The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
India now with back to the wall
- Gilchrist fulfils promise to cancer-stricken friend

Bangalore: Usually, the first call on any day during a tour is to the family. On Thursday, Adam Gilchrist dialled a Perth number for a chat with one Mark Warnum.

It wasn't just another call: After stumps on Day-II, the stand-in Australian captain told The Telegraph that Warnum is cancer-stricken and, while talking, he promised his 'friend' a century.

Gilchrist did get one (11th in Tests) and the second time he gestured towards the pavilion, in absolute delight, was to ensure the TV cameras caught him once more ' for the benefit of Warnum, who may not survive till he gets home next month.

'Through that gesture, I wanted Mark to know I'd done it for him... I'm sure he must have been watching and would have celebrated the fulfilment of a promise,' Gilchrist said emotionally.

Gilchrist, of course, became the second centurion in the first innings ' No.1 being debutant Michael Clarke, who scripted his own piece of history in the presence of overwhelmed parents Les-Debbie and maternal grandparents Ray-June.

Riding their exhilarating 167 runs for the sixth-wicket, Australia were able to reach 474 despite the last five wickets falling for 51. The overnight score, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, was 316 for five.

For India, Harbhajan Singh emerged most successful ' five for 146 in his first Test since surgery ten months ago.

However, while Harbhajan did record his 12th haul of five or more wickets in one innings, there were occasions when he bowled on both sides and made life more difficult for Sourav Ganguly.

Anil Kumble, by the way, couldn't add to the three wickets taken on the opening day of this TVS-sponsored series.

Clarke and Gilchrist authored moments to treasure, but the Indians cut a sorry figure. Trouble came in the opening over itself when Akash Chopra didn't offer a shot to one from Glenn McGrath, which cut back, and was adjudged leg-before.

No comeback can get off to a worse start.

In fact, even collectively, the Indians didn't recover ' notwithstanding 83 runs for the third-wicket between Virender Sehwag and Sourav ' and, at the close, were on an embarrassing 150 for six.

It's debatable whether this first of four Tests is going to go the distance.

Chopra's wasn't the only duck at the top; even Rahul Dravid, who became the third Indian to pocket 100 catches ' failed to score as McGrath made capital of the 'daylight' between bat and pad.

Psychologically, it was a jumbo setback. Incidentally, the vice-captain hasn't got off the mark a mere four times in 79 Tests.

If McGrath inflicted the early blows, the in-form Michael Kasprowicz, whose bowling often gets as difficult as his family name's pronunciation, did his bit by evicting Sehwag and Sourav.

Sehwag went predictably, flicking yet again, while Sourav ' who was batting superbly ' got surprised by the bounce and late away-movement. His 45 came in 100 minutes and off 85 balls (5x4).

'I was batting well, but that's history... Bottomline is I got out and, frankly, we've got to work very hard to save this Test,' Sourav remarked, in an exclusive interaction at the team hotel.

Yuvraj Singh and V.V.S. Laxman too failed to drop anchor and, it's now up to Parthiv Patel to ensure Australia don't get the option of enforcing the follow-on.

Not that it's certain Australia will. Indeed, Gilchrist ducked somewhat when asked if he would do a repeat of Eden Gardens (2000-01).

'Look, we're wiser after that (defeat)... At this stage, I can't say... Come to think of it, we're delighted to be in the position we're in and aren't looking far ahead... The real excitement is where we currently are,' he insisted.

Back in that series, Steve Waugh asked India to follow-on, despite holding a 274-run advantage, and Sourav's men upset calculations by forcing one of the greatest wins in over a century of Test cricket.

Gilchrist's let's-not-go-overboard sentiment is understandable. But, clearly, he couldn't have done more and Australia are in a position Sourav would give his left arm to be in.

Much as one has to rave about Gilchrist's exemplary pacing ' a booming 104 in 165 minutes and off 109 deliveries (13x4, 3x6) ' one should applaud Clarke in the same breath. Preferring to play straight, he totalled an excellent 151 (343 minutes, 249 balls, 18x4, 4x6).

It was chanceless. Immensely attractive as well.

'Yeah, I didn't have to keep fingers crossed for very long (overnight on 76), but I actually didn't sleep well last night... Today, though, has been a great day ' for Australia and for me personally,' Clarke declared proudly.

Incidentally, save a damsel, the young New South Welshman kissed just about everything on getting his maiden century.

Luckily, Clarke had the experienced Gilchrist at the other end and in the 90s ' on 92, for example, he survived a supremely confident shout for leg-before from Kumble ' was 'nursed' by the stand-in captain.

Later, Gilchrist commented: 'Communication within the team is well established... I tried to keep Michael focussed on the bigger picture as also the next delivery...'

Sure worked perfectly.

Email This Page