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India start off on the wrong foot
Staff Reporter - 24 May 2002

Any Indian cricket lover worth his salt would know better than to place his faith on an India team on tour. So it would have been with an I-told-you-so look that he registered the Indian score of 71 for five on the first afternoon of India's tour opener against Zimbabwe 'A' at the Malica Oval, Mutare. Cooling their heels in the pavilion were some of the most incandescent cricketers in contemporary cricket - Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.

Fortunately at this stage, India's Mr Dependable abroad, Rahul Dravid, found an ally in the gutsy Sameer Dighe. Dravid, unleashing his strokes with an abandon he rarely displays, nursed the Indian wicket-keeper in the initial stages of the latter's innings. Gradually a harmonious partnership sprung up between the two.

After making a stroke-filled hundred, Dravid began to tire and needed skipper Ganguly as a runner for the remainder of his innings. He faced 135 balls and made 137 runs with the aid of 22 fours and a six before finally falling to leg-spinner Brian Murphy.

Dighe, for his part, made a relatively sedate 87 off 186 balls. The 227-run Dravid-Dighe partnership, which helped India recover and post 336 for nine declared, was a new record for the sixth wicket in first-class cricket played in Zimbabwe.

After the second day was lost to rain, the final day saw Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh claim three wickets each as Zimbabwe 'A' were dismissed for 175. Harbhajan Singh's second wicket also saw him complete a haul of 200 wickets in his 47th first-class game.

The Indians, though, did not have enough time to celebrate, with another procession of batsmen to and from the middle furrowing the brows of the Indian management. In the 44 overs that were bowled before play was called off, a badly scarred India limped to 150 for seven. Zimbabwean all-rounder Travis Friend, with three wickets, was the most impressive bowler for the home side.

Meanwhile, in India, the Board of Control of Cricket in India’s (BCCI) announcement that India would play Pakistan in the Asian Championship Test at Karachi drew the Sports Ministry’s ire.

“It (the BCCI) should not take so much liberty in making such announcements. To play in Pakistan, the BCCI has to first give a written proposal to the Sports Ministry, which in turn would forward it to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The final decision rests with MEA,” Uma Bharti, the fiery sanyasin who doubles as India’s sports minister, told reporters.

As for the Ministry of External Affairs, it quickly came out with a succinct statement. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who termed India-Pakistan matches as “gladiatorial contests”, said that he had advised the Sports Ministry against allowing such contests when the relationship between the two nations were severely strained.

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