Oh! for some fast runs
Shivaji Sengupta - 24 February 2002
From the Indian point of view, the Test match between Zimbabwe
and India is going just according to expectation. The question
for us, who are spectators of reports and statistics, is if the
game is going according to plan. The two commentators whose
accounts I read believe that on the fourth day Sachin Tendulkar
should go hell for leather before the inevitable declaration
comes, strapping the opposition with a 200-plus deficit. My own
position is that India ought to have declared at the end of the
third day, forcing on Zimbabwe a relatively livelier pitch to
play on when the fourth morning came around.
The Nagpur track is supposed to take spin from the third day
onwards. The performance of Zimbabwe's only spinner, Ray Price,
indicates that there is some purchase in the pitch, auguring well
for India. But if Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan are given an
opportunity to exploit the morning dew, the Indian spinners' job
may become that much easier, and the morale of the opposition,
probably already low, would receive a further setback.
As one journalist has already observed, the last thing India
want, after Tendulkar's meritorious and, by now, expected
century, is a huge, slow, methodical and, ultimately, numbing
counter-score that would kill the Test. Sourav Ganguly, whatever
else his shortcomings may be, is nothing if he is not aggressive.
A lead of 150 is enough to take some risks. Even if the
Zimbabweans score another 300 in the second innings, India could
still emerge as winners.
That said, it is time for the daily post-mortem. I agree with the
CricInfo commentators who, noting the painfully slow
grafting of runs, observed that it is the result of several
batsmen being under pressure to make big scores. VVS Laxman
eschewed flashy strokes, put his head down, and tried to build a
tidy innings. In short, he played uncharacteristically, and he
paid for it.
Ganguly, on the other hand, came in as if Tendulkar did not
exist, forgot all about rotating the strike (something Tendulkar
would not have done if he had come in to join a batsman who was
already dominating), tried to get quick runs, did, and left just
when things were looking up for him and India. Rahul Dravid is
also under pressure, his occasional half-centuries
notwithstanding. As in the case of Laxman, his last century - 180
against the Australians at Kolkata - is fast becoming memory.
Sanjay Bangar did what he was expected to, playing handmaiden to
Tendulkar and helping India to post a 61-run partnership. Alas,
though, we do not have an Adam Gilchrist or a Damien Martin to
come in late in the innings and drive the nail into the
opposition's coffin. Even as I write this column, that Australian
partnership has just ended, realising 317 runs in 62 overs and
averaging over 5 runs an over for the sixth wicket. This is where
I wish we had Virender Sehwag to join our batting master and get
a lesson on how to belt bowlers into submission as well as build
a big score. But one cannot have everything. Playing an all-
rounder is consistent with keeping the future in focus.
Now that Tendulkar has once again done his part, let us hope that
things will liven up a bit. At least for this Test, India looks
like they have turned the corner. Let them now sprint home. And
as a postscript - Adam Gilchrist is returning to the pavilion,
199 not out, going in to tea, pondering on the significance of
another single. How many number sevens have made a double century
in a Test match?
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 CricInfo.com does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.