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May 12, 1999


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'It has become fashionable to talk about this Indian team'

Harsha Bhogle in conversation with Prem Panicker

Real Audio A note from Prem Panicker: This chat happened on the morning of Wednesday May 12. A day earlier, India had coasted to a comfortable win against Nottinghampshire, with the Indians batting first on winning the toss and scoring 243 in their allotted 44 overs, Tendulkar producing an innings of 91 off 113 balls with one six and nine fours and Dravid coming adding a few more bricks to that wall of his with an outing worth 89 off 96 with one six and six fours. Azhar (12) and Jadeja (12) failed in fading light, while Robin tonked a few in his unbeaten 17.

India then reduced Notts to 159 for six in 44 overs, with Srinath producing the star turn, 3/21 in eight overs with support from Prasad (0/39 in 9), Kumble (1/20 in 9) and Agarkar (1/19 in 5). Interestingly, both Ganguly (1/17 in 4) and Jadeja (0/17 in 5) looked good at the bowling crease. What follows, is a post-mortem of the action, for which it is over to Harsha at Nottingham.

Good morning, Harsha

Good morning, Prem

Invested your savings, life savings, in the umbrella business yet?

No *laughing* the funny thing was, not only did the rain stay away largely from Nottingham, India also got a very good game, very morale-boosting game, two or three key players did very well, and not surprisingly they were all smiling at the end. Sachin got a few runs, Rahul is looking excellent, he is looking the most composed of the Indian batsmen, and Srinath bowled a fiery first spell, so a lot of messages went out from the Indian camp in one day.

Yeah, right. I was curious Harsha that India batted first actually after winning the toss, the last time we spoke you were talking about how the bowlers were the ones who hadn't got an outing. Was that deliberate, was it...

Sachin Tendulkar
Pic: Graham Chadwick/Allsport
No, I think it was deliberate, I think they are still looking to get that opening partnership in order. Because what we are seeing here, and that is coming through in all the warm-up games as well, the teams that are keeping their wickets in the first ten overs are able to pile on a lot of runs in the last 20 or 25 overs, and that is something that didn't happen to India today, rather yesterday, because once again Saurav Ganguly got out early. He's pushing at the ball little away from his body, which is something you can get away with in India. But he understands, in fact, he came over, we were filming this with a single camera, he came over and looked through the little viewfinder throughout his innings to check what he was doing wrong, he knows what he is doing wrong and Anshuman Gaekwad believes that there has already been a lot of progress. But because that opening partnership didn't sort of come off, I think Sachin was a lot more withdrawn, he also hit his calf, it was a funny little shot, off the edge of his bat, had a big ice pack on it, what happened was Rahul Dravid came in and looked very solid, they put on about 160 runs together which was very good.

Yeah, well, what did that partnership look like, in terms of pacing and strike rotation and stuff?

Rahul Dravid in flowing action
Pic: Graham Chadwick/Allsport
I think very tentative to start off. Rahul Dravid looked alright, you know he has a sixty behind him at Leicester, but Sachin was very tentative to start off. We got the feeling that he was playing so much within himself, that there were balls that he could easily have gone for and driven, but he was just holding back, because he was trying to concentrate more on not losing his wicket, than on scoring runs. And as the innings picked up he started to play his shots, but what was noticeable was that those big shots to midwicket that he plays so often, when the length is even marginally short and he jumps back and pulls through midwicket, I don't remember him playing a single one of those shots yesterday, he played very straight, largely off the front foot, and he still got, what, 90-odd in a 110, 115 balls. Okay so that could actually be a good sign, that he wasn't playing those shots, was looking actually to play through the innings, I mean, he's been talking even when he was in India about how he thought the game would be won and lost in the last 25 and not the first 25 overs.

It's amazing, Prem, he told me that six months ago. He said the World Cup is not going to be about the first 15 overs, it is going to be about the last 20. And as a result, look what -- once again we saw that, when Sachin plays well, the strike gets rotated, the other person is very keen to give him the strike back, so the partner starts to score a few singles... what was interesting was, with the solidity that Tendulkar was offering, Rahul Dravid started playing his shots a lot earlier.

Yeah, actually he did go at almost a run a ball didn't he, 89 off 93 or some such...

He did, the game got reduced to 44 overs and India made 243 which means that in another six, with the momentum they had built up, they would have got another 40 easily, and we are looking at a 270, 280 score which is very good.

But what kind of bowling was this made against?

It was very... *laughing*... I knew there was a catch coming up somewhere in there, it was ordinary but you've got to realise that it was a playing-in process, and we are looking at a score of 280, if it was South Africa I think they would have been very happy to get 225, 230, you've got to keep in mind South Africa are looking very very good in all those warm-up games they've been playing.

What about the bowling, Harsha, especially the bowling of Kumble for instance, which... I mean, Srinath looked to have bowled very well, Prasad didn't get any wickets though did he...?

Pic: Graham Chadwick/Allsport
No, but Srinath and Prasad are bowling very well together, the person who was very impressive... and I'll talk about Srinath in a minute... was Ajit Agarkar, because he bowled a very good line, he didn't bowl here and there, as he has tended to bowl in India, he bowled a very good line, and he looked almost an English three-quarter-length seam bowler, just hitting the ball on the deck and that is very good for India because if Srinath gets the early breakthrough, they need someone to keep the pressure on, the expectation is that Anil Kumble will do it all the time, and if Ajit Agarkar can do it too, then we have got four pretty solid bowlers. But Srinath's first spell was very impressive, his second ball was probably the quickest, I asked him in an interview afterwards if he was going flat out and whether he was pretty disappointed at not having had a chance to bowl all this time, and he smiled, in the way fast bowlers do, but what was interesting was he's also developed a new slower ball, he always bowled the slower ball with the offspin action, and this one is more the Prasad ball...

Okay, the leg-spinner...

...where he is actually rolling his wrist over, and he got Tim Robinson, who used to be the captain here at Nottingham for years, with a beauty, and his bat was up and he was looking to play a shot and it just skidded through after pitching, bit like a leg spinner's top spinner...

Okay, so that's one of the things...

Yeah, he got three wickets in his first spell and he was looking very happy, and he smiled when I asked him about that slower one, he said he's been learning a lot from Prasad, he also said that he's been passing on a lot of his experience to Agarkar, and generally they were looking pretty good.

Okay, Kumble? Because after Srinath, Prasad and Agarkar strut their stuff Kumble is the one they're going to be looking at to sort of hold the middle together for the bowling... what was he like? How's he taking to the conditions?

Ajit Agarkar
Pic: Graham Chadwick/Allsport
He picked up a wicket, and he bowled as well as we've come to expect him, I think a lot of people believe that, here especially... I saw a special section on India yesterday on Sky Television where John Emburey was the expert, and he said it doesn't matter about the conditions for people like Kumble, he is always going to do well whatever the conditions, and somehow they seem to be quite bullish on Kumble. Yesterday was a bit difficult to assess Kumble because remember, Notts were 34 for four around the time he came on to bowl, so they were really very defensive, they weren't going to attack him anyway.

Yeah. The other one was fielding, Harsha, how's the Indians looking in the field because that's been pretty much identified as the concern area...

Pretty sharp... reasonably sharp...

So the hard work's paying off...

Sharper than they were looking at home. Remember it is always easier to field in England, because the outfields are fantastic, and you can dive and you can fall and you can do all kinds of stuff, but they're looking better than they were in India, but I think the real test will come when you stack them up, up to the South Africans, then you can see how good they are.

Yeah but the bottomline would probably be that their preparations are going pretty fine, for now...

Yeah, it's looking alright, I don't know what the feeling is back in India, I remember you told me the last time that slowly everyone's starting to build up a little bit, the pessimism is going, here I think as I told you last time, it's become pretty fashionable to talk about India, and one of the reasons is, I think its the way the odds have been structured here.


You don't normally talk too much about the favourites, I mean, normally there is not too much to be gained by betting on South Africa or Australia. Now Pakistan has been offered good odds as well. All of a sudden, you have England at 5-1 which a lot of people think is completely ridiculous, Michael Holding talked about patriotic money being put on England, I think it's high, West Indies at 9-1 a little too high as well, and India at 10-1 and suddenly everyone's says hey, here's a good bet...

Yeah. Actually it's interesting you should mention Michael, Harsha, because yesterday there was this World Cup conference on Star Sports, and they had Lamb, and Boycott, both of whom were asked who the last four would be, and they put their money pretty much on the top four, which is South Africa, Australia, Pakistan and England. Even Boycott did, actually, Boycott hedged his bets and said it could also be New Zealand, West Indies or India. But Mikey was very sort of emotional about the whole thing, he said something about 'If I can get India to believe in themselves then I'll back them to not only enter the last four but go all the way'...

Yes, I think they are all betting on Tendulkar being the man of the series, I am not a betting man but I think they are all betting on Tendulkar, they all understand the fact that if Tendulkar is at one end, India are a different team, unlike when Tendulkar gets out early... this is something... I know it's not news to people who follow Indian cricket, but that I think is a rather sad conclusion at the end of the few matches Tendulkar missed, which is that without him we are not at strength, with him everyone else is a better player...

Right, it goes back to what Hansie Cronje once said when he rated Tendulkar as... when he rated Tendulkar very highly... Cronje said the trouble with that guy is that he makes other people believe they can bat too...

Correct, and I mean, everyone here is convinced he is the best player in the world, yesterday on this programme on Star Botham said he's the best player in the world, and everyone... I don't think there's been too much of a debate about who the best batsman in the world is, there is just one person they are all talking about, even yesterday, all the crowds had turned out to watch Tendulkar.

And that that reminds me, so what is his calf injury status as of now?

It was a pretty funny one actually, he was laughing about it afterwards. He didn't take the field, but it was packed in ice, but... he got injured in the third over and then he scored 91, and he was running... he was running like a hare between wickets, at one stage he was pulling Rahul Dravid onto a third, and they took twos sometimes where there was a one and a half if you can put it that way, he ran quite brilliantly between the wickets, I think in terms of a workout it was a very very good game for him.

So that issue is not a problem. Talking of problems, Darrell Hair has got a death threat, you heard about that?

No, I didn't. Actually you know what, in many ways, I mean, you in India are reading more, and know more, about the World Cup than we in England, because the media is so vibrant, you have fantastic access to the net, the situation you are in, and you see a lot more on television than we do here, so I am starting to believe, that if, I mean I've got a job to do here, but for the interested followers who cannot watch the games, India is probably a better place to be in than England.

Yeah, true. In any case the Lankan terrorists have apparently told him that he's under the gun for having no-balled Muthiah Muralitharan, so add one more to the emerging controversies...

Yeah, I know, it's also going to reinforce this image of the third world countries, which bothers me a little bit...

Unfortunately yes. So that kind of makes it a wrap, Harsha, till, what, Saturday after the India game?

What we'll probably do is, maybe we can have a chat after the England-Sri Lanka game, I'm doing that one and hopefully, by then, my mobile would have started working...


... because my mobile has conked... so... hopefully we'll do one after that, because I'm doing England-Sri Lanka so we can combine that with a little preview of India-South Africa at Hove.

Okay, done, so I'll call you on Friday night, then...

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Harsha Bhogle

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