Massacre of the innocents at Bloemfontein|
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 14 October 2001
It must have been a heady feeling being the Indian captain on Friday
at the Goodyear Park, Bloemfontein. Sourav Ganguly's men hardly broke
a sweat while pounding a hapless and pathetic Kenyan side. The contest
might have been farcical but, believe me, all cricket teams desire
such comprehensive wins every time they take the field.
It went like a dream for India from the moment Maurice Odumbe won the
toss and elected to bat. Ajit Agarkar, in particular, bowled a
beautiful line and length. It is always thrilling for a bowler when he
rattles a batsman's stumps as Agarkar did Ravindu Shah's and David
Obuyo's in the space of three overs. And then he broke Kenya's
residual resolve by dismissing their best batsman, Steve Tikolo, a
classy stroke-player on his day.
Agarkar's initial breakthroughs have laid the ground for India's win
in the last two matches. The Mumbai lad bowls a fuller length than all
his other fast bowling partners and also has the ability to move the
ball away from the batsman. He has built up a nice rhythm in this tour
backing it up with some useful pace.
The 22-year-old never lacked attitude. Now there is the added fire
provided by his raging hunger to do well. If he continues in this vein
, he will surely prove his captain right once
Let me use this column to commend Sourav Ganguly for
backing the men whom he believes in and for taking up cudgels on their
behalf even when it meant he had to be a lone ranger on occasions.
What has been impressive is the way in which he has proved right
on most occasions. The famous instance that comes to mind is his backing Harbhajan Singh ahead of the series against Australia. And how the young man repaid his captain's faith...
No wonder then that Ganguly has won the respect of his players. It is
a good sign for Indian cricket that we have a positive captain who is
not afraid to speak his mind. I firmly believe that only confident
leaders can breed a confident team.
The match would also have done our two senior bowlers - Javagal
Srinath and Anil Kumble - a world of good. Srinath had been rather
erratic in the first two matches. Though he was patchy on Friday, two
no-balls and three wides in seven overs do no justice to a bowler of
his stature, he returned very economical figures. Sri has been India's
premier fast bowler for long and it is in India's best interests to
see him back at his best. Hope the figures and the bowling award help
him on his way.
Kumble was impressive again. It sure helped him to have umpire Dave
Orchard at his end. Orchard is one of those umpires who frown upon
batsmen who use their pads as the first line of defence. This fact and
his wicket-to-wicket line helped Kumble claim three wickets through
leg-before decisions. Harbhajan Singh, his young spinning partner,
meanwhile, had a rather mundane Friday after a super Wednesday at the
It was good to see Virender Shewag and Deep Dasgupta walk out to open
the innings after the bowlers had cleaned out the Kenyans. I felt it
was a powerful statement that the team management was sending out -
telling the Kenyans in no uncertain terms that any of our batsmen are
good enough to do the job.
Dasgupta, who has played as an opener for Bengal in the Ranji matches,
had a good essay in the middle and this would have helped him feel
more at home on the international stage.
Shewag, returning to the top of the order for the first time in South
Africa, blazed away at the other end. He is, as Ganguly later said,
one of India's most promising batsmen, and a match-winner on his day.
The young man looked good while playing both off the front foot and
the back foot. The only time he seemed to be in some discomfort was
while handling the short stuff. But that shouldn't cause him much
unease in the one-dayers where bowlers can only bowl one bouncer an
The Kenyans bowlers were, like their batsmen, very, very ordinary. The
performance of the side did no justice to an international-level team.
Their coach Sandeep Patil and Bob Woolmer, set to join them as an
expert, would have to work a minor miracle to turn them into a
competitive outfit on Sunday. You can trust the South Africans to come
at their neighbours with all the firepower they have got. Kenyans would do well
to avoid it from turning into yet another massacre of the innocents.
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