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

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 does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.
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