The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav ahead on Sachin request

Melbourne, Dec. 28: Australia’s captain-designate Ricky Ponting today became the first to score back-to-back double hundreds against India, but the talking point at the MCG was Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to drop down the order.

In arrears by as many as 192, India had to face 11 overs before stumps. Given that anything could happen in that brief high-pressure session, the short-on-runs Sachin informed the captain, Sourav Ganguly, that he wouldn’t like to bat at his customary No. 4 if two wickets fell before the third day was over.

That many did fall and, so, out walked Sourav himself. “Look, Sachin had a reasonable point.... He hasn’t been striking the ball well and, with good reasons, didn’t want to take guard with only a few overs in hand. That was fine with me and I decided to move up from No. 5,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

Whatever, he has yet another chance to lead from the front as India’s 1-0 lead now appears tenuous.

Despite his awesome reputation, thus far in the series, Sachin has just managed 0 (Brisbane), 1 and 37 (Adelaide) and 0 in the first innings here. Some, perhaps, will be critical about his having to be “protected”, but no team operates in a vacuum. Moreover, the horses-for-courses theory is applicable everywhere.

Still, the move showed a diffident Sachin and surprised the Australians too.

“I’m not saying whether that decision is right or wrong, but it probably wouldn’t have happened in our team... Having said that, I can understand Sachin is under a lot of pressure,” observed Ponting.

He added, tongue-in-cheek: “We’ve got to get him at some point or the other.... It would have been nice if that was achieved this evening itself.” Incidentally, it’s been a poor 12 months of Test cricket for Sachin and the second innings will be his sole opportunity to regain some of the sheen before 2003 becomes history.

Of course, if Sachin does fire, India may quickly get out of a seemingly losing position.

Replying to India’s 366, Australia reached a staggering 558 — thanks largely to Ponting’s career-best 257 — and, then, evicted openers Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag.

Chopra, however, was more a victim of David Shepherd’s incompetence.

It’s time he put in his papers.

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