Alien conditions, lack of experience... Many reasons were offered for our debacle in Australia. Now, even the ĎTigers At Homeí label needs alteration.
No one expected the two-Test Pepsi series against South Africa to be a cakewalk. Equally, nobody could have envisaged India being on the verge of a rout, that too at home. With two days remaining, South Africa have opened a mammoth 314-run lead.
Itís significant that of the five other Tests India conceded a lead in excess of 300, at home, one was drawn and four ended in defeats: The last being at the Chepauk in 1984-85 against David Gowerís England.
At stumps on Day-III, Hansie Cronje wasnít forthcoming on when, if at all, he would declare. ďWait and watch,Ē he said, enigmatically. However, with just Mark Boucher, among the recognised batsmen around, itís possible Cronje may not get to exercise that option. Even if he wishes to.
Resuming on 254 for three, South Africa added 218 (90 runs in the first session itself) losing five wickets. It didnít make for attractive cricket, but South Africa had a purpose and that took priority over entertaining a decent turnout at the Chinnaswamy.
In any case, the home team should be more concerned about fulfilling that role.
Asked by The Telegraph whether he was at least hopeful of India saving the Test, Kapil Dev replied: ďI can only answer that tomorrow (after stumps).Ē The reply was sans the coachís customary enthusiasm.
Even accounting for the Ďglorious uncertaintiesí bit, South Africa have already done enough to ensure they canít lose this series. Indiaís first home series defeat in 13 years is destined to be at Cronjeís hands.
In fact, batting second, the South Africans have achieved (without a single centurion) what the Indians should have aimed at ó to bat just once on a wicket which, as the overs roll by, will become even more bowler-friendly.
Cronje and coach Graham Ford never tire of reminding their team ďdoesnít rely on one or two individuals.Ē Now, even a reminder wonít be necessary.
Yesterday, nightwatchman Nicky Boje and Gary Kirsten laid the perfect foundation. Today, once Daryll Cullinan got out after a handsome contribution, Lance Klusener and Jacques Kallis forged a record-busting 164-run partnership for the fifth-wicket.
They bettered 99 between Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes in Cape Town (1992-93), and also put in the shade the Mohammed Azharuddin-Pravin Amre 87-run effort in Durban (1992-93).
Sadly, both Kallis and Klusener fell in the 90s, only that didnít come as a huge surprise. Approaching hundreds, both had become circumspect ó indeed, after his bristling fifty, Klusener fired just one boundary. Also, the most productive partnerships generally end in twos.
Klusener fell three short of his third hundred (97 in 251 minutes, 169 deliveries, 5x4, 1x6), driving Murali Karthik into Sachin Tendulkarís hands, while Kallis missed his seventh by five runs (95 in 432 minutes, 359 balls, 7x4, 2x6), bewitched by the bounce Anil Kumble extracted.
Their disappointment was understandable but both were lucky to get the benefit of doubt, from Russell Tiffin, on either side of lunch.
It wouldnít be fair to take Tiffin to the cleaners as the bowler himself (Sachin) didnít join the caught-behind appeal in Klusenerís case but, after lunch, the caught-behind appeal (off Muraliís bowling) had left little doubt where Kallis was concerned.
Both times, Channel Nineís snick-o-meter confirmed the appeals had merit and werenít just an act of gamesmanship.
In the morning, South Africa lost Cullinan fairly early. Like Kallis, later on, Cullinan was beaten more by the bounce and became yet another Kumble victim. He registered an excellent 53 (148 minutes, 86 deliveries, 5x4, 1x6).
The vacancy was filled by Klusener, not the captain himself, as Klusenerís heavy bat was more suited to doing a Cullinan and keeping momentum going. Also, a left-right combination would further torment the Indians. It did.
Klusener was into action straightaway, coverdriving and then squarecutting Nikhil Chopra for boundaries. He also clouted the same bowler for six.
Clearly, like Boje yesterday, Klusener had a specific role and was performing that to perfection. So much so that in the first fifty of their partnership, Klusenerís contribution was 38.
Kallis, who has always received second billing to Cullinan, is just as accomplished and in years to come will surely be respected as South Africaís No.1 batsman.
He drove superbly, swept with finesse and pulled with contempt. One canít fault Kallisí footwork, adept as he is going both forward and back.
But while the duo found it real easy before lunch (344 for four), the field spread after the break and Murali, in particular, had a wonderful spell when the captain allowed him more Ďfreedomí than usual.
Jawagal Srinath, whose line often left much to be desired, and even Chopra had their moments. Hopefully, the latter will learn that giving the ball a Ďtweakí shouldnít be at a premium...
And, so, runs dried up and the last half-hour before tea, specially, saw lethargic cricket. It appeared everybody was just plain tired ó batsmen, bowlers, fielders... Not to speak of the paying public.
In desperation, or perhaps out of boredom, Sachin even introduced Mohammed Kaifís part-time off-spin. Actually, he didnít do a bad job.
The final session (starting at 409 for four) produced four wickets ó pick being Srinathís gentle inswinger which breached Cronjeís Ďgateí and sent the middle stump flying ó but very few runs.
Murali, of course, got two of the four and it wouldnít be an exaggeration to suggest he is the find of an otherwise miserable series. Murali does have a bright future. Not so Nayan Mongia, who again had a bad day. His replacement, in the near future, by Samir Dighe is imminent.
As for Cronje, his lean run in 2000 continues (0, 0, 0, 13, 12). But he will continue to smile as long as South Africa are on a roll.
Circumstances are such not many may spare a thought for the large-hearted Kumble, who is comfortable with even a jumbo workload, but he deserves applause for sending down 67 overs (31 today, in three spells) and earning five wickets (for the 16th time) in return.
That coincided with the local Corporation deciding to (belatedly) rename Oriental Circle as Anil Kumble Circle. Officially, that is to salute Kumbleís ten-wicket haul (versus Pakistan) at the Kotla last year.
Incidentally, Kumble isnít from Englishman Headley Verityís record of the maximum overs against South Africa, 74.2.
If anything, Donald is far from enthusiastic talking about his own achievements. But talk of the team and his contribution to any discussion gets as passionate as his on-field play.
Donald, an old friend of The Telegraph, spoke for around 45 minutes last evening. After the interview (at the West End), he spent a good five minutes signing autographs ó even obliging two Chinese based in Australia ó and posing for photographs.
As Donald himself remarked, during the interview, off the field he is very different from the fired-up quick who comes charging in to knock back the batsmanís head.
Following are excerpts
On the South African Boardís Ďexperimentí of allowing him rest by not fielding him in all one-day tournaments
(Smiles) Iíve ended up playing most of the tournaments anyway... Of course, I was myself available for the recent tri-series at home, but the selectors probably rested me as I wasnít going to play (from after this Test series) till next season... Perhaps, they want Mornantau Hayward to have a good feel of the system by 2003 (the World Cup).
On how he himself looks at 2003
Just the other day, I read a brief report which talked of Mark Waugh looking to play till the next World Cup. As Iím a year younger (33), Iíve got some chance!
On speculation, till recently, that he could quit on getting to 300 Test wickets
Whenever the time does come, I would like to bow out in front of my home crowd. I do believe I owe it to them... Today, my family has the Ďseniorí role in my life. Our daughter (Hanna Elizabeth) is already in pre-school and, next year, sheíll be at school proper. Then, our son (Oliver) is growing, too...
Obviously, with school and other things, my wife (Tina) and the children wonít be able to travel with me. Touring, then, will become difficult. In fact, life itself will become tough.
On being just a few wickets short of 300 (in Tests)
I canít believe Iím just five wickets away... Aiming for the milestone has definitely been a big motivation... If you look at it, itís actually going to be one hell of a mark to cross and I can only admire those who have already done so. Itís going to be something nobody will ever be able to take away from me.
On his target for this two-Test series
(Laughs) Initially 12, but I had to revise it after seeing the wicket here! To push myself, I generally set a tough Ďaskí.
On whether the injury on his last trip to India (1996-97) initially made him decide not to undertake this tour
That decision was for purely personal (family) reasons... I was wanting to take a complete break from international cricket. But, as it turned out, Ali (Dr Ali Bacher) and Geoffrey Boycott chatted me out of it.
While Ali said I could only go for the Tests, Boycott, who was on a commentary assignment, felt I shouldnít miss out on a game in Mumbai where the ball had quite a bit of carry... Ali, by the way, has been my strongest backer... Donít know how he does it, but he can convince you to change your mind.
On his emotional sprint (from the playersí enclosure) after Mark Boucher got the winning runs
It was a huge moment and Iíd already told the lads I would be the first out on the field... Indeed, that winning run brought so much relief. Because the entire day had been emotionally so draining, I was more tired that night than on the previous two when Iíd bowled.
On just how tough it is in the subcontinent
Itís a challenge keeping crowds here quiet ó it can only be achieved by getting a Sachin Tendulkar out... People may not realise it, but itís so difficult on unresponsive wickets... Itís equally tough on batsmen who arenít used to playing quality spinners. Iím convinced it requires a high-skill level to face over after over of spin. I reckon itís tougher than facing quicks.
On nearly a decade of international cricket.
Iíve had a fantastic time, toured the world for free... Iíve had some great spells, got out the best... Today, I have no regrets.
On, over the years, what has he learnt as a person
Respect, for me, is most important. Respecting the opposition, respecting the man on the street... Respecting othersí values, their culture... (Emotionally) There was this incident in Mumbai, on our last afternoon, which Iíll never forgot.
Iíd gone across to the Gateway where a poor young girl walked up to me and, in perfect English, asked my name. I told her who I was and, in turn, asked her name... I canít remember it, but we started walking and she then asked whether she could go along with me to wherever... I didnít know what to say... I was so moved by that eight-nine year old and gave her fifty rupees for chocolates...
I realise itís tough for children like her who probably donít even know who their parents are... I marvelled at her approach, the English she spoke... The look in her eyes when I gave her the money... Itís going to remain an unforgettable experience.
On the legacy he will leave behind
(Pauses) I would like to be remembered as somebody who played it hard and tough but, basically, was a nice guy. The Allan Donald on the field and the Allan Donald off it are different people. I would also like to be remembered as having been an ambassador for my team and country. Nowadays though, once you retire, people tend to forget you quickly.
On whether that Ďworriesí him
No, not at all. If people donít wish to remember me, itís their choice. I wonít be able to do anything about that, Iíll have to live with it.
On whether he has thought of a life after cricket
Iíve certainly thought of a life after finishing off as a player... Bob Woolmer is keen that I replace him as Warwickshireís coach after three years... Letís see... Youíve got to remember every cricketer has this urge to help others, to give something back to the game. Itís in our blood.
As Warwickshire has given me so much, Iíll surely give something in return... South Africa, too, though it canít be at a job where thereís so much travelling. Iíll be pitching my tent in the UK (after retirement).
On what has again made him return, at the age of 33, to County cricket this summer
Last year, I broke down even before the season warmed up, so I want to prove a point. Then, as we (Warwickshire) are in the second division, the motivation of getting the County up to Division-I is there... Frankly, last year, it was almost an embarrassment... Also, it will be great getting back to work with Bob.
On what would he have done had he not been a cricketer
(Laughs again) Probably taken a nine-to-five and suit-and-tie job... Donít know.
On whether he envies anybody
Iím happy with the way I am, happy with what Iíve achieved. I donít even envy the Australians for winning the last World Cup... I hope people, too, will respect me for what I am.
On the one batsman he regards as the toughest nut
Steve Waugh. Heíll never ever give his wicket away. Youíll have to earn it. Always. Itís a relief seeing his back.
On tips to budding fast bowlers
If itís really in your heart to play for your country, youíll do so. If you have the desire to be a Jawagal Srinath, I think you will. Of course, itís very important to enjoy the career you choose... Is fast bowling worth all the sweat, aches and tears? It is.
On his aggressive body-language
(Smiles again) Thatís because being the No.1 bowler, Iím like a second captain out in the field. Itís my body-language which will help the team get to where it wants to be. I must, therefore, fulfil my part of the leadership role.
Finally, whether he is still haunted by that World Cup semi-final run out
Iíve watched that video over and over again... I still canít get over it... One man (Lance Klusener) made the decision to run while the other, thatís me, followed the ball and decided not to. Two balls had still remained... No, I didnít hear any Ďcallí. In any case, one couldnít have heard a thing in that crowd (at Edgbaston).
Iíve asked myself not once, but many times over, why didnít I run... Iíve never blamed Lance for, at that point, he thought it was the best moment to finish the match... Like Iíve said, Iím living with it. It hurts, badly... Only a South African win, in the next World Cup, will make me feel better.
Bengal, weathering early jitters and jolts, worked themselves to a position of strength in the make-or-break clash against Ranji champions Karnataka at Eden Gardens today.
Losing the services of the in-form Srikant Kalyani even before the match began, and then losing wickets at crucial times, the hosts rode three partnerships of substance to end an absorbing opening day of this Super League tie on 281 for five. With Syed Saba Karim still at the wicket with a gritty 109, Bengal have just the right platform now to post a huge total in a match that may well be reduced to a battle for the first innings lead.
Utpal Chatterjee won a good toss on a bald wicket where teams would be wary of batting fourth, but the advantage was almost frittered away as Bengal lost two early wickets. Nikhil Haldipur, of rare talent and questionable temperament, was batting at last with a great deal of concern and care ó till umpire K.A.S. Giridharan upheld a mild appeal for Ďcaught-behindí off a Dodda Ganesh delivery that left him down leg-side. The Bengal camp was clearly unhappy with the decision.
Devang Gandhi left eight runs later, snicking one to íkeeper Naidu after being beaten repeatedly by the away movement of Venkatesh Prasad.
At 38 for two, and with Prasad and Ganesh giving a fine exhibition of aggressive new-ball bowling, things looked pretty bleak for Bengal but Alokendu Lahiri and Rohan Gavaskar added 71 runs to put the innings on an even keel. Prasad, returning at the High Court end for his second spell, broke the stand with a lifting delivery that Gavaskar top-edged to the slip cordon. The southpaw had looked very good during his innings of 44. Lahiri then fell in the next over and at the same total, misreading a Sunil Joshi arm-ball, and at 109 for four the hosts were in trouble again.
A 115-run partnership for the fifth wicket, between Saba Karim and Charanjit Singh, turned the tide again. It was an irony that it took a loose shot from the latter to bring the partnership to an end. Charanjit can be proud of the role he played in the revival.
Saba brought up his 19th Ranji century in the 85th over with a boundary off Prasad. The hundred, coming in 197 minutes off 155 balls with 17 fours, was his 23rd hundred in first-class cricket and first for Bengal at the Eden Gardens.
The unfinished sixth-wicket stand between him and skipper Utpal Chatterjee has already yielded 57 runs, and Karnataka need to break it quickly tomorrow. The new ball is due, and Joshi may want to claim it first thing in the morning.
With only three strike bowlers at his disposal, Joshi marshalled his resources well. Prasad and Ganesh were brought on for short bursts, and almost always in tandem or with Joshi himself at the other end. It ensured some relentless pressure, and if the hosts hold the reins of the match at the moment, it is because of a few slips in the field and the resolve their much-vaunted batting line-up showed at last. It is not over yet, of course, and tomorrow looks to be a most defining day for the match.
ďAs Ramesh was unfit, he was asked (by the Board) what he wished to do. Ramesh said he would like to go back to Chennai,Ē remarked coach Kapil Dev, confirming Rameshís departure.
Igor Shkvirin, R.P. Singh and Basudeb Mondal made it 3-0 by the 59th minute before Hardeep Gill struck in the 75th to add some respectability to the scoreline which could have been more embarrassing for the visitors.
Bagan now have 41 points from 19 matches while JCT have 30. Churchill Brothers are second with 35 from 18 and have to play a few tough matches against Mahindras, JCT and Salgaocar. Bagan will play SBT, East Bengal and Tollygunge Agragami to complete their engagements.
With Jose Ramirez Barreto controlling the middle and R.P. Singh keeping the right flank moving, Mohun Bagan took control soon after the start and should have scored before they eventually did in the 19th minute.
Stephen Abarowei was looking dangerous after receiving a good ball from the midfield before being tripped by Ranjit Singh just inside the box. Igor converted the penalty with a cool right-footer.
This was the Uzbekís seventh goal in the meet and he now shares the second-highest scorerís spot with Rocky Barreto of Churchill Brothers and SBTís Sylvester Ignatious.
Ranjit was the one to blame for the second goal also as he failed to clear Amitava Chandaís cross from the right. R.P. picked up the ball after a few deflections and sent in a diagonal left-footer to the far post. The third goal was a gift from goalkeeper Baljit Singh who let Basudebís 25-yard volley slip through his palms.
JCT left-back Jaswant Singh exploited the crack on the right side of the Bagan defence when he went in unchallenged and sent in a cross which was neatly finished by Gill. That side of the defence looked jittery at times.
Barreto, playmaker in the first half, was pushed forward in the second and should have scored in the 74th minute when he wrongfooted two defenders inside the box. But the Brazilian sent in a low cross rather than having a go at the goal from an angle which was not too difficult.
Isiaka and Kajal are unlikely to start and coach Amal Dutta said his team will try to defend. The presence of I.M. Vijayan, obviously, is his biggest headache.
Kochin coach T.K. Chathunni said his team has no such worries and will look for a win which will take them closer to the third spot. Both teams have notched up 25 points, but the Kochi team has done it in 16 matches, while Tolly have played two more.
1.50 pm: San Marino Star 1. Berlino 2.
2.20 pm: Soviet Ace 1. Zillion Figlia 2. Simply Noble 3.
2.50 pm: Shubhangini 1. History 2. Zee Green 3.
3.30 pm: Waltzing Matilda 1. Saranyu 2. Classy Missy 3.
4.15 pm: Great Investment 1. Secret Treasure 2. Running Flame 3.
5 pm: Ancestry 1. Bonjour Tristesse 2. Ovid 3.
5.30 pm: Safarando 1. Scandalous 2. Queen Of Romance 3.
6 pm: Dancing Minstrel 1. Loyal Rebel 2. Golden Dynasty 3.
Dayís Best: San Marino Star Double: Great Investment & Ancestry
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Treble: (i) Rs 1,647; (ii) Rs 942; (iii) Rs 307.