The greats and the not so greats

Written by: Sunil Vasudeva
Published: Friday, October 29, 2004, 19:22 [IST]
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Sanath Jayasuriya and Stephen Fleming have been two batsmen who have always led by example for their respective sides and have enabled them to shed the tag of "underdogs" and be transformed into winning sides. Kudos also to their teammates who complemented these two men's exploits with holding up their own end to win matches for their sides.

The turning point in Jaya's career, I believe, was his 340 against the hapless Indians. That was his third Test century too! The first two being single hundreds. Then, there was the occasion he got out on 199! Who can forget his 213 out of a Sri Lankan total of 591 in response to England's 445 at the Oval in 1998, after which Murali ran through the English side to give the Sri Lankans an innings victory.

Then came his 111 in a total of 362 against, yes, the clueless Indians at Galle in 2001. There his teammates responded duly with their share to record a ten-wicket win. And now, the recent win at Faisalabad, Jaya leading the way with a second innings 253 after a not so great team total in the first. Here too, the bowlers did their bit in a large way to pave the way for a win.

Under Stephen Fleming's captaincy the Kiwis have blossomed in both realms of the game. His recent double hundred against Bangladesh being just another feather in his well-decorated cap. To add to that, he exhibited true sportsmanship by encouraging the Bangladeshis to continue their progress. He even ventured to say that they'd get their first Test win in fewer Tests than did the Kiwis when they entered the Test cricket realm. His kind remarks were like a "welcome carpet" at a time when many want to show Bangladesh the "exit" door of Test cricket.

Last, and by no means least, is Glenn McGrath. This athlete shows no signs of wearing out but has worn out opposing batsmen, even making some batting geniuses look like novices. What a way to celebrate a 100th Test appearance.

One cannot help but sit back and admire McGrath's resilience. Unlike other so called "greats" when he returns from a layoff, he rips the opposition apart with surgeon like precision. So far in the ongoing test, Glenn has effectively throttled any Indian challenge. The Indians rarely do well under McGrath like pressure so they fall like ninepins in a bowling alley. Damien Martyn only added to their woes.

The outstanding Australian first class cricket format ensures this. The returning Aussie first tests himself at the first class level against "first class" players and it is a real test. Look how tough it is to get into an Aussie XI. The great Steve Waugh found himself and currently Brett Lee finds himself on the sidelines. Not that they are/were not great players but the competition is stiff and one's spot is not guaranteed. Thus, after being tested at the first class level, the returning Aussie Test XI player is really "Test Worthy".

Coming back from a hiatus to score 8 off 36 deliveries ala Sachin is hardly a comeback. He wasn't really tested before being inducted into the squad. The blame squarely falls on the structure of Indian first class cricket, which can hardly be called a true "testing ground". With a more competitive structure, things can improve. Otherwise, the Indian fans will be treated to reruns of spineless batting from their so much adored players. Kudos, however, to Zaheer, and Murali for their fine bowling.

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