Mark Taylor didn’t make Australia’s Team of the Century, but his fan club remains intact. In fact, the ‘membership’ seems t\o be growing. Clearly, his achievements as an opener and captain will be talked about for long.
This afternoon, though, Taylor himself did some talking when he agreed to a request from The Telegraph to list his favourites. Among other things, Taylor also spoke of the qualities an opener should have.
Following are excerpts
On the qualities an opener must have
A reasonably sound technique, which should cover footwork and knowing exactly where the off stump is. That’s the top quality. A close second is patience.
On the openers he admired
(Laughs) More than just openers, I admired all left-handers... Going back in time, it would be Arthur Morris... Then, Rod Marsh and Kepler Wessels.
On the present-day specialist openers he rates highly (alphabetically)
SAEED ANWAR: Relies more on his eyes, great balance and a superb timer... His footwork may not be ideal, but he delivers. Sadly, crowds in Australia haven’t seen the best of him this time around.
MICHAEL SLATER: Great to watch and very difficult to bowl to as he plays unorthodox shots. He’s learnt to be more patient, which is a plus. Earlier, Slater only knew to attack. Today, he is willing to work his way through a hard period and, then, go for runs.
On the non-openers he rates highly
SACHIN TENDULKAR: On his day, Sachin can do anything. I was Australia’s captain in the 1997-98 series, in India, when he smashed us. I could just watch... Of course, he’s only done reasonably well on this trip. That Sachin hasn’t consistently been aggressive has made a difference.
MARK WAUGH: A beautiful timer, quite like Anwar. Again, like Anwar, doesn’t move his feet too much but is a pleasure to watch. Through the off-side and off the pads, he is very elegant. At the moment, Mark’s not in the best form of his career, but his class is evident.
On the batsman who, in years to come, will make the biggest headlines
RICKY PONTING: This season, specially, he’s got both ducks and hundreds but is the one to watch out for... Ricky keeps improving with each series... He reminds me of the classical batsmen — moves his feet well, can get on the front foot and back and isn’t shy of hooking and pulling. Ricky’s batting may not be as beautiful to watch as Mark’s, but he is an absolute technician.
On how batsmen should overcome phases when nothing seems to go right
(Smiles) The usual reaction is to begin looking for the perfect innings, but that may not come about... Confidence is about making runs, not so much how you make them... Really, instead of getting every thing off the middle of the bat, the inside-edges could get you runs. So, build on that.
Finally, his message to youngsters aspiring to be batsmen
First enjoy batting and, then, get ambitious. If the enjoyment isn’t there, you will never get better. When I was young, most of my mates would head for the beach on Saturdays and Sundays, but I headed for the cricket field. I enjoyed it and it’s that enjoyment which, in an appreciable way, took me to where I reached.
The best-of-three finals, in Melbourne and Sydney, will feature world champions Australia and Pakistan. Frankly, with one win in seven games, the Indians don’t deserve to be there.
Of course, the Indians played a big hand in their own ouster: Too many runs conceded, too few scored. At the WACA, though, no two factors were more significant than Taufel’s shocking verdict which ended Sachin Tendulkar’s stay, and Akram’s exceptional spell (7-4-10-3).
Perhaps today was one more day when little was to go right here, while just about everything would click in Colombo, where the colts did India proud.
Sachin lost the toss and, thereby, a big chance to wrest the initiative from ball No.1 itself. Then, chasing a huge 262 to retain some hopes of making the title-round, India began poorly (losing Sourav Ganguly to a very ordinary shot) and were then done in by Taufel.
Incidentally, right through this tour, Sachin has been at the receiving end of Australian umpires. “Thankfully, there haven’t been so many bad decisions in any other series,” was Sachin’s response to a blunt query at the Media conference.
Sachin had been in terrific touch, lashing 17 (with four boundaries) in only 14 deliveries, when one from Waqar Younis came back off the seam, brushed his thigh pad and landed in Moin Khan’s gloves. Much to everyone’s dismay, save the Pakistanis, Taufel upheld the appeal.
“What was I given out? I still don’t know, though the caption on the TV said I was caught behind... Yes, I was very disappointed but, at the same time, (umpiring) mistakes can be made and we have to accept them,” Sachin remarked.
The Indian captain added: “I had been batting very well, timing the ball as I like doing instead of hitting hard... A big innings was due and I had psyched myself towards one. But...”
Akram, who authored a most decisive innings with the bat as well, had a different view. Not surprising, and this is what he said: “Where we are concerned, Sachin got a big touch... At least I did hear something... Indeed, young Taufel is one of the best umpires.”
Now, we need to take that with more than a pinch of salt. In fact, that last bit was just a neatly executed PR exercise.
With both Sourav and Sachin out, in just four overs, the match was as good as over then itself. Only Robin Singh (51 in 106 balls, 2x4) and gritty Jacob Martin (39 off 72 deliveries, 4x4) resisted, adding 86 for the sixth-wicket (24.2 overs).
Otherwise, it was one sorry story, though V.V.S. Laxman may feel aggrieved at being adjudged leg-before.
Rahul Dravid, Samir Dighe... All got out to awful shots, while Ajit Agarkar collected one more duck — he had five in the Test series.
So stunning was the Indian collapse (five for 33 in the 13th over), one feared dubious history could actually be written at the WACA. After all, being bundled out for less than 63, the previous lowest in ODIs (against Australia at the SCG, in 1980-81), had become a distinct possibility.
And, believe it or not, all the early damage was caused by Akram and Younis without Shoaib Akhtar getting even one over. It’s only later, that Shoaib was introduced.
Pakistan, mind you, had the confidence to take the field without frontliners like Abdul Razzaq and Saqlain Mushtaq.
Younis, who played because the thinktank chose to rest Razzaq (“His right thigh muscle is tight and, with the finals coming up, we didn’t want him to pull it and thus become unavailable,” explained Akram), got the ‘big two’, while Akram the next three.
From 1984-85 till now has been one long journey and, over the years, Akram has earned many labels. Surprisingly, nobody ever crowned him the Sultan of Swing. This evening, he gave one more reminder that the label will be well-deserved.
“Well it was about time I bowled well,” Akram quipped, agreeing he couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate occasion. The manner in which he got Dravid, specially, was superb: Getting one to swing in and, following it with an away-swinger. Dravid was helpless.
The Indian fiasco, which has taken the competitive edge off Sunday’s game versus Australia, wasn’t limited to being pathetic on the field. That Martin, originally slotted at No.4, was sent back by the umpires, and returned after the fall of wicket No.5, is a big pointer to dismal off-the-field planning.
Indian cricket cut a terribly sorry picture as the only impression that quickly gained ground was the Indians weren’t aware of the laws/playing conditions.
Martin had come off, in the afternoon, after twisting his left knee. And, according to the existing provisions, could only have batted after sitting out that same time during the Indian innings. Or, after five wickets had fallen.
The umpires could have made an exception if the injury was “external,” but Darrell Hair and Taufel ruled it was “internal.” In any case, the Indians ought to have checked with the umpires during the break. Pakistan, on the other hand, did.
“We took a chance... If the umpires didn’t agree, the other batsman would have gone,” reasoned coach Kapil Dev, but he was far from convincing.
Intriguingly, when Martin first walked to the middle, he did so without a runner. It’s only later, when he made the second walk to the centre, that he was accompanied by Dighe.
Earlier, Pakistan had looked like touching 300 or thereabouts, but Sourav’s spell — all ten overs at one go — forced brakes in the middle overs. After the Agarkar disaster, it allowed Sachin some breathing space.
Agarkar, returning to the XI after missing four matches, perhaps got carried away by the captain labelling him a “great bowler,” at the toss, and was carted all over the place. His first spell, mercifully of just two overs, alone cost 25.
It’s the opening stand (77 in 13.2 overs) between Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi which raised hopes of getting to about 300. Of the two, Anwar was the one firing on all cylinders. But, for the third time in the tournament, he fell in the 40s.
By then, of course, Pakistan were well on their way, thanks also to some outrageous Afridi shots — a top-edge off Agarkar, for instance, crashed into the back sightscreen for six!
Anwar’s 44 came in 52 deliveries with six boundaries. The in-form Ijaz Ahmed was the next to go, run out by a Venkatesh Prasad throw. Ijaz clearly felt the benefit of doubt ought to have gone his way, but third umpire Tony Prue thought otherwise.
Afridi and Inzamam-ul-Haq, struggling to regain form, were around for sometime before Afridi became the first Sourav victim. Afridi fell characteristically, taking the aerial route, but only after