The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Batting will hold key for Indians Down Under
- I will miss the boys as well as the joy and misery, hope and anguish

You can never chase 348 in a day-night game with real conviction. It has not happened in one-day cricket and it is unlikely to happen even more if it is against a team as good as Australia.

That India backed themselves and were even better than Australia till the 35th over stage deserves mention. Even the Australians were tense, as their body language suggested, and it should act as a spur for the Indians who would shortly go to cricket’s toughest frontier — a tour Down Under.

It can be seen the Australians have a healthy regard for Indian batsmen. Matthew Hayden was almost inconsolable when he dropped Virender Sehwag. Damien Martyn too risked his hand by trying to make a catch out of a ferocious Sehwag square cut.

Though the Australians have set high standards for themselves, they were taking no chances even after putting 347 runs on the board. India should take heart from this. India’s batting will hold key to the team’s performance in Australia.

There were quite a few things about the Indian batting which suggested it is beginning to shape up to its potential. Sehwag put on over hundred runs for the first wicket with the one and only Sachin Tendulkar.

It was not a typical Sehwag innings but it showed the Delhi batsman is determined to stamp his authority at the crease.

Tendulkar batted as only he can. The Little Master doesn’t try anything outrageous and yet gets his runs at a run-a-ball clip. His paddle glides and sweeps against medium-pacers and spinners can take one’s breath away.

He almost never misses, which is a tribute to his judgement, footwork and balance.

Sourav Ganguly too appears to have recovered from his unfortunate injury and subsequent surgeries. One cannot expect miracles from a man coming back to international cricket after a long gap but he did not look rusty at all.

Dravid too shaped up well in his little innings before the lower half succumbed to the pressure of climbing run-rate.

Australia, on their part, fielded their full-strength team, except for Nathan Bracken. They experimented in Guwahati but here they did not want to give the Indians a chance.

Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden were restored at the top as the Australians sought to extract maximum psychological advantage. Gilchrist was magnificent. When he bats like this, it appears every delivery would disappear into the pickets. He just tears into the opposition .

Ashish Nehra went for too many runs but I thought he was competitive and aggressive which is the way to go about against these Australians.

Zaheer was good for a while and so was Anil Kumble but India always missed Harbhajan, even though Murali Kartik needs to be patted for his wonderful spell. He was the only one to bowl maidens for India — as Kumble was the only one to pick up a wicket.

Personally, it was strange to be at the ground and still not be in the thick of action. I am no longer a part of Indian dressing room where I spent 13 long years and enjoyed every moment of it.

I will miss the boys as well as the joy and misery, hope and anguish, elation and disappointment which is part of a cricketer’s life.

Unlike most other entertainers, we perform in a real-time event where one is under the public scanner and value judgements are passed instantly.

I can tell you from my experience that playing international cricket is like a pressure-cooker situation. But I enjoyed playing the game I love and wore the badge of the nation on my chest with honour and pride.

It is also time to thank all of you who stood by me in triumph and disaster.

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