| Damien Martyn cuts during his knock of 100 in Mumbai on Saturday.
Mumbai, Nov. 1:The other day, stand-in Team India captain Rahul Dravid acknowledged that while not ’keeping gave some relief physically, slipping into Sourav Ganguly’s shoes made big demands on the mind.
Perhaps, he was worrying too much when he reverse-swept part-timer Michael Clarke into the welcoming hands of Andy Bichel. That was in the 35th over and, at 172 for five, the TVS Cup game here was effectively over. Not that it would ever have been easy to get past the world champions’ 286 for eight on a wicket where the ball stopped and turned.
The Indian challenge — or, the lack of it — ended in the 47th over. Worse, as the hosts didn’t get to 228, even a bonus point was conceded. So, instead of consolidating on an admittedly terrific victory in Gwalior, India must scramble back to the drawing board.
It can’t be a pleasant session, not after conceding many and scoring few.
Actually, just about everybody expected Ricky Ponting and Co. to hit back hard. They did, but nobody anticipated such a limp performance from India. Now, Dravid will have to review his decision of not wearing the big gloves. Going by today’s show, a seventh batsman is definitely needed.
“We should have bowled better but, having said that, Australia were positive throughout — even when they lost wickets — and set it up beautifully at the end... We got beaten by a team which played better cricket,” Dravid remarked.
Ponting, who won the toss, attributed the big win to an effort, which was collective: “The turn did surprise us and I knew our total was a good one... I’m pleased that Clarke made the most of this opportunity... His performance reflects the character of our side.”
The Indian response got off disastrously, with Virender Sehwag adjudged leg-before on the opening delivery. Then, even as Sachin Tendulkar struggled, V.V.S.Laxman gave hope. Sadly, an expansive drive off Bichel proved his (and the hosts’) undoing.
Sachin had begun to get his act right, after mis-timing numerous hits, but the pressure eventually got to him as well: He perished trying to (unnecessarily) cut Clarke, chosen ahead of Ian Harvey to give Australia another slow bowling option.
In days to come, this selection will be regarded as among the most inspired for quite some time.
Yuvraj Singh followed Sachin (68 in 76 balls, 10x4) and, then, Dravid left for 59 (70 deliveries, 8x4). Mohammed Kaif and the rest couldn’t do much either and while Clarke will drown himself in beer, quick Nathan Bracken will raise a toast to himself. With four for 29, he showed he has it in him to press for a berth even when the stars are available.
Earlier, Australia’s innings was built around MoM Damien Martyn who, it may be recalled, composed a superb unbeaten 88 in the last World Cup final. In fact, with the Adam Gilchrist-Matthew Hayden opening firm and Ponting himself — not to speak of Michael Bevan — cornering the limelight, Martyn rarely gets noticed. Yet, he has a handsome 40-plus average.
It’s understandable, then, if Martyn chose Saturday to send a reminder about having been a big contributor to his country’s success in recent years. He took guard after six overs, following Gilchrist’s exit, and was at the wicket when the dramatic 50th over began.
Strong both on the front foot and back, Martyn was the first of four to fall (one to a Sachin run out) but, by then, had completed his fifth ODI hundred. His 100 came in 119 balls (10x4, 1x6). Given the role he enacted, Martyn featured in the biggest partnerships: 78 for the fourth wicket with Andrew Symonds and 111 for the fifth, with Bevan.
His approach was situation-influenced. For instance, he didn’t seek to match Symonds’ aggression when the latter chose to use his bat as a sledgehammer. Later, though, Martyn took it upon himself to dominate — making capital of the time spent at the crease. It’s only in the 90s that he kept glancing at the scoreboard, otherwise his focus was where it ought to have been.
“Conditions weren’t easy, but I followed our strategy — to have wickets in hand for a fling in the slog overs... I’m aware that if one gets runs in India, one is batting well,” pointed out the MoM.
Except between the 30th and 35th overs, when the Singhs (Harbhajan and Yuvraj) forced the brakes, and that last (Ajit Agarkar) over, Australia’s pacing was worthy of any World Cup holder. Commendable, considering Hayden was dismissed off the first delivery, caught napping by one from Zaheer Khan which took off for his throat.
Dravid tried many permutations, but found it tough wresting the initiative. As was indicated by The Telegraph, he opened with an off-spinner (Sehwag) at one end and while that over cost 14, Dravid persisted with spin — only, Sehwag quickly made way for Harbhajan.
The initial five overs, by the way, saw as many as 54 conceded — thanks to a typical Gilchrist blitz — and, by the end of 15, it was a massive 104. Over No.1 itself, completed in 11 balls by Zaheer, produced a dozen runs.
Had the Singhs not ‘intervened’ in that short period, Australia would have become the first team to touch 300 at the Wankhede. Incidentally, maiden No.1 was bowled in the 35th over, by part-timer Yuvraj to Bevan.
Besides Martyn, significant contributions came from Symonds (48 in 59 deliveries, 4x4, 1x6), Bevan (42 off 57 balls, 5x4) and Gilchrist (41 in 30 deliveries, 8x4). The last-named was brilliantly taken by Kaif off Harbhajan. Really, Gilchrist was the fielder’s ‘wicket’.
Overall, Team India’s fielding ought to have been tighter with Parthiv Patel setting the standard. As for the bowling, the lead should have been taken by those who now have enough experience.