Zimbabwe in India, Feb-Mar 2002
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India won by 101 runs
India 333/6 (50 ov)
Zimbabwe 232 (42.1/48 ov)

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The writer in you

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.

The views expressed above are solely those of the guest contributor and are carried as written, with only minor editing for grammar, to preserve the original voice. These contributed columns are solely personal opinion pieces and reflect only the feelings of the guest contributor. Their being published on does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.
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