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December 14, 1999


India Down Under

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One down, two to go

Prem Panicker

India lost the first Test at the Adelaide Oval. Badly.

Bowled out for 110 in 38.1 overs, Australia winning by 285 runs, is how badly.

But on day five, India lost a lot more than just this Test. They lost an opportunity to make a few points -- more to themselves than to the opposition.

What they needed to do was bat out there for as long as they possibly could and, in the process, show themselves that it can be done. What they did not need, was to throw their wickets away to deliveries that did not deserve them.

The beginning, and the end, came with the dismissal of Saurav Ganguly. The left-hander was batting very fluently this morning, when Fleming, going round the wicket, banged one in. It was way too short, way too wide and flying just outside and over the line of leg stump, when Ganguly launched into a pull. The field was right for the shot -- with Steve Waugh crowding the offside, and packing the slip cordon, there was acreage to spare out on the leg side. Right ball, right shot, wrong person playing it -- Ganguly doesn't pull too often. Even when he does, it is more of a controlled guide, rather than a whippy pull.

That's what he did here, too -- a sort of slow-motion pull, and he ended up getting glove on it. >From then on, it was pure magic. Gilchrist kind of leant sideways and to his right, and took off -- flying through the air to snaffle that one, at full stretch and one-handed. On the evidence of that one, the Hollywood moghuls know where to look when they get down to casting for the next edition of Batman.

Harsha made the point, but it is worth repeating. In the first innings, the Indians -- Ramesh, in particular -- put down catches they should have held. In this game, the Aussies -- Gilchrist, in particular -- held blinders. And that is one difference between these teams that will make a huge difference to the ultimate outcome.

Agarkar seems to draw more praise, from his captain, for his batting skills than even for his bowling. First up, he got a very full pitch, landing a few inches inside the front crease and outside line of off. What would you do, getting that bal first up? You'd kind of sneer at it as it crept by. What did Agarkar do? Carefully scooped it up for point to hold.

The next ball was outside off, seaming away. Srinath stood there and slashed -- made you wonder if coach Kapil uses him when it is time to give India's slip fielders (that, in fact, is all ten players, minus the keeper, but that's another story) practise. And with Fleming on a hat-trick, Warne put down a sitter.

That must have hurt -- both the bowler, and the fielder.

From then on, there was nothing to it. Fleming and McGrath both produced a lifter apiece from just short of a length, and Fleming completed his five-for with a ball akin to the one that took out Laxman earlier, having Kumble play the wrong line to lose his stump.

That ended that, and pretty early into the day what's more.

That India lost came as no surprise, given the match state at start of play. That they threw it away, without making an attempt to stay out there, to make the Australian bowlers work for their wickets, came as a major disappointment.

The post match media briefing was dominated by two statements, by the opposing captains. Steve Waugh, asked to sum up the win, said, "Yeah, we were a bit dodgy on the first morning, that was bad batting, the track was good, but from then on, everyone was disciplined, we shared the workload..."

And asked about brother Mark's run of form, Waugh weighed in with: "Well, we've won five out of the last five, when a team's doing that, I'd think you have to say it's a good team. Mark hasn't got too many, but he did play one match-winning knock against Pakistan, for the rest, the other guys are pitching in and covering for him and I think that's fair, he's done it for others too. There are a few guys out there, making runs, pushing for his place, so yeah, there's some pressure on him but that's what this is all about, it is up to him now to go out there and make some runs."

The other bit came when Tendulkar was asked -- repeatedly, at that -- about his dismissal. "I watched the replay just once, I was disappointed that I got out. The team needed me to stay there and play a long innings, it was disappointing that I didn't do that."

But what did you think of the dismissal? "I wasn't thinking of whether it was right and wrong -- everyone has seen the replays, it is not my business to talk of these things. It is the umpire's decision, right or wrong, and I would prefer to think of the four innings I still have to play in this series."

Which is as good a sign-off as any... so on that note...


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