Kumble kindles Indians' spirit

Published: Monday, December 6, 1999, 5:30 [IST]
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The signals from Sydney were encouraging. An Indian victory against New South Wales on Sunday must be considered as significant by the team management. After an uninspiring first innings show (185 all out), the Indians rose in a grand fashion to pocket this four-day match just four days before the first test against Australia. Seldom do the Indian batsmen and the bowlers come up with a collective performance to underline their superiority.

That has been the main grouse against these men, especially when they take on powerful teams away from home. This Australian tour too began on a stunning note, with the Indians losing to Queensland in the tour opener. A gritty batting display by VVS Laxman in both innings of that match remained as the lone consolation for the tourists. Skipper Sachin Tendulkar chose to skip this Sydney match.

That must have naturally increased the pressure on the Indian batting line-up. So the first innings debacle came as no surprise. And a majority of cricket followers must have decided that this would turn out to be yet another disaster for India before the test series. Anil Kumble turned the complexion of the game in India's favour. His first innings effort of four wickets served as a source of inspiration to the Sourav Ganguly-led Indian team.

After restricting New South Wales to 231, the Indians amassed 331 in the second innings to set a challenging victory target for the home team. Kumble, with another four-wicket haul, lived up to his reputation as a match-winner, shattering NSW's dream of a win over a touring side. Kumble, ever since he had made his international debut a decade ago, has been the chief weapon in the Indian armoury. But, his ability to win a match for India outside India has always been doubted. That has been the main worry of this cricketer with a strong " never-say-die" attitude.

That Kumble has taken the majority of his test wickets only on Indian soil certainly helped his detractors in strengthening their argument. But, Kumble supporters always maintained that the true and bouncy nature of the Australian pitches would help Kumble to make a fresh reputation for himself on foreign soil. This is Kumble's first visit to Australia. And he has struck so early in the tour.

That must have boosted the self-confidence of Kumble and India. The other aspects of this victory that must have brought a refreshing air to the Indian camp are that opener Sadagopan Ramesh has done well, Sourav Ganguly showed his inimitable touch, Ajit Agarkar exhibited his capacity to strengthen the lower-order and Laxman is in good nick. Overall, it was the most satisfying of the Indian's tour-matches. Sachin Tendulkar had signaled his arrival with a characteristic knock in the Queensland match. Rahul Dravid is yet to touch his original form. But, he is a player who normally recovers in quick time from a bad patch.

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