The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Batting let the Indians down
- The dew factor played too big role in the innings

A batting debacle can never win a match as India proved by losing the Cuttack one-dayer to New Zealand. In one-day cricket, batting is so dominant, that any slip up in the bowling department can be covered up with a better batting approach.

In Cuttack, Darryl Tuffey, Kyle Mills, Scott Styris and Daniel Vettori bowled well in pairs. Tuffey is reinforcing his value with each outing and Vettori now is clearly relishing Indian wickets. The Black Caps, after losing in Pune, have made good strides to keep themselves afloat.

Styris is an interesting cricketer. He bowls a good line and length and with the wicketkeeper standing up to him, the batsmen are confident taking him on. He is your proverbial man with the golden arm. As if this was not enough, he batted with the right balance of aggression and caution. Such cricketers are always the captainsí favourites.

Craig McMillan too stood up to the test. He has been a determined performer on this tour. His lusty hitting with forceful square cuts and powerful sweeps never allowed the spinners to settle down. The success has helped him gain the confidence against the Indian attacks.

He is one man who is holding India up in their victory charge. He did it in the Ahmedabad Test last month and he has done it again in Cuttack. In between, there was that forceful hundred in Mohali. A busy character, McMillan once again underlined his value for the New Zealand side.

As happens in defeat, every issue related to the Indian team is being looked at critically. Hindsight, as they say, is a 20:20 sight. I thought Indians did well to ask V.V.S. Laxman to open the innings.

After all, in two previous games, he had walked into bat in the very first over! So it wasnít too much different Thursday. Besides, he has looked in splendid touch this season. It is always advised to keep your best men in front while engaging in a battle against crafty opposition like New Zealand.

Though there were patches of recovery from Mohammed Kaif and Hemang Badani, Indians still finished at least 35 runs short of a winning total. Kaif did well enough to redeem himself and Badani too had his moments, but Yuvrajís dismissal came at a wrong time for the Indians. The dashing batsman was too early on to Vettoriís flighted delivery and was easily held in the outfield.

I am not too critical of our spinners as it was impossible to bowl under lights because of dew factor. Harbhajan Singh has been economical, which is what a bowler strives for in one-day cricket. Two other bowlers returning to international cricket, Murali Kartik and Sairaj Bahutule, would look back at the match with contrasting feelings.

Kartik, being a finger spinner, could negate the dew effect while Bahutuleís wrist work for his leg-spin was hampered by the conditions.

The wicket, when Indians were batting, was stopping a bit and did promise a lot of spin and grip for our bowlers. But the dew, as said, was an important factor. Indeed, the wicket appeared firm and at its best under the lights. As for the ground, it didnít look any good for a game of cricket in the later half.

Indians are pushed to the wall with very little option but to win the next two games to find a place in the final. I am sure the team will be keen to have the services of a fit Sourav Ganguly along with Virender Sehwag for the Bangalore tie. It would be wise if Ashish Nehra gets a game. He has had a long lay off and it is imperative he gets a game or two before he embarks on tour Down Under.

Finally, bereaved leg-spinner Anil Kumble needs to be applauded for his commitment to the side. His ailing father was admitted to the hospital a few weeks ago. In spite of such circumstances he has shown lot of maturity. I hope he comes back strongly as soon as possible. (PTI)

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