With his opening batting position giving him trouble and the kind of form Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming have shown, and with Brett Lee, the tearaway, also included in the Australian eleven, it was understandable that Sachin did not want to bat first. Yes, it means that India will have to face Warne bowling on the last day which is not going to be easy. But the Indians would fancy themselves against Warne more than against McGrath and company. Tendulkar also has recognised that his bowling strength lies with the new ball as Kumble is not able to get the same purchase out of the pitches here as he does back home.
The match starting late would have meant that with the covered pitch there was bound to be just a little bit of moisture under the surface which would help Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar. If they could get the Australians out cheaply and if the weather stays good and the pitch easing out as it usually does here, then this team has a better chance. There are quite a few ifs in this kind of thinking, but having already lost the first Test by a considerable margin, one can only call his decision to field first a decision taken in the best interests of the side. It was vindicated to a great extent by the way Srinath got the early wickets and the kind of bounce and movement Srinath and Agarkar were getting. It underscores the kind of music the Indians would have had to face if they had chosen to bat first. Not that the pitch will be too different when the Indians come out to bat and therefore it is important for the Indians to try and restrict Australia to a score of less than 300 if they have to stay in the match. For any score of over 300 will mean that India will be fighting to save the match and as we saw in Adelaide that is not what they are very good at.
Tendulkar might have also looked at the weather report which predicted rain regularly, which would have meant the batsmen going on and off the field, which never helps the concentration. That forecast did not quite come true, there was not much interruption till the end when play was called off rather for light than rain. Srinath's first spell was a devastating one in which he looked like getting a wicket with just about every delivery he bowled. He had good support from the quick-learning Ajit Agarkar who also bowled a very good line around the batsman's off stump. But his length was a little bit shorter which allowed the batsmen to leave a lot of his deliveries. Prasad looked off-colour and did not look testing as he usually does. If only Prasad had bowled his normal stuff, the Australian batsmen, especially Mark Waugh, would have been tested more.
The dashing Slater played a typically opener's innings, playing it as little as possible in the early overs and concentrating on taking quick singles and rotating the strike. Mark Waugh also had to work hard for his runs and though he had wonderful support from the crowd that turned up to watch, it was not an innings which would have thrilled any but the most diehard of his supporters. Agarkar deserved his wicket with a spell of fine bowling where he bowled him a series of away going deliveries and then brought one in to trap him in no-man's land right in front of the stumps. That is the kind of effort that will be required tomorrow if India are hoping to restrict the Australians to a reasonable total.
Professional Management Group