| Srinath feels Zaheer or Kumble should have been Man of the Match
Indian bowlers did a star turn under lights in Gwalior on Sunday. Magnificent as Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman were, not to forget the little cameos of Yuvraj Singh and Ajit Agarkar, it needed an allround effort from the team to nail the world champions. Bowlers complemented the batsmen and thatís how it should be.
The Indian bowlers operated with clinical precision. Once pace spearhead Zaheer Khan got through the defence of the dreaded Adam Gilchrist, the Australians steadily slipped downhill. The Australian openers till then had put on 132 runs and appeared to be running away with the match. Zaheer recovered brilliantly after his first spell and the wickets of Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds tilted the balance in favour of the Indians.
My Man of the Match would be either Zaheer or Anil Kumble who bowled exceptionally well under pressure. Mind you, when the ball is wet because of the dew, it is not easy to grip it. Rubbing the ball with so many doesnít always help. Even changing ball in the latter stages of the game wouldnít have made much difference, since the outfield was soaking wet.
To be fair, it didnít help batsmen either, as the wicket was at its best in the first half and the heavy outfield didnít let the ball travel as freely as it did when India batted. Quite a few shots cleared the fielders but still stopped short of the boundary because of the heavy outfield.
Both Kumble and Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) bowled fantastic lines and brought the pressure back on the Australians. Kumble varied his bowling with great control. Bhajji too was outstanding and was unlucky not to have picked up a few more wickets.
Indians did slip in the field initially but once Hayden was stumped, everything fell in place. Hayden is coming fresh from his world record and there must have been quite a few in the packed stands, and millions in front of TV, to see the powerfully-built Australian at work. He batted for long but his final runs were not too big to matter.
The Australian skipper Ricky Ponting will clearly have to come to terms with the Indian spinners and the manner of his dismissal showed he is still vulnerable in these conditions. The wickets of Hayden and Ponting checked the scoring rate and the run-rate began to climb with each passing over. It was the right time for Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar to join the party. Sehwag dismissed Michael Bevan and Damien Martyn in one over and it broke the back of Aussie resistance.
It was only expected that Tendulkar would hit his straps sooner than later. Itís been a long time coming. He couldnít have timed it better than with a century against the worldís best team. The array of shots played all around the wicket is an indication thereís a lot more coming from his barrel in this tournament.
His hunger for runs hasnít diminished a wee bit. This is the mark of a champion which we all know he is. As for Laxman, his elegant hundred leaves the Hyderabadi unconquered in the season so far. He is putting a premium on his wicket and the good work done in the Test series is being continued in the one-dayers. Success couldnít have come to a nicer guy.
The two rotated the strike very well and were responsibly aggressive which set a good platform for Yuvraj. The southpaw was brutal in his onslaught and very few international teams have been able to do anything when Yuvraj is hitting as cleanly and powerfully as he did yesterday. He is a match-winner and on this day is comparable to the best in business.
Consistency is the only thing what the team would be expecting from him. His lusty hitting along with his fielding prowess makes him a vital cog in the Indian wheel. The Indian batting blazed away despite losing Sehwag in the first over.
Stand-in captain Rahul Dravid, right from tossing the coin to his advantage, did everything to maintain the pressure on the Australians. He was astute, not only in making the right changes in bowling, but also in promoting Yuvraj and Agarkar higher than others in the batting order. He also handled Kumble and Bhajji extremely well and both of them stood up to the test.
Itís been a good start for the Indians in the triangular series after the abandoned game in Chennai and yesterdayís match in Gwalior shows the Indians want to bat aggressively in the first 15 overs.
It makes sense because one-day matches in India generally produce high scores and they are better achieved when the openers set the pace.
The bowlers really have to mix it up. Also as the two teams used seven of their men to turn their arms over, it is evident more than five bowlers would be required to go through the quota of 50 overs.