 fors. He can surely fit in as a partenership breaker in the mould of Bravo and Kallis.

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