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December 13, 1999

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Up against a magic Warne

Harsha Bhogle

It is very easy to get carried away by the two Tendulkar verdicts and lose the plot.

True, the umpire got it wrong the first time and in the eyes of many, he couldnít have been completely sure the second time either; in which case it should have been not out again.

But Sunil Gavaskar got it right on our ESPN telecast when he said the attitude accounted for three of the five dismissals. And very poor technique against the new ball got the other two.

Two Indian batsmen, Rahul Dravid and Sadagoppan Ramesh, were out without offering a shot; a fact that suggests an extremely defensive state of mind. I think the Indians are unable to play Warne as well as they thought they could. His bowling in India had lulled them into thinking that he wasnít a threat anymore but he is bowling like a magician and Indiaís batsmen, at the moment, have no answers.

In India, they went down the track to him because Tendulkarís onslaught at Mumbai and Chennai had caused him to change his line to middle and off stump. And so they could hit him straight back. Here, he is bowling to the blind spot and I think the Indians have got over-defensive. With the long boundaries at the back of their mind, they are not hitting him in the air, over the top; and with the drift carrying the ball way outside leg stump, they donít have the space to come down the track either. The option would be to sweep, a shot that Indiaís batsmen have traditionally avoided.

But Warne poses another problem here. Having got the ball to drift a good foot and a half outside leg stump, he then turns it back the same distance and so, to be able to sweep, the batsmen have to be close to the pitch. Otherwise the turn can well produce the top edge.

That is why Sourav Ganguly, being left handed, has played him best. Sachin Tendulkar did as well by playing him very late off the back foot for ones and twos behind square. But somebody needs to disturb Warneís line and I fear that moment has gone. He is too full of confidence at the moment and Indiaís batsmen are in too defensive a state of mind to take a chance. Only Tendulkar can, and he is struggling to get past the umpires first !

So, was he out in the second innings?

My feeling is probably yes, but that alone requires him to be given not out. The umpire had to be absolutely sure that the ball wasnít on its way up because if it was, it would probably have cleared the stumps. My understanding, and I was on ABC radio at the time, was that it probably hit him about two or three inches below stump height and the umpire had to take a decision on whether the trajectory of the ball would have taken it above the stumps or whether it would have retained the same height in which case, it would have hit them.

It requires a very brave umpire to say Ďoutí to that one.

Having said that, I donít think this decision would have had too much bearing on the match. With three down, India had lost it already. In fact, in retrospect, India probably lost the match on the first innings verdict against Tendulkar. He was batting like a dream then and if he and Ganguly had put on another hundred, they would have used time and made Australia bat longer as well.

The sad part it is that it will shade the performances of the Indian bowlers who were magnificent today. I have rarely seen an Indian bowling side bowl with such commitment and in the art of defensive play, India rose several notches. The captaincy was inspired, the fielding was sharp and the bowlers did what the captain demanded of them. Srinath bowled another superb opening spell, Prasad was reliable as ever but the two men who were outstanding were Agarkar and Kumble.

The morning session was critical. If Australia had got off to a bright start, India would have found it virtually impossible to contain the batsmen. To some extent, India were lucky that they were up against the scratchy Blewett and the out-of-form Mark Waugh but Kumble rarely gave them any room. He bowled unchanged till lunch and had only conceded 20 runs from 15 overs in that spell. His control over length was quite amazing and his desire to get the ball in his hands at the start of every over made him a captainís dream.

I think Agarkar rose a couple of notches as well. He is only in his second Test but the captain gave him a field and he bowled superbly to it. I also believe that he bowled within his limitations and he looked amuch better bowler for it. He didnít try to be too aggressive, something that has let him down in the past, and he didnít try to be a fast bowler, which he is not. He bowled at a brisk pace and moved the ball very well and if he can make that a permanent discipline, he has a tremendous future as a new ball bowler at home and as a third seamer overseas.

So there is still something to take out of this match. And there is the prospect of watching Sourav Ganguly bat tomorrow morning.

Warne's back to magical ways

Harsha Bhogle

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