Winning always helps. It breeds confidence, smoothening those frayed edges, building on what has been achieved.
Similarly, a vital break often serves as a catalyst for further success. Harbhajan Singh and India realised this while it was a case of lost opportunity for Australia on the second day of the deciding Test.
Harbhajan’s second seven-wicket haul in the series saw the hosts prevent the visitors from causing further damage today, and then, Shiv Sundar Das and Sadagopan Ramesh provided the perfect launch pad with a brilliant 123-run opening stand.
The turnout, despite a holiday being declared by the state government, was thin at the outset. No one had expected the Indians to dismiss the Australians’ last seven wickets in 109 minutes and 25.2 overs with the addition of only 65 runs to their overnight score.
A moment’s indiscretion by Steve Waugh led to his dismissal for handling the ball. Ricky Ponting was stumped next ball, Adam Gilchrist fell nine balls later, and as the pressure mounted, the wickets fell like nine pins. None, except for Matthew Hayden, seemed capable of arresting the slide.
“I knew it was a matter of a couple of wickets… if we could get Steve early, they would crumble. But it’s still a long way to go,” said a relaxed Sourav Ganguly after the close.
John Buchanan admitted some of his top-order batsmen had shown extreme irresponsibility in tackling the spinners.
Once Harbhajan provided the initial impetus, the batsmen grabbed the opportunity. The new ball was seen through with ease and the openers then played commandingly to post a century opening stand after nine Tests.
Ramesh had last partnered Devang Gandhi to a 162-run partnership during the second Test against New Zealand at Kanpur, 1999.
Steely resolveDas (unbeaten 84 off 185 balls, 10x4, 1x6), who was unlucky to be dismissed in the second innings in Calcutta, was determined to make amends here. The steely resolve was backed by some superb shot-selection.
The compactness intact, he was more aggressive, often employing the hook and pull to tackle the short pitched stuff Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie threw at him. He was also undaunted in the face of some hostile bowling, especially during Gillespie’s third spell.
Ramesh’s technique against quality attack has come under a lot of scrutiny from the selectors. He survived when Mark Waugh at first slip failed to cling on to his left off Shane Warne.
The lefthander (61 off 133 balls, 6x4), though, seemed least bothered as he picked the gaps with minimum footwork in front of his home crowd. At times, he eschewed his fancy strokeplay outside the off-stump and embraced a more defensive role as he picked up his first half-century of the series.
Keeping the momentumLaxman (59 off 69 balls, 10x4) once more lived up to the task. The Hyderabad batsman ensured the momentum was not lost. The run-plundering act continued as he, along with Das, added 88 runs in an unbroken second wicket stand. It left Steve Waugh searching for new ideas.
Once twin brother Mark let Laxman escape early on, the visitors knew it would prove fatal.
Steve’s double-spin attack failed to create much impact though Warne, sporting a new hair-do, bowled well.
He did not try too many things, including the bouncer, and induced Ramesh to offer a bat-pad catch to Ponting at silly point. A strong appeal for leg before against Das was, however, not upheld by Rudi Koertzen and then Laxman tore into him in style.
But it was Harbhajan’s (seven for 133) day. He has picked up 24 wickets in the series so far and this morning’s spell was a reward for his persistent line and ability to utilise the bounce in the wicket. The off-spinner has definitely been able to play havoc on the batsmen’s minds.
Sourav’s ploy of opening with Sachin Tendulkar indicated they would be treated to a diet of spin. The master batsman has always been deceptive with the ball and the Australians were not willing to take any undue risks. The pressure mounted with the twin dismissals in Harbhajan’s third over of the day.
Steve’s misfortuneSteve miscued an attempted sweep and the resultant leg before appeal was negated by umpire A.V. Jayaprakash. As the ball richocheted off the pads and bounced in front of the stumps, Steve tried to push it away with his palm in a bid to keep it from disloding the bails. The appeal from the close-in fielders was upheld this time as Steve became the sixth batsman in Test history to be dismissed handling the ball.
“It is one of those incidents which is unfortunate for any batsman,” Buchanan said.
It sent Australia into a tailspin. In the very next ball Ponting lunged too much in front in an effort to neutralise the off break and Dighe had the bails off in a flash.
Gilchrist, following a pair in Calcutta, was always tentative until Harbhajan had him failing to connect a paddle sweep. Warne recorded a record 23rd duck for Australia.
Hayden (203 off 320 balls, 15x4, 6x6) tried to wriggle out of the pressure with some adventurous shots. He managed to reach his maiden double hundred, after surviving when, eight short of the coveted mark, Harbhajan dropped a skier off Sairaj Bahutule.
Grit and application saw him through his 474 minute stay at the wicket and he was the last man out. The others never showed the perseverance to survive.
The bowlers, too, failed to do justice to his efforts.
Answering questions specific to the ICC’s role in the resumption of one-to-one cricket ties between India and Pakistan, the venerable Gray said: “The ICC shouldn’t attempt to determine foreign policy which, really, is the business of elected governments. The ICC can only try and get the message across...”
Towards that end Gray, accompanied by Board president A.C. Muthiah, will leave for New Delhi tomorrow for a “series of meetings” with “certain ministers.” It’s significant that the government’s clearance for next month’s Sharjah triangular is awaited.
Gray, of course, clarified the ICC “will not” impose sanctions (on member countries) should pre-arranged commitments be scrapped because of the policy of a particular government. This may disappoint Pakistan but, then, that’s the bottomline.
Speaking on a host of issues, at an interface with the Media, Gray confirmed moves were afoot to have ICC panel umpires at both ends from April 2002. “Yes, that’s on the anvil... We intend having an elite panel of eight (umpires) and an emerging panel of 25.”
The days of one home and one ‘neutral’ umpire, therefore, are numbered.
[Incidentally, on using technology to sit in judgement on more decisions, Gray had a non-committal “I’m on the fence” stand.]
In fact, Gray acknowledged the ICC has not paid “enough attention” to umpiring and match refereeing and that the professionalism, which has taken root in other aspects of the game, didn’t find an echo where match officials are concerned.
According to Gray, the ICC intends making umpiring a career-option, specifically to attract young cricketers who either just fall short of making the international-cut or don’t have much of a future after earning a couple of caps.
Agreeing that standards of behaviour have fallen, Gray indicated the ICC would consider a suggestion from The Telegraph to do away with suspended sentences. If there is a serious breach of the Code of Conduct, a suspension must straightaway be slapped instead of players being let off with a suspended sentence.
Clearly disappointed (Gray, by the way, had a “word” with Match Referee Cammie Smith last evening), the ICC president remarked: “Standards of behaviour in society, generally, have declined yet we’ve kept on believing cricket is a gentleman’s game... The administrators need to give enough thought to this as well.”
While on the gentleman’s game bit, Gray hoped the cricket fraternity wouldn’t treat bowlers with suspect action as “cheats”. As he put it: “If something is wrong, it should and will be rectified, but the bowlers undergoing corrective measures aren’t, by any definition, cheats. Today, in fact, we have streamlined the process.”
Fielding questions on match-fixing/match-fixing probes, Gray said it was a “pity” the Justice Edwin King Commission, in South Africa, would hold no further sittings but didn’t quite agree it was a setback for the overall investigations.
Taking a pot-shot at Hansie Cronje’s lawyers, the ICC president observed: “Sometimes, for the benefit of their clients, lawyers tend to divert from what is good and purposeful...”
While supporting the stand taken by our own board, Gray declared that the ICC’s anti-corruption unit head, Paul Condon, would submit his own “preliminary, though major, report” next month. “We may not still get to 100 per cent of the truth, but certainly 97-98 per cent,” he opined.
Signing off, the ICC president said he would be “happy” if India hosted edition No. 3 of the ICC KnockOut, in 2002. No formal decision has yet been taken, though.
Marsh, in the city for a couple of days, spoke to The Telegraph last evening. Typically, he didn’t duck and was generous in praising John Buchanan, who succeeded him as Australia’s coach in late 1999.
The following are excerpts
Q Is your current India visit only in connection with the tied Test celebrations or are you also working on your blueprint for bettering the structure of our cricket?
A Basically for the tied Test reunion... Somehow, that historic match hasn’t really been talked about too much. And, so, it was great to have a reunion here. In fact, a function has also been planned in Mumbai.
Q Have you signed a formal contract with the Board?
A Not a contract, but there’s this understanding... I’ve been given 12 months (beginning last December) to prepare a paper... The president (A.C. Muthiah) and others are keen on an outsider’s view of the structure in India. I see this as a challenge of a different kind and, when the offer was made, took it up.
Q But even Sunil Gavaskar has been critical of this Board move. Has this upset you?
A Not in the least. I’ve been given a job and I’m going to complete it. Sunny is entitled to his opinion and I’ve got no problems with that. Actually, I knew there would be some criticism, because no one initiative can keep everybody happy. All I would like to add is that the trend, internationally, is to get an outsider’s perspective. You have coaches from overseas, consultants from outside... Sign of the times, isn’t it?
Q Gavaskar and you must have interacted more than once these past few days. Was your structure-specific assignment discussed?
A (Smiles) No... If it’s okay with Sunny, I don’t mind sitting down and having a one-to-one with him.
Q When will your blueprint be ready?
A I’m returning next month, for a few weeks, and will be better placed to then answer your question... But, yes, I’ve been speaking to a lot of former India cricketers and all of them wish to help (me) out. Obviously, I won’t submit my report till I’m myself satisfied with what I’ve done. I can’t be doing something for the sake of doing it.
Q Should the Ranji Trophy, for example, have two divisions?
A I get what you mean but, honestly, it would be premature to say anything specific... Look at Australia... Such high standards have been set and achieved, but Australia still looks to improve every season. It’s this desire to get even better, for the system to be more fine-tuned.
Q Your India connection began with applying for the coach’s job. At some point in time, will you still be keen to wear that hat?
A Look, my brief now has nothing to do with the team... I’m simply into a job assigned by the Board... I did apply, but the amount of cricket India is to play in the next three years is enormous. Clearly, I couldn’t have been away from the family for so long.
Q There was talk your demands were high...
A I did put a figure in the application, anybody would, but not once were Rupees or Dollars discussed. Those reports had no basis.
Q Was it easy deciding to quit as selector (before taking up the India assignment)?
A Well, as I’ve said, a new challenge had come along and, so... Of course, I haven’t severed ties and, at the provincial level, I’m involved with coaching the Western Australia U-19s and 17s.
Q You quit as coach soon after Australia won the 1999 World Cup. Have you, at any time, regretted that?
A (Smiles again) I would be lying if I said I don’t miss the boys and the camaraderie but, then, the time had come for me to devote more hours and days to the family.
Q Do you envy your successor, John Buchanan?
A Oh, no... I knew John had it in him to take the Australian team to another level. Knew Steve (Waugh) could do so, too... John came with a very impressive CV, while Steve has become a more confident captain. A captain willing to gamble, rather than go for safer options. The boys, in any case, work very hard and each knows what he wants to achieve... We didn’t win 16 Tests in succession, when I was coach, which confirms John and Steve have indeed taken the team to another level.
Q What has made this difference?
A Hmmm. Wouldn’t really know as I’ve never discussed strategy or related things with either the captain or coach.
Q Has Australia’s present tour of India gone as you expected?
A Bottomline is grabbing opportunities which come your way. Australia did it in Mumbai; India in Calcutta...
Q Why did Australia lose the series here, three years ago?
A Four reasons: Navjyot Sidhu’s batting at the top of the order, Sachin Tendulkar’s brilliance in the middle, outstanding bowling (specially) from Jawagal Srinath and, of course, our own below-par performance. To win, you’ve yourself got to play well. That defeat made most of the players begin preparing for this tour then itself. Quickly learning lessons...
Q You, too, must be bowled over by Matthew Hayden...
A He’s been focussed, very committed and patient. That’s paid off. Actually, he deserves the success coming his way.
Q The final question: Having successfully done the job yourself, what are the qualities you would look for in an opener?
A A positive (aggressive) approach and temperament. If that’s right, the opener will enjoy himself. If he doesn’t, he ought not to be opening. Hayden, on the opening day here, epitomised everything.
The Punjab off-spinner’s seven for 133 today triggered a collapse that few expected after the awesome display by the Australian batsmen yesterday. He struck with unfailing regularity to put India back in contention in the deciding Test.
“I did not try anything much different today. It was just a matter of one wicket and I knew other things would automatically fall into place,” he said after the second day’s play.
“I didn’t get any extra help from the wicket. It is still a perfect batting strip except for the regular wear and tear after two days. There are no spots. I just stuck to an off-stump line and the wickets fell,” he remarked.
He, however, felt it would become difficult for the batsmen as the match progressed. “It will turn towards the later stages. The Aussies will face problems when said.
But what was his plan in the morning? “Our main aim was not to concede more runs. Keep the batsmen in check and things will happen. Once a couple of deliveries turned, I knew it was not going to be easy for the batsmen.”
John Buchanan also admitted that the visitors were not prepared for this sort of resistance from Harbhajan. “He has been taking a lot of wickets. There’s a lot of top spin in his deliveries and he manages to extract much bounce from the wicket.
This, coupled with his ability to get the ball away, is proving to be increasingly difficult for the batsmen to tackle.
“Most of the players haven’t really played him before. At certain times the batsmen manage to dominate him but once he gets a wicket, he attains a different level of confidence,” the Australian coach explained.
Harbhajan felt Sourav Ganguly’s move to open with Sachin Tendulkar in the morning also helped him gain confidence. “He bowled exceedingly well and provided good support. It was like you couldn’t do much wrong when the going was so good from the other end. Uske haath mein to jaadu hain,” Harbhajan said of Sachin.
He attributed his success to “all the hard work” he has been doing for the past one year. “I have been practising really hard,” he says.
Of the six wickets he picked today, Harbhajan reckons Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist’s to be the best. In fact, the offie has claimed Ponting on all four occasions he has been dismissed in this series. His rivalry with the Aussie batsman dates back to 1998 when he bad mouthed him in Sharjah and invited a one-match suspension from the Match Referee.
In fact, Ponting’s Harbhajan-induced failure may prompt the Aussies to move him up the batting order in an effort to help him regain his confidence. “We have been contemplating the move,” informed Buchanan.
Harbhajan felt the absence of Anil Kumble had made him more conscious of his responsibility. “It always meant I had to put in that extra effort. We’ve got to prove that we’re capable of delivering the goods. The confidence grew as I had to bowl more,” he said.
His inclusion in the one-day side versus Australia was agreed upon by the selectors after a lot of debate.
Some felt it would affect his natural attacking ability. But Harbhajan is not convinced. “If others can adjust to both forms of the game, I can also do it,” he said.
His immediate task, though, will be to script another memorable victory with a splendid showing when the visitors bat a second time at the Chepauk.
They have threatened top-of-the-table teams every now and then only to look ordinary against those at the bottom. As they did at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium today.
It was a disappointing match, but one that produced two good goals. The first, 26 minutes after the breather, gave Tollygunge the lead. A Sasthi Duley cross was headed by Emeka Achilefu to the goalmouth, where Abdulateef Seriki launched into an overhead volley that found its mark.
The goal came a minute after Seriki had missed a sitter.
Air India had to wait till the 88th minute for the equaliser, but when it did come, it was the result of some delightful work by Arun Malhotra.
The right-stopper controlled a ball on the right as a Tomba Singh cross from the other end was cleared by a defender. Even as he cut into the box, Malhotra slipped past Saliu Abdul Wasu and Satish Bharti and then, from top of the box, fired a left-footer that gave goalkeeper Israt Kamaal no chance as it went in grazing the far post.
It was an irony that Tollygunge should score first, for they had a torrid time in the opening session with Air India getting a clear look at goal on at least three occasions.
Khalid Jamil and veteran Godfrey Pereira were in the thick of things
Jamil spoilt a good day by picking up a red card minutes from the final whistle for arguing with the referee. For Tollygunge, it was hardly the build-up they needed for Thursday’s clash with Mohun Bagan. But, then, if Tollygunge keep to their trait, there could well be a surprise or two.
TEAMSTOLLYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Prasanta Dora; Reazul Mustafa, Debashis Pal Chowdhury, Satish Bharti, Biswanath Mondal (Sumit Sur, 56th); Bhabani Mohanty (Ranjan Chowdhury 32nd, Tenzing Kibang 90th), Saliu Abdul Wasu, Aboyemi Felix, Sasthi Duley; Emeka Achilefu, Abdulateef Seriki
AIR INDIA: Israt Kamaal; T. Khambiton Singh, Arun Malhotra, Tapash Ghosh (Henry Picardo, 84th), Dennis George; Raju Singh, Bungo Singh, Tomba Singh; Kahlid Jamal, Godfrey Pereira (P.J. Jose, 78th), Anthony Fernandes (Sabir Ali Mondal, 79th).
Referee: M. Balu
Eastern Railway and FCI finished with a 1-1 draw.
In group B, BSF, North Bengal crushed Baranagaore SC 5-0, while West Bengal Police beat Police AC 2-0.
Seeds fallMen’s second seed Ramnath Roy and fourth seed Amit Wadwani were among the first-day casualties at the grasscourt tennis tournament organised by the Central Excise Athletic Club today. Top seed Abhishek Jagnani sailed into the quarter finals.
Millennium Cup golfThe team of Kapil Sood and Joydeep Mukherjee lifted the Millennium Cup at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club on Saturday.
Nathan Bracken is expected to arrive here tomorrow while Andrew Symonds will have to undergo a fitness test before his availability is confirmed.
Symonds injured his right shoulder while playing in the domestic circuit recently.
The players who will return home after the Test series are Michael Slater, Justin Langer, Colin Miller, Michael Kasprowicz and Matthew Hayden.
Praise for LaxmanBevan lauded the “superb” performance of V.V.S. Laxman in the second Test in Calcutta, adds PTI from Mumbai.
“No other team in the world could have stopped him in the second Test which the Indians won,” Bevan said of Laxman.
However, he said it was a very disappointing performance by Australia which left a bad feeling in the mouth.
“Full credit should be given to the Indians for coming back and winning the Test. There is no doubt that the Indians are mentally strong after the win but the Aussies know how to come back from difficult situations.”