South Africans' fielding machine is mean

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Tuesday, March 28, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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How quickly fortunes change in cricket! Before the Pakistan-India game it was Pakistan under pressure for if they had lost then they were out of the tournament. After their massive victory over India it was India who were under pressure to play well if not win against South Africa. By playing well and giving South Africa a run for their victory the Indians would have enhanced their net run-rate and put the pressure back on Pakistan when they play South Africa in their last match.

Trying to achieve that the Indians made changes in their batting order promoting Mohammad Azharuddin who has batted fluently and looked in better touch than Dravid. This was positive thinking for what is the point having the highest scorer in one-day competition coming down the order at five or six.

Straightaway Azhar vindicated the wisdom of his promotion and his partnership with Tendulkar was looking as if it would take India to a total that would challenge the South Africans more than in their first encounter here in Sharjah. However even the only two 9000 plus run scorers found it difficult to pierce the field and with the South African fielders attacking the ball and preventing singles, even the experienced duo had to take risks which cost them their wickets.

The South African fielding machine is a mean one for it might be a lot easier to steal gold from Fort Knox than a single from these fielders. Their accuracy while aiming at the stumps keeps the third umpire busy pressing the red light to indicate the batsmen should be cooling his heels in the dressing room. Even without Pollock the attack looks better than it is as there is not one fielder who has to be hidden.

The way Tendulkar was batting it looked as if he was keen to make up for his earlier failures. The South Africans did try to slant the ball into him seeing him being bowled twice in this tournament with incoming deliveries but this time the little champion kept his bat close to the pad leaving no gap for the ball to sneak in.

He too was out to a brilliant piece of fielding as he tried to go for a non-existent run to try and get the strike after being deprived of it for a while. That really has been a problem with the Indian batting for they have not tried to tap the ball and run but instead have hit firm shots to the fielders for dot balls that has only increased the pressure on them.

India's poor score will lessen the pressure on Pakistan for with their batting in the last ten overs and winning by the healthy margin they did, their net run-rate is better than India. So now what they will be looking to do is not to qualify for the finals but to win their last league game to even the psychological stakes.

The South Africans have done just about everything right so far and having lost the one-day series in India they would be wanting to return home with the cup in Sharjah.

With this win they can turn around and say they have won the one-day competition with India 4-3. It has been that kind of a cricketing season for India and the players would be looking forward for the rest and will use it for an honest self-appraisal and not lame excuses.

Professional Management Group

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