Sourav Ganguly had reasons to be phlegmatic at close on the third day. He was not willing to forecast on the outcome of the deciding Test.
A few spots on both ends of the wicket, coupled with a late-order collapse that restricted India’s lead to only 89 has made him apprehensive.
Playing trickier by the day, the wicket may not be easy for survival when batting last.
The India skipper had hoped for a handsome lead once Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid added 169 for the fifth wicket. But the fall of five wickets within 24 runs in the last session has forced him to do some rethinking. The relief on Steve Waugh’s face was palpable.
Steve has always maintained in the lead-up to the series that it is pace and not spin that would unnerve India. The Australians played to their strength in the first two Tests but their decision to pick two spinners and rest Michael Kasprowicz here could always have backfired.
On a day when Sachin and Dravid ran amok, with the master blaster reaching his 25th Test hundred, Steve was forced to fall back not only on the two regular quicks — Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie — but even the gentle medium pace of Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, and at times, Colin Miller. He had held Shane Warne back till lunch in an effort to protect the leggie from getting mauled, but found the ammunition inadequate to tackle Sachin.
Kasprowicz’s absence meant that Steve wasn’t able to keep the pressure on both ends with short spells for each of his bowlers. The variation also remained affected until Jason Gillespie removed both Dravid and Sachin in a superb final spell. It was only after Gillespie had done the prime job that the spinners grabbed three wickets.
Sachin’s 126 (230 balls, 15x4, 12x6), coming after his twin failures in Calcutta, was another show of his superb strokeplay and sense of timing. When Sachin is on song, there is very little one can do to stop him and the Aussies were left ruing their luck as he launched into top gear after lunch.
The first-ball dismissal of Shiv Sundar Das this morning and Vangipurappu Laxman five overs later had pushed Sachin and India into a shell in the first session but thereafter he paced his innings brilliantly. He made it look easy. His bat seemed wider than anyone else’s and made of better grain of wood.
There were very few errors in judgement and, the only blemish came on 82 when Michael Slater let go a miscued shot between his palms at deep mid wicket off Miller.
To begin with, there were the nudges and pushes. Repeatedly Sachin played defensive strokes at apparently well pitched deliveries, and it came as some surprise to the Australians to see the ball race away to the boundary. The sensational drives followed in the arc between point and mid off. To cap it off, he reached his century — his fourth in five Tests at the Chepauk — with a huge six off Miller.
The spinners were the worst sufferers. His battle with Warne renewed, the leg spinner soon adopted a negative line and was forced to go round the wicket in a bid to curtail him. But there was no stopping Sachin today as he repeatedly paddle swept him past a fielder at short fine leg. And when Warne bounced one at him in desperation, Sachin treated him to a delicate cut over slip for a boundary.
It was not that Dravid (84 off 140 balls, 12x4, 1x6) was a mute spectator to these delectable array of strokes. His confidence boosted by that superb 180 in the second Test, he never let go an opportunity to embark on the offensive. The tentative nature and sluggishness has given way to a new positive attitude. He was never afraid to go over the top and it included a straight six off Gillespie.
Till he held his bat out to an outswinger, much in the same manner as Sourav, it had seemed he was destined for his tenth hundred. Sachin departed a little later, a momentary lapse in concentration leading him to bottom edge the intended cut to Adam Gilchrist’s gloves.
Gillespie bowled with fire and passion during this seven-over spell. Egged on by a vociferous band of Australian supporters just above the sight screen, he was getting the ball to bounce and whiz past the batsmen on a few occasions.
The Aussies, however, just wilted under pressure for most of the day. The fielding showed signs of disintegration as a couple of chances went astray. Even the normally dependable Gilchrist gave away 19 byes during the innings.
He brought the crowd to its feet with an innings of 126 as measured as it was worth watching.
However, the late-order collapse restricted India’s lead to only 89 at close on the third day.
“I thought we were in a good position when I departed (468 for six). The sudden fall of wickets was unforeseen then. We’ve got to try and make the most of all the runs we can accumulate tomorrow,” said Sachin.
“This wicket always had good bounce. There are already a few spots and we can’t afford to forget that we’ve got to bat last on this wicket. It’s definitely going to turn. Both Rahul (Dravid) and I got out at the wrong time. It was an important stage of the game. It was just a sudden lapse of concentration on my part. There can be no excuses,” he confessed.
Employing the paddle sweep to blunt Shane Warne’s consistent leg stump line today came in very handy for him. Dravid, though, didn’t try to resort to such tactics.
“It’s Sachin’s way of tackling Warne. Only he can do it. To deliveries pitching outside the leg stump I just might end up kicking around,” said Dravid.
Sachin, though, finds that nothing extraordinary. “I don’t know why I did it or if going for the shot was much difficult. I play by instinct and it was no different when going for the paddle sweep,” he explained.
It was also fascinating for Dravid to have partnered Sachin in the 169-run stand for the fifth wicket.
“It’s always great to bat with Sachin. He’ll help you when you run into difficulties against a particular bowler,” said Dravid.
Did Vangipurappu Laxman’s epic innings in Calcutta make it somewhat easier for him today?
“I never really thought of what other guys have done. I have always tried to live upto expectations — what the team needs from me. The others are also definitely good players and are equally ca-pable to the task,” Sachin remarked.
He doesn’t feel the Australian bowlers bowled badly. “Sometimes even if you are trying hard, things just doesn’t fall into place.”
Did Glenn McGrath have something to say after being at the receiving end?
“I didn’t look at him. I kept looking at the sight screen,” he quipped.
Doesn’t the 25th hundred mean something special to him? “Every century is special. It’s nice to know that I have 25 centuries in Tests.”
Sachin himself acknowledged he has had “better knocks.” Still, in time, he should look back with special feelings as he has joined a most exclusive club — where membership is restricted to those with a minimum of 25 Test hundreds.
Incidentally, Sachin dedicated his 126 to elder brother Ajit and his rather emotional response on getting there was for the mentor-brother’s benefit. “It’s for him... I think he was much more tense than I was,” Sachin quipped.
Asked whether he was intent on getting a hundred as he managed just 20 runs in the last Test, Sachin replied: “I’m always looking to contribute... It’s just that sometimes you don’t get what you desire... The question to be asked is: Did I give that hundred per cent?” Well, that no one ever doubts.
Sachin recently spoke to The Telegraph, answering questions specific to batting. In effect, he provided an exclusive insight.
Following are excerpts
On the qualities that go into the making of a top-bracket batsman
A combination, really... Dedication. The ability to concentrate, to come forth with application of the highest order. Talent too. Sheer hard work can, perhaps, turn mediocre players into good ones. But they’ll probably not be great players.
On whether he agrees that a bit of nervousness is required to get the best out of a batsman
On how he himself overcomes nervousness
Quickly. The moment you’re actually out in the middle, you’re no longer nervous. The time-span (of nervousness), therefore, is small. Brief it may be, but I suppose every batsman has that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. However, once you take guard, it’s a different ball-game. You know you’ve got to concentrate. So, in the mind, gears quickly change.
On whether he is eager to get off the mark on the first delivery itself
I’m not anxious. I’m happy just being out in the middle. (Adds smiling) Indeed, I do treat balls on merit.
On his match-preparations
I usually visualise a few things — the wicket, the line of attack, the field that could be set... Mentally, I’m on the ball well before the game.
On the mental aspect
At the highest level, it’s largely a mental game. Your technique may not improve overnight, but you can surely toughen yourself mentally. That will make a difference.
On whether he relaxes on seeing a featherbed
Can’t say I’m ever relaxed. I’m always under some pressure... In fact, that slight pressure keeps me alert.
On whether he analyses specific bowlers
Because we play so much, one knows the strengths and weaknesses of most. Of course, it does take a little time to analyse newcomers. At times, this could get hard.
On whether it’s difficult motivating himself against the lesser teams on the circuit
Not a lack of motivation, but there could be times when the feet don’t move well or you simply don’t middle the ball as you’re accustomed to doing. Basically, you don’t seem comfortable. That’s when you’ve got to spend more time at nets.
On his preparation for the on-going Australia series
Not anything very different but, when you’re up against such a strong opposition, you’ve got to know exactly what you’re doing in the middle... For instance, you must know where your off-stump is...
On his first-innings 76 in the Mumbai Test
I wouldn’t like to compare it with any other innings for, honestly, it’s not my job to compare and give ratings. Having said that, yes, I did bat well... The balance, for example, was right and I was focussed. I felt good.
On the importance of nets
As temperament is very important, you’ve got to think that you’re playing a match. That, in effect, means not getting out to anybody. Well, at least trying not to get out.
Personally speaking, I try to develop more shots (at nets). If I can add to my repertoire, that will make it more difficult for bowlers... Will surely add to their pressure.
If they’re devising ways to get me out, I’ve got to keep working on how not to lose my wicket.
On whether he’s ever felt sorry for any bowler
On whether one-day cricket is producing mediocre players
I wouldn’t agree. In any case, just look at the influence of the one-day game: The fielding has improved, batsmen play more shots and, most important, drawn Tests have almost become rare.
On whether he would like to be remembered as a Test batsman or a one-day batsman
On Barry Richards’ observation that he sees the ball a fraction of a second quicker than the others
On another (more recent) Richards observation that he is more a champion bat in the sub-continent only
Did it upset me? No... Barry Richards is entitled to his opinion and has aired that... I wouldn’t like to say anything, wouldn’t like to engage in a debate.
On whether he sees himself as an entertainer also, with an obligation towards the paying public
I appreciate the way fans support cricket and cricketers. I also value their good wishes and prayers but, to be honest, I don’t think of crowds and fans when I’m out there (in the middle)... It would be a distraction if I’m to think about them. My mind has to be on the game, not on what’s happening around me.
On whether he is superstitious
(Grins) Only to the extent of always putting on my left pad first.
On his five favourite batsmen
Viv Richards, for aggression; Sunil Gavaskar — technique and temperament; David Gower, for simply great batting; Gundappa Vishwanath — immortal style and Greg Chappell, for perfect balance and all-round play.
Finally, if he would pay to watch any contemporary player
(Reluctantly) Look, I have no favourites and respect all cricketers... But if you insist, I’ll pick Steve Waugh, Brian Lara and Jonty Rhodes.
Extremely gutsy, Waugh is always there when Australia need him... Lara, of course, has loads of talent. As for Jonty, I would pay to watch him field. (Adds laughing) Wish I could field like him.
While Australia’s Malcolm Gray is the current president, the next chief executive will be the present Australian Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive, Malcolm Speed. Speed will succeed David Richards (also from Australia), who put in his papers last October.
Richards, the ICC’s first chief executive, was appointed in 1993.
“Yes, I’m very sensitive to the issue (of having an Australian chief executive), but the Executive Board decided that only the most deserving candidate be appointed — irrespective of nationality,” observed Gray, while making the announcement this afternoon.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, Speed “edged out” three contenders, shortlisted from a preliminary list of around 150 candidates. One of the three is an Indian, based in the UK and holding a top position in a multinational. The other two were Englishmen, again from outside the cricket fraternity.
Gray, of course, erred (while announcing Speed’s appointment) when he said “five candidates” were shortlisted for interviews by an exclusive five-member panel. The shortlist, in fact, featured four. Sources, however, declined to identify the three who tripped at the final hurdle.
As one source put it: “We are bound, by a confidentiality clause, not to reveal their names. After all, that could embarrass them vis-à-vis their current employers. What can be said is that Speed was the only one (in the shortlist) with a cricket background.”
Though the Indian gentleman will surely be disappointed, he may take some ‘comfort’ from the fact that a Pakistani candidate (a banker by profession) didn’t even get past the preliminary list.
While it’s unusual that only Australians hold the most significant positions at the ICC, it is learnt Speed’s selection was “absolutely unanimous.” The interview-panel comprised Gray, England’s Lord Ian MacLaurin, Ehsan Mani of Pakistan, Zimbabwe’s Peter Chingoka and Reve Van Ierschot of Holland. The shortlisting was handled by Russell Reynolds Associates.
Speed, a barrister who has also been connected with basketball in Australia, is scheduled to assume office in July. He has been with the ACB for four years.
According to Gray, a priority for the new chief executive will be to finalise the location of the ICC’s commercial office (for tax purposes, it has to be outside the UK), probably either in Switzerland or Monaco.
The ICC, though, will remain headquartered at Lord’s.
In a group B match, Jagrihi thrashed Belgachia United 5-0 at the East Bengal ground.
Grasscourt tennisManoj Sewa moved into the quarter finals of the Central Excise AC-organised Open grasscourt tennis meet at the High Court Club today. He saw off Ajay Singh 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
In the women’s section, Tanya Ahuja, Soma Banerjee, Ragini Vimal and Arpita Ghosh reached the quarter finals.
The top three — Ridhina Parekh, Priyanka Parekh and Karina Ahuja — are seeded into the round of eight.
BRIEF SCORES: Barisha 246/7 (44 ovs) (Shome Kapoor 69 n.o). Eastern Railway 248/7 (43.1 ovs) (Asif Murtaza 74 n.o., Souvik Mukherjee 58, Sanjoy Bhattacharya 51; Soumen Karmakar 3/56). Eastern Railway won by 3 wkts.
Kalighat made 236 in a CAB league championship play-off tie against Tollygunge today. Tollygunge were 45 for three.
BRIEF SCORES: Kalighat 236 (54.1 ovs) (Sounak Das 51, Humza Ferozie 50, Charanjit Singh 41; Mainak Sengupta 4/45). Tollygunge 45/3 (25 ovs).
Race card and selections1. Dalkeith Handicap 1,600m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 1.10 pm: Consul’s Secret 60.5 M. Reuben 1; Supreme Desire 60.5 Upadhya 4; Nearco Prince 57.5 Rabani 3; Armila 56.5 Engineer 2; Ghunghat 50 Nasruddin 5
Supreme Desire 1. Consul’s Secret 2.Nearco Prince 3.
2. Dashmesh And Hargobind Stud Grand Annual Handicap 1,600m (3-y-o only) 1.40 pm: Accrete 60 C. Alford 1; Aherlow 58 Amil 4; Regency Times 55 A. Imran K. 2; Alamito 52 Rabani 5; Arterial 50 Shanker 3.
Accrete 1. Alamito 2. Aherlow 3.
3. Cradle Of The Deep Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV; 5-y-o & over Rt. 22-50) 2.20 pm: Kargil Soldier 60.5 Gowli 3; Constantine 60 Smith 6; Storm Centre 56 Upadhya 1; Aflicker 54 Islam 2; Gentle Priest 53.5 P. Kumar 8; Rheinheart 52 Shanker 4; Pure Passion 51.5 Rutherford 9; All Jade 50.5 Yasin 7; Glass Slipper 50.5 M. Reuben 5; Friendly Knight 49.5 Som S. 10; Stella Blue 48 Yacoob 11.
Glass Slipper 1. Aflicker 2. Storm Centre 3.
4. Deep Water Blues Handicap, Div-I 1,400m: (Cl III; Rt. 44-72) 2.55 pm: Classic Pursuit 60 Islam 1; Solo Act 59 Amjad K. 4; Azurica 58 M. Reuben 9; Santillana 57.5 B. Gurang 3; Mr. Bombshell 56 A. Imran K. 6; Alkido 55.5 C. Alford 2; Red Trident 54 Rutherford 7; Beau Bruno 53.5 Saran S. 10; Ballet Master 51.5 Som S. 8; Spanish Drum’s 51 P. Kumar 5.
Alkido 1. Mr. Bombshell 2. Classic Pursuit 3.
5. Idle Rocks Handicap 1,200m (Cl V, Rt. 18 & below) 3.30 pm: Neelanjana 60 Amjad K. 2; Adeline 59 C. Alford 8; Piece Of Cake 58 P. Kumar 5; Pistol Star 56 Shanker 10; Private Lives 55.5 Surender S. 7; Fencai 52 M. Reuben 9; Three Good 52 Islam 1; Magic Ring 51.5 Yasin 3; Arizona Star 49.5 Saran S. 4; Fibonacci 47 Amil 6.
Adeline 1. Fencai 2.Three Good 3.
6. Bookmakers’ Association Cup 1,400m (Cl IV; Rt. 22-50) 4.05 pm: As A Rule 60 M. Reuben 10; Black Mane 60 Amjad K. 1; Citadel 59.5 Islam 5; Bold Apparel 58.5 A. Imran K. 4; Diplomatic Gesture 58.5 Shanker 9; Alterezza 58 C. Alford 8; Madame X 56 Gowli 6; Aileron 55.5 Rabani 3; Pneumatic Power 54.5 B. Gurang 1; Tequila Shot 53.5 Yasin 14; Ballard Lady 52 Saran S. 13; Blessed Spirit 52 Tamang 7; Special Sovereign 52 P. Kumar 2; Eau Savage 51.5 Haroon K. 12; Software 48 Amil 11.
Madame X 1. As A Rule 2. Alterezza 3.
7. Deep Water Blues Handicap, Div-II 1,400m (Cl III; Rt. 44-72) 4.40 pm: Ace Of Spades 60 B. Gurang 2; Charlene 59.5 Rabani 7; Double Bull 59 Tamang 8; High Life 57 M. Reuben 3; Cool Quest 56.5 Gowli 4; Crucible 56 C. Alford 1; Queen’s Logic 55.5 Shanker 9; Alborada 53 A. Imran K. 6; Peace Envoy 52 Som S. 5.
Crucible 1. Cool Quest 2. Double Bull 3.
Day’s Best: Supreme Desire.