Promoting Prasad was too much of a risk

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Monday, January 3, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Having lost the first two Tests of the series quite comprehensively the Indians were looking to salvage their pride and their reputation with a better performance in the third Test. With that in view they decided to go into the Test without a regular opening batsman and promote MSK Prasad to open the batting. This was always going to be playing with fire for neither has Prasad looked in any kind of form nor has Laxman looked comfortable with the opening position.

Australia has one of the best attacks with the new ball in the world and to send two pretenders as the openers was asking for a miracle. Still the two did hold up the new ball for a while but if that is upto the expectations then there is something not quite right with the strategists of the team. Even if it means going in with two rookies against South Africa so be it, but this experimentation has to stop. Gagan Khoda's last match for India won him the man of the match medal and in the opportunities with the India 'A' side he has not done anything wrong. A somewhat similar situation in 1991-92 saw Sourav Ganguly being treated shabbily because there was a perception then that he had made the side because of influence. He was given one chance and then discarded and it was only because Navjot Sidhu decided that he had had enough that Ganguly got the chance to redeem himself and prove the doubters wrong and what a tremendous player he has turned out to be. Khoda is in the same boat as Ganguly was then and there seems to be a school of thought that he has not deserved the India cap but as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating and till then he should not be discriminated against unfairly.

MSK Prasad hanging his bat out to drive and being caught was not much of a surprise though he should have waited for the umpire to give him out rather than walking for have we not seen the Australians waiting to be declared out before reluctantly leaving the crease? But then the desire to stay at the wicket seems to be absent from the majority of the Indian batsmen barring a few and even the fingers of one hand maybe too much for that. Laxman's dismissal exposed a poor technique for a batsman leave alone one opening the batting and it was back to Tendulkar to mount some semblance of a counter-attack.

Dravid was refreshingly positive and did not miss any loose deliveries to score. However he seemed to have decided that he was going to be playing shots and not get bogged down as he had done in the earlier Tests and to an extent it was this that got him playing at a widish delivery and get caught in the slips. The Australians have bowled to a plan right throughout the series and with the batsmen obliging they have not had to do anything different.

The Indians are paying the price of playing too much limited overs cricket and so seem to have forgotten the art of leaving the deliveries around the off stump. So instead of making the bowlers bowl the line they want the batsmen have played to the line the bowlers are bowling and have not been scoring. Limited overs cricket does not encourage batsmen to leave deliveries and have dot balls so the batsmen have been playing at deliveries they should be leaving well alone.

The quick loss of Dravid and Ganguly meant the little champion had to try and put runs on the board and he went after McGrath in a thrilling counter-attack but the lanky bowler had the last laugh winning a LBW verdict making Tendulkar dismissed to a debatable decision again. What the bowler did after that was a fit case for the match referee to step in but as of writing there is no report of him doing anything. No wonder Sri Lankan cricket was in the state it was before the belligerent Ranatunga took charge and showed the world that they could not trample over his team. Not to upset the super powers of the game by taking action against their players is a sure way of getting more assignments or so some seem to believe.

Brett Lee then showed why he is going to be a bowler for the future by not getting carried away by the vociferous support he was getting from his home crowd and keeping the ball up to the bat and getting it to reverse swing both ways. Once again as in his first Test he was on a hat trick and once again it was Srinath who denied him. He bowled with great pace and control for a quickie and hardly ever sprayed the ball. McGrath was slower but not by much yet by bowling that impeccable line he kept the pressure up and the Indians could just not break free. It is a hopeless position to be in and only the weather can save India now. The New Year has not begun well and only fierce determination will make a difference but that has not exactly been in bountiful supply so far.

Professional Management Group

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