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June 7, 1999


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Rain pain!

Harsha Bhogle, on Real Audio.

A transcript of the conversation Harsha Bhogle had with Prem Panicker on June 7

Good morning, Harsha. Apparently, from the way things are looking, we had clear weather all through the league phase, and then when we need it to be dry and clear, it's all messing up, isn't it?

It's terrible weather. I've just been told by a few people that they've had some pretty decent Mays, but it was wet in June for the last two or three years, ....but if previous years are anything to go by, then I suspect that we're looking at another wet June. The forecast for the rest of week is pretty bad as well. I've just been speaking to someone in Manchester, and it's raining there as well. The outfield is clogged and the players are not able to practice and it's not looking too good for Manchester either.

Ah! Well, to stick with today's game … if the match between New Zealand and Zimbabwe gets washed out, then it makes India's chances a little more difficult, doesn't it?

With no disrespect towards Zimbabwe… I mean they have played some decent cricket and some pretty poor cricket... the Pakistanis and the South Africans, who are the two teams most fancied to go through, will actually be rubbing their hands and fighting for a position in the line-up to play Zimbabwe in the semi-finals. With all due respect to their cricketing ability, I don't think Zimbabwe will be a match for South Africa and Pakistan on a big day, and it'll be like going straight through to the final for these two teams.

I think five points for Zimbabwe will be enough to get them through to the semi-finals, and this will be a big shock to the New Zealanders, because they'll end up with three points with two slightly more difficult matches to play.

Right. India, in any case, remains in the same position. Doesn't it? Because, first it has to win its two games and then worry about all sorts of permutations and combinations to get them through to the semi-finals...

No, not really ..this would actually be disastrous for India. Because India will be trying to force a tie with as many teams as possible on four points. And if any team goes beyond four points, India cannot catch up with them. Tying with as many teams on four points and then hope that their run-rate equation, which is pretty poor, will work in their favour. Now, if Zimbabwe pick up a point from this game, which looks pretty likely because it is raining heavily even as I speak, then they go on to five points, then India cannot catch up with them and at the end of it, two teams have to go out of the competition at the end of this stage.

Two teams at this point look sure of going through with six points, and with Zimbabwe on five points, it means India is actually fighting for the last three places, and the team that the Indians were looking towards keeping out will end up going ahead of them, if today's game gets washed out. So, this is actually disastrous for India.

So, in any case, we'll have to leave it to how situations develop. Harsha, about this Indian team....they say in tennis that the guy who plays the big points is the guy who goes to the top. India seems to have a problem in this respect, don't they? I mean, they've had one bad half hour there, one bad final over there, and suddenly they're scrambling all over the place …

It's amazing, isn't it? How one half hour of play can keep coming back to haunt them again and again. You can say that in tennis, if you play badly in the tie-breaker, you find yourself losing the entire set. Actually, to my mind, I've been pretty impressed with the kind of cricket that India has played in this tournament, but they played a terrible half hour against Zimbabwe at Leicester and that is causing them this problem now. It must be haunting each and everyone of those fifteen players as to how a half hour could bother them so much. They played a good game against South Africa, and won the other three games, and against the Australians, they were beaten by a team that is better on paper and played as they should on paper. But, you're right…that crucial moment against Zimbabwe, they played badly.

I remember the last time we spoke, after the game against Zimbabwe, you were saying that you never saw the team looking as positive as they did after a defeat, as they did at that time. Harsha, what has the mood been like in the Indian camp after the game against Australia?

Well, after the Zimbabwe game, as I said, a couple of people put up their hands and said that they'd gone wrong. But after the game against England, I haven't exactly been with the Indian team…I got up in a car after the game straight at The Oval and I have been on the road since then, and now I'm here. But I have been in touch with a couple of people, and I think the team is pretty positive about beating Pakistan. Of all the do or dies games that we've played, and we've got tired of calling each and every game 'do or die'…I think this one fits the description best. Pakistan won't mind a point out of that, would they?

Yes, it"s 'do or die' in more ways than one, I mean in chat we had a couple of people saying that if India doesn't win the cup, then at least they should beat Pakistan and give us something to go with.

Yes, that is true. I think they'll face a pretty fired up Pakistan because they've lost two games in a row. Against Bangladesh, which really should be just a bit of a hiccup, and I suppose they could be pardoned for coming out for a stroll in the park after already having qualified, and before they knew it, they were a game down But I think they'd be pretty concerned about the way they played against South Africa …they looked pretty weak for the first 40 overs. I must admit that their top order, which should be getting the runs, seems to be biding its time, and giving the feeling that it's waiting for the real run-getters at 7, 8 and 9 to come in and get the runs. But their bowling is looking so good right now. I mean you'd back Pakistan to defend 180 in spite of not having the best fielding side in the world. Everyone is talking about Wasim and Shoaib and Saqlain, but their key bowlers in the middle seem to Azhar Mehmood and Razzaq. If you look at the runs per over that they've conceded, and the fact that they bowl out 20 vital overs between them - they really ensure that there is no easy bowling to go after.

You just mentioned that Pakistan seems to be waiting for nos 7,8 and 9 to come in. Doesn't this strike you that they're wasting their first 35 - 40 overs, and it's always down to the last ten. Because a lot of times guys are just pushing around, and increasingly, the real strikers seem to be getting …I mean, the other day, Wasim got just three balls to face .

Yes, it's really a big problem for Pakistan at the moment. Inzamam has been getting a few runs, but he's been throwing it away a lot and he must be an absolutely exasperating person to deal with in the dressing room. Right now, he's a wicket taker for the opposition…and I know that sounds a bit rude, but in virtually ..... time he goes out to bat, he takes a wicket, which could be either his own or that of his partner. So Pakistan is actually a wicket down every time he goes out to bat, and that cancels out on the runs he makes. It is a big worry for Pakistan, and a huge opportunity for India. If India are looking at the game against Pakistan analytically, and they think that Pakistan is a such a strong side, where do we attack them from ..that's the place. The top order is exactly where India would be looking to attack. Srinath and Prasad need to do something in the tournament right now, this is the match and Mohanty is looking a little shaky right now. But Srinath should really be looking to fire and take out two early wickets and then hope that the lower order doesn't have a good time, which they've had throughout the tournament and instead have a bad day.

Now we come to this whole thing about India needing to attack …any thoughts about team composition, Harsha?

It's going to be a tricky one, that much I admit. I thought about it, and my only conclusion is that I'm glad that I don't have to pick the side for that one. There are going to be doubts at the top of the order, doubts about the third seamer, there's going to be concern about whole Trafford. We all have this impression of Old Trafford being a green top, but I spoke to Michael Holding, and he said that Old Trafford sometimes afforded help to the spinners. So India might actually look towards playing a second spinner in Nikhil Chopra and hope that he doesn't do a one for 60, because if you look in every match, either Agarkar and Prasad, or one of the major seamers have all gone for six an over. But I think India would back Chopra to go for less than six an over, and bat a little better than Mohanty or Prasad. Someone actually came up and said that if India leave out Mongia, then the balance of the side is restored, but I don't think that India will be taking that drastic a step. There are just so many things to consider.

Ultimately, Harsha, the key is going to lie with the weather, isn't it? And that, as you say, isn't looking good at the moment, is it?

It's not looking good at all. All over England, the satellite pictures are showing very little land. It's a little better in the south of England, but in the North and also in the midlands, where we are and where Manchester is located as well, things are not looking good at all as far as the weather's concerned. India will be lucky if they can squeeze a game out tomorrow

Harsha, that brings out another question: the New Zealand game today is going to get washed out. And from the weather forecast, it looks like its going to be raining for the rest of the week as well, so a lot of games could get washed out in the process as well. Are there any provisions for the games to be shifted to another venue?

Well, India will want as many games to be played as possible. Because India doesn't want these one point games, they want one team to come out of each match with zero points, which would mean that the game yields a result. But no, there is no provision for the games to be shifted. And right now, the games are looking so unpredictable, that it could pour any moment at any place; maybe the shifting of venues wouldn't help either.

Well, Harsha…we'll leave it at that. I'll speak to you after the Pakistan game

Goodbye, Prem.

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Harsha Bhogle

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