Indian bowling stars on first day at Nagpur
Shivaji Sengupta - 21 February 2002
So Virender Sehwag has been dropped from the playing eleven for
the first Test at Nagpur. In an earlier column, published in this
space, I had written, with some mendacity, that a journalist's
job is to explain away the mistakes when his predictions
backfire. However, in this case, I am glad to be wrong.
I think the selectors, and perhaps the Indian captain and some of
the others in the team think-tank, made this decision keeping the
future in mind. Sehwag's inclusion should be a certainty when a
team is picked to tour the West Indies. But in the meanwhile, we
need some all-rounders, even solidly mediocre ones. Sanjay Bangar
has done well with the bat, opening for Railways' Ranji Trophy
side, and he bowled well against England in the warm-up match
leading up to the Tests. Since Ajit Agarkar seems to be out of
favor for the game's longer version, Bangar needs to be played
in. Sourav Ganguly openly stated as much soon after the 14
members of the squad were announced.
Having said that, I noticed that Bangar bowled only eight gentle
medium-paced overs and, at least statistically, did not really
worry the Zimababwe batsmen who were otherwise busy negotiating
the speed of Zaheer Khan and the spinning duo. Some journalists
viewing the game faulted Ganguly for not bowling Anil Kumble and
Harbhajan Singh together until the 76th over. But why not give
Bangar a little more opportunity? By the same token, why should
Ganguly bowl 30 overs in the Ranji semi-final against Railways,
taking three wickets, and then bowl not at all on a pitch that
obviously had something in it for the medium pacers?
Stuart Carlisle's highest individual Test score seemed to go
unappreciated by the rest of his batting compatriots except
Alistair Campbell. When Andy Flower was yorked by Zaheer Khan for
3, the Indians must have felt like their opposition usually feels
when Sachin Tendulkar gets out cheaply. Flower maintained
Bradmanesque figures until the series in Sri Lanka, but his
average in the last four Tests, all played in 2002, is little
more than 6. In 2001, by contrast, he had averaged a stunning
95.6. Cricket is indeed a great leveler!
Analysing the bowling, it seems that, with the exception of
Harbhajan, the only one not to get a wicket, all the bowlers
conceded around three runs per over, evidence that they bowled a
reasonably tight length and to a plan. The fielding, too, was
decent enough, although Deep Dasgupta and the captain were
mentioned by more than one commentator to have fielded poorly.
Dasgupta has not improved his keeping all that much since his
last Test, and he dropped at least one catch and missed one
opportunity to stump Carlisle.
But, all in all, 248/8 was a satisfactory performance from the
Indian point of view, although, as one journalist observed, the
Indians did let things slip a bit when Zimbabwe went from 194-7
to 248-8. But with the pitch expected to take spin from the third
day, the first day can reasonably be considered India's.
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