Golden chance for India to redeem itself

Published: Wednesday, December 29, 1999, 5:30 [IST]
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The Indian batsmen made a mess of a victory target of 396 in the Adelaide Test. Now in the Melbourne Test they are chasing 376. Will they remain a bunch of paper tigers or pounce on this rare opportunity to prove their real worth? At stumps on the fourth and penultimate day, India was on 40 for one off 21 overs. Way back in 1976, India made history by scoring 406 for four to beat the mighty West Indies in Port of Spain.

Then in 1979, against England at the Oval, India fell short by nine runs while chasing 438. Of course India drew that Test making 429 for eight. Should the current Indian team achieve a victory or force an exciting draw, its image in international cricket would certainly grow. So far, in this Series, only Sachin Tendulkar has lived up to his reputation as the best batsmen in the world. He made the cricketing world salute him on Tuesday through his 'follow-on saving' century in the first knock. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly are the other two world-renowned Indian batsmen.

Dravid has been a big disappointment in this tour. He made 35 and six in Adelaide Test and 9 in the first innings of this Test. Before this Melbourne Test, Dravid scored century against Tasmania in a four-day match. That suggested that this artist has regained his touch. But his first innings show was dismal. Now he has gained a golden opportunity to underline his high calibre. Ganguly, on the other hand, has done fairly well so far in three Test innings.

In the first Test he made 61 and 43 and in the first innings of this Test managed only 31 after having promised a lot. In the second knock he might as well be forced to play a long match-winning or match-saving innings. Thus Ganguly too has gained an opportunity to tell the world that India's top three could do wonders. If Dravid and Ganguly could lend the needed support to Tendulkar, India could as well enter the year 2000 on a highly confident note.

A Test victory outside India is the long-cherished dream of Indian cricket lovers. At stumps, Dravid was there looking devoted and determined. Opener Sadagopan Ramesh was his partner. After losing VVS Laxman in the fourth over (5/1) Ramesh batted quite bravely till the close of play. This pair looked well set to lay a firm foundation for the 'master blaster' to come and write yet another glittering chapter.

The early loss of Laxman came as no surprise as India has been struggling in vain to find a successful opening pair in this tour. Laxman was lured by a bouncer from Damien Fleming and was consumed in the fine-leg position by Glenn McGrath. Ramesh (26) and Dravid (10) denied the home team further success till the stumps were drawn for the day.

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