Good guys don't end up losers all the time

Written by: Allan Border
Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2003, 20:14 [IST]
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It does not get better than what Rahul Dravid did in this Test. His batting was outstanding. Everyone has already exhausted superlatives so I would not bother myself with any additional praise but you could be sure my admiration for him has grown tremendously.

While his batting is the talk of town, I think it was his catch of Damien Martyn on the fourth afternoon, which set up the game for India.

Martyn and Waugh had laid the basis of what appeared to be a big stand, recovery was well and truly underway when Dravid stuck his hand out and caught Martyn in the slips.

There are moments in a Test, certain twists and turns, which shift the balance. It was one such moment, to be followed up with the catch of Steve Waugh.

Dravid's rearguard batting in the first innings revived the Indians. His second knock ensured the good work was not wasted. It is good to see good guys do not end up as losers all the time.

There is no need to bring Sachin Tendulkar into equation and begin comparisons between him and Dravid. For me, Tendulkar has always been the man towards whom Indian cricket has turned to quite so often in the past. Dravid had been solid but an unsung hero. Only now, he is coming onto his own.

He nearly never lets you down and the series has begun brilliantly for him.

It is quite a contrast to the fate Dravid had suffered the last time around. There was no respite for him with the quality bowling which Australians commanded in Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

I thought he had gone too much into his shell on the previous tour. Now he has matured and plays with the confidence of a grown-up bat. His shot selection was out-of-ordinary and he chose the right ball to attack.

VVS Laxman once again confirmed what a thorn he has been to the Australians in recent past. I cannot believe only until recently Laxman was not an automatic choice for India's playing eleven.

We thought India must have been a tremendous outfit to leave a player of his calibre out of the team. He seems inspired by the challenge and reserves his best against the best attack of the world. He might be a bit unorthodox but that too not on the side of erring.

The way Laxman attacked the Australian bowling in the second innings when he hit some critical fours in no time, showed the self-belief, which is running through his veins. Stuart MacGill played an absolute second fiddle to him. It was engaging stuff.

I thought the Australians were victim of their own attacking nature. They were too flamboyant for their own good in this Test match. They should have given respect to the conditions. It is dangerous to be loose in your methods when things are not quite suited to your style of play. They should have given credit to the conditions.

Even though none of Indian medium-fast bowlers enjoy a massive reputation, Australians should have been aware young and fresh bowlers could bowl with a degree of edge. The world champions lost a few early wickets and there was no coming back.

Usually in the past, it is Gilchrist or Steve Waugh who lift a side out of mire when wickets have fallen cheaply. Quite a few times in the past, we have seen Australia slip to 265 for five or thereabout and then, Gilly and Tugga have taken us past the 400-run mark at least. There was no such revival this time. Gilchrist made a misjudgement with his sweep.

It was particularly distressing to see from an Australian point of view to let Tendulkar take those two crucial wickets with his leg-spinners. Somehow, the little genius finds a way to torment us with bat or ball.

Australia might have subconsciously underestimated the Indians. They were playing in their own backyard, have been in good form so there could have been a certain degree of complacency.

It could creep into your game. But by the evidence of the first two games, it is not what Australia needs in remaining games.

I am not too distraught with the Australian performance. They had some poor flip of luck when Brad Williams and Jason Gillespie were missing from the action at critical times.

There are no excuses though the better side has won in Adelaide. It nicely sets up the rest of the series, which could only be good for the game. As Steve Waugh said, Australia must do an India and respond to this challenge.

It is apparent Sourav Ganguly and his men have been mentally prepared for this tour and have done their homework. They have a good coach and they are bearing the fruits of their hard work. It is for Australia now to pull themselves up from the floor and respond.


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