A learning experience for the Indians

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Monday, December 13, 1999, 0:00 [IST]
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Shane Warne not only bowled Australia to a winning position but also managed to exorcise the ghosts that were haunting him from the Australians tour of India last year. On that tour he had been mauled like an ordinary spinner by almost all the Indian batsmen, something he had not experienced too much till then. He even confessed very sportingly that he kept getting nightmares about Tendulkar coming down the wicket and lofting him all over the park. That was a golden year for the little champion and he hardly put a foot wrong then.

This time he is the captain as well and the way he batted on the second evening did suggest that he was conscious of his responsibility and so was prepared to play a waiting game. Fortunately good sense prevailed and he resorted to his natural game and looked a completely different player on the third morning. Being a Sunday a good crowd had been expected, but the fact that he was at the crease would have definitely got in a few thousand more and they were not disappointed. He and Ganguly played some superb shots to give the hope that India would get a lot closer to the Australian total than they eventually did. The deliveries that he left watchfully alone on the second evening were hit for runs to bring the oohs and the aahs from the appreciative crowd, with Ganguly being not a whit behind. In fact it was Ganguly's refreshing approach that would have brought home to the little champion that it was best for him to play his natural free-stroking game.

What a treat the crowd had in the first hour and just when they were settling down to enjoy some more, disaster struck when Tendulkar was given out to a decision which may well turn the course of the series. The umpire must have been deceived by the sound of the bat hitting the ground and he ruled in the bowler's favour. That meant that the onus of taking India to safe shores was on Ganguly's shoulders and he did that to an extent. The disappointing factor was the inability of the Indian batsmen to convert their starts into three figure innings, so essential when a team is chasing a four hundred plus score. Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly all did the hard work but could not convert their starts to a century unlike the Australians who had two centurions and a near centurion in their ranks.

India did well in the second innings by getting the quick scoring Slater out for a duck and though Langer outscored Blewett, it was not at the rate at which Steve Waugh would have liked. He is a man who knows cricket history and is no doubt aware of India's impressive second innings record not just here in Adelaide but generally. It does take Indian teams touring overseas a few days to get over any apprehensions they might harbour and that's why the first test is the one where they get themselves in trouble. This team appears to be a lot more competitive and so there is every reason to hope they will be able to save this game. The bowlers seemed to have learnt from McGrath's bowling, who bowled a constant line at or just outside the off stump and Srinath and Agarkar bowled a good line that did not allow the Australians to break free. Venkatesh Prasad's line has always been immaculate and Kumble is difficult to get away with, at the best of times. What might worry the Indians would be the way Langer got out to a ball that turned and jumped, and that the occasional ball keeping low would make India's task to draw that much more difficult.

Australia certainly are in the driving seat and just like our bowlers have learnt a thing or two from the Australian bowlers, the batsmen will have to pick the three P's - Patience, Partnerships and Pressure - that is Steve Waugh's magic mantra for the Aussie success.

Professional Management Group

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