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First-person reports from the stands
Favourite player from the two sides
It has to be Sachin Tendulkar. His remains the only name from those of a billion-plus to be chanted with pride by tens of thousands of Indians in unison.
Shane Watson. He started off steadily before hammering three sixes and a few boundaries. He set up the platform with Shaun Marsh. Watson faced the first ball, from Praveen Kumar, and 99 overs later, bowled the last over to him. His three wickets were critical too - especially Yuvraj and the breakthrough one of Suresh Raina. While this will be remembered as Tendulkar's match, Watson ended up on the winning side.
Never since the days of Imran Khan calling additional players on a whim to Sharjah have we seen a floating side like Australia. What is essentially an Australia B team is leading India 3-2. They might field Dennis Lillee in the last ODI, but they are not really missing anyone.
Any reason, Pragyan Ojha has been sidelined? He would at least have tried like a genuine spinner to get wickets.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
Praveen Kumar got Ricky Ponting bowled and Watson got Harbhajan Singh caught behind. Other than these, every single wicket fell to the batsmen's indiscretion or over-ambition. One does not want to see wickets like the one at the Kotla, but this one was overloaded in favour of batsmen. Make the pitch a little tougher to bat on. And can we erase Tendulkar's Misbah moment?
Face-off I relished
I was looking forward to Hyderabad versus its reputation and Asoka de Silva versus Indian batsmen. Bless the man, he was tempted but stood firm. And Hyderabad continues to be a nemesis for the home team.
Bright young thing
Raina looks a compact player. Good balance, shots round the wicket, and has the big shots too. He could be a good No. 3 if someone can sort out his issues with short-pitched bowling.
Marsh continues to impress in India. And it was tough to believe Clint McKay was on his international debut. He was the best bowler on show.
Graham Manou was quite impressive as well.
MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj all dropped catches. Off the last ball of the innings, Cameron White swung hard. A familiar figure ran in from the cover boundary and got his dive just right to take the catch. It was the first positive moment for the home fans in three hours, and Tendulkar kept the mood buoyant for the next three.
Ball goes to his left, Ashish Nehra runs around and gives two. Ball goes right, Nehra still gives two. The ball is hit in the air to him. A diving catch, maybe? No, Nehra times it well enough to concede two. The crowd really gets after him and starts booing. Is Mark Twain his favorite author?
Shot of the day
White's six over extra cover was extraordinary, but the match was like 20 years of Tendulkar consolidated into 175 runs. The front-foot pull, straight drive, step out and loft, and paddle sweep were all brought out. The best four were a couple of cover drives along the ground, a late glance to fine leg, and a late cut. All of them went in the vicinity of fielders, but they too were part of the audience for these shots.
|The match was like 20 years of Tendulkar consolidated into 175 runs. The front-foot pull, straight drive, step out and loft, and paddle sweep were all brought out. The best four were a couple of cover drives along the ground, a late glance to fine leg, and a late cut|
It was likely the biggest crowd for a cricket match in Hyderabad. The noise was deafening when Tendulkar and Raina were on song. Lots of national flags, and faces painted with the tricolour. There was a noisy DJ as well, asking the crowd to do Mexican waves and chant. Harbhajan seems to have gotten more popular, going by the ovation he got on arriving at the crease. Much more than Gautam Gambhir, India's top-ranked player. It was also good to see a crowd of about 200 people on the hill abutting the ground.
The DJ played music in Hindi and in Telugu.There was also a deal - if you sent an SMS to a certain number, the message would be displayed on the big screen. Nothing sensational there, though. Big cheers greeted the trumpet tune from the IPL in South Africa.
The stadium as you see it on TV is very good, but the innards are dirty. It almost feels as if they painted the stadium and ran out of cash for the rest. Rs 1000 will get you a buffet in a five-star hotel with personal attention. Here it makes you feel you've gone to a first-day show of a blockbuster film without a reserved ticket. Too much pushing and shoving, and the entrances are badly designed. Every edible item was overpriced by 300%. I like it better in Bangalore. Maybe the authorities did not envisage the turnout.
ODI v Twenty20?
The consolidation phase of the Australian innings was very boring. Don't get me wrong but muscular batting is not easy on the eye. I thought Tendulkar had a point in suggesting ODIs have two innings. But that would be manufacturing excitement, like with a lot of Twenty20 cricket. Good cricket is all about exciting match-ups and great performances. Twenty-overs cricket limits that scope and so does not have a hook to engage the viewer, most times. When you think of ODIs, you would think Sachin; but you are most likely to think of an administrator when you think Twenty20. Go figure.
Marks out of 10
8.5. The final margin was just three runs, thanks to one of Tendulkar's top ODI knocks. (This will be the sad 175, to go with Kapil Dev's happy 175). Australia seemed to have a plan for each Indian batsman and stuck to it. Barring a few fielding glitches, they were professional. The Indian approach was disjointed from the time Watson hit his second six. If in Indian conditions, this is the best we can do, the 2011 World Cup could be a lot tougher than anticipated.
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