Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

India v Australia, sixth ODI, Guwahati

Five point something

A middling sort of game that lost steam all too soon

Gautam Sewani

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Fans watch from an under-construction building adjoining the stadium, India v Australia, 6th ODI, Guwahati, November 8, 2009
Tell me again, we're standing on a building under construction to watch what? © Associated Press
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Favourite player from the two sides
Shane Watson. "When I see players like him, I feel the future of Australian cricket is in safe hands," Steve Waugh said when he saw Watson perform in first-class cricket. A fragile body and a bloke by the name of Andrew Symonds denied Watson his rightful place for many years, but with his performances in the Champions Trophy and this series, he looks set to take the mantle of the best allrounder in world cricket.

Key performer
Mitchell Johnson, without a doubt. He not only got them out, he embarrassed them. Gautam Gambhir will probably have nightmares about the ball that was destined for the deep midwicket fence but ended up dislodging his off stump. Johnson when he gets inswing is unplayable - this is rapidly becoming a truism. The villain of the day as far the Sunday morning Guwahati crowd was concerned.

Biggest absence
Common sense, from the Indian batsmen. The early morning start and the nature of the Nehru Stadium pitch demanded a cautious approach, but the Indians played like millionaires. Perhaps pitches like the one at Hyderabad tend to have this kind of effect.

Half the Australian side is missing, but their absence doesn't seem too conspicuous, does it?

One thing I'd have changed about the match
MS Dhoni's decision at the toss. He recognised the risks batting first entailed, and one could maybe call it a brave decision. However, the wicket eased out for the pacers in the second innings, and the crowd could only grind their teeth in frustration.

Face-off I relished
Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh v Ricky Ponting and Watson. Jadeja was introduced early after the medium-pacers had proved disappointing. He troubled Watson straightaway with his arm-balls, and had some close shouts against him when he played for the turn. Then Harbhajan got into the act with his one-time bunny Ponting at the crease. It was good cricket: bowlers exerting pressure, batsmen trying to survive, yet not losing any scoring opportunities, and that passage gave the crowd a glimmer of a hope.

Bright young thing
Doug Bollinger. It's impressive how someone with so little international experience can create such an impact in foreign conditions. Perhaps the Champions League helped him. Perhaps it's the quality of the Australian first-class structure. Whatever it is, the guy deserves a pat on the back.

Wow moment
Praveen Kumar doing a Mahendra Singh Dhoni, playing the trademark whirling flick shot. It made the crowd go delirious. If there is one good thing to emerge from the ruins of this series, it's the discovery of the batsman in Praveen Kumar. Can he be the medium-pacer allrounder India have been looking for? Only time will tell.

Player watch
Ashish Nehra graced the area in front of our stand. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something funny about the way he runs, fields and throws, and he got plenty of laughs as expected.

 
 
The Indian cricket fan has gotten used to his misery, and seems to have been bought over by cheap tickets (Rs 210, student discount). When will we get the opportunity to lie on spacious grass banks and sip beer while watching quality cricket?
 

Shot of the day
The one that set our heartbeats racing - Virender Sehwag's six over point off the second ball of the match. That raised our hopes for another run-fest like in Hyderabad. Alas, it was not to be.

Hardship factor
An 8:30 start in winter on a Sunday morning was the mother of all hardships itself, especially when you have to commute 30km to reach the venue. But that didn't deter Guwahati from turning up. The rest is the same old story - security hassles, bad seats and overpriced food. The Indian cricket fan has gotten used to his misery, and seems to have been bought over by cheap tickets (Rs 210, student discount). When will we get the opportunity to lie on spacious grass banks and sip beer while watching quality cricket?

ODI v Twenty20?
This match was the worst advert for an ODI. The period when Michael Hussey and Cameron White were batting had neither the bubbling-under-the-surface tension of Test match cricket nor the explicit intensity of Twenty20. Unlike in Test cricket, bowlers have limited quotas in ODIs, so Hussey and White could afford to play out Harbhajan taking no risks whatsoever. Perhaps the suggestion of allowing unlimited overs to bowlers in ODIs needs to be given a thought.

Marks out of 10
5. It wasn't a high-scoring game, so it needed to be close to catch the fancy of the crowd, which it wasn't. On top of it, the home team lost, and it was a rude eye-opener for Indian fans.

A note to the BCCI: the Nehru Stadium is crying out for proper floodlights to allow day-night matches to happen here. Without them, you get 8:30 starts, which are unfair to one team (though Dhoni won the toss here, so he can't complain), and there is always the danger of bad light halting play.

Gautam Sewani is a fourth year undergraduate student at IIT Guwahati. He is a cricket fanatic - his Bachelor's thesis project is on the sport. He currently calls Pune his home, but he is originally from Gwalior and has watched a many a match (including Ranji Trophy games) in the magnificent Captain Roop Singh stadium. His other interests include writing, programming, cinema and travelling.

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