Statistics don’t tell the whole story. Vangipurappu Venkata Sai (VVS) Laxman scored less runs in this match, compared to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. But I don’t think there is an iota of doubt in anyone’s mind today about the real match winner. And that’s a back to back match winning performance (after his crucial role in the victory against Sri Lanka in August).
What an amazing innings this was! Talent, Temperament, Class, Concentration. Playing with a bad back, he still delivered his range of signature wristy shots. They were a treat to watch. He was well supported by Ishant Sharma. Indeed, the two injured players carried the day for India. Laxman seems to particularly bring out his best against Australia. Ever since that epic 281 against Steve Waugh’s side in Kolkata in 2001, he has been quite possibly the toughest opposing player for the Aussies. Peter Roebuck summarizes that well in his column title today: “Very Very Special Laxman again thorn in Australia’s side”.
This Test had five days of intense competition between two well-balanced slides. Fortunes changed every session. There were great individual performances by Watson, Zaheer Khan and Tendulkar in the first innings. In the second innings, Indian bowling attack restricted Australia and had a very realistic chance to win. However early wickets on day 4 and day 5 made it very difficult. And with over 90 runs to score with only 2 wickets remaining – Aussies look all set for a comfortable win. And how things changed in the next hour!
The drama and excitement went up one notch when Ishant got out with 11 runs still remaining. Aussies could have won the game on the penultimate ball when a close lbw decision went against them and they also missed a run out chance, that resulted in 4 over-throws.
Overall this game was a fine victory for Test Cricket. With the shorter versions of the games increasing in popularity everyday, it was extremely pleasing to see the classic version deliver such great excitement. Bodes well for the future of the longer version on the game in the years to come. Going forward, I do hope though that BCCI organizes Test Matches in Tier 1 Cities. The Mohali ground is great, but the crowd attendance for such a great match could have been a lot better.
Sachin Tendulkar completes 20 years of his career this week. A myriad of adjectives have been used to describe his greatness, and I don’t want to add to that huge list. After a while, words like ‘genius’, ’legend’ and ’master’ stop doing true justice.
Sometimes pictures and videos speak much more than words. Here are a few interesting videos that I was able to find on the web.
Sachin has played innumerable great innings. Picking even a few would be next to impossible. A performer often reveals his true nature only when he is not on the stage. Hence my primary search focus was to find Sachin’s (often not so common) off-the-field clips. Here are five that caught my attention -
1. Tom Alter interviewing a 16 year old, shy Sachin. Still, you can sense the underlying self-confidence in him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oez4TSdZvJI
2. Sachin recounts his 1st Test and facing Wasim Akram, and how Test Cricket is a completely different game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiwLKaP5moc
3. Harsha Bhogle unplugged on Sachin - a great 9 min clip where Harsha informally chats about Sachin’s ability http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-7jL7o8kYs
4. Sachin Tendulkar talks (in Marathi) about his coach Ramakant Achrekar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4d-6hBkDFQ
5. An emotional Sachin reacts at the unveiling of his wax statue for the Madame Tussauds Museum. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i3fNpmBWMQ
Hope you enjoy these five clips on you-tube. Here’s one on-field innings I will leave you with.
Sachin’s first Test Century http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngaeaKkWjdE
I know it might be a stretch even for Sachin, but I hope that he plays for another 5 years, and gets to 50 Centuries in Tests and ODIs! And yes, after that great 175 against Australia…wouldn’t it be nice to see him become the first batsman to score a double hundred in an ODI?
Today was probably one of the wackiest days of test cricket one would see in a long time! The see-saws in fortunes every session…the individual brilliance of a Sehwag inning…the gritty partnership of Dhoni and Harbhajan…some inspired bowling by Watson…but last but not the least, some weird, inexplicable, incomprehensible decision making by Ponting!
This article from the Sydney Morning Herald by Peter Roebuck summarizes the enigma of Ponting decision making pretty well, “What on the earth was he thinking”.
I watched the post lunch and post tea sessions live. Everyone was simply awe-struck by Ponting’s decision to bowl the part-timers to make up the over-rate. Allan Border was so aghast, he could barely speak in his commentator’s role -:) The co-commentator, Laxman Shivaramakrishnan kept prodding him a little…but eventually gave up and changed the topic! The Australian contingent in the commentator box was at a complete loss to understand Ponting’s thinking.
Finally after being in the commentator chair for 15 minutes, Border started speaking something. One of his comments was quite revealing – I don’t remember it verbatim, but it goes something like this…” I hope Ponting cannot read my mind…because if he does, he is going to be a very unhappy man when he realizes what I am thinking about him…”
The only explanation the experts could come up with was that Ponting was being pressurized to increase the over-rate and had already been warned a few times in this series. If the default continued, per ICC rules – he faced the risk of being banned for the next test against New Zealand. No one could understand why he was trying to avoid this ban when the option to win the test and retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy was very much there!
All in all, it was a pretty amazing turn of events in each session. Before lunch – India on top. Before tea – India in doldrums at 166/6; Aussies elated and sensing a real chance at victory…then after tea – these bizarre turn of events by Ponting!
We shouldn’t take credit away from Dhoni and Harbhajan for their great partnership. With 370 odd to get on the final day, it looks really difficult for Australia now…but one can never say never. We will find out tomorrow!
If Australia loses or the game ends in a draw, I am sure this test will be talked about for a long long time.
One more point – games like these really drive me towards test cricket. It is a chess game out there. The 3rd day’s play was a master stroke by Dhoni. When was the last time Aussies were contained under 2 runs an over for a whole day? In the process getting all-down? The 8-1 field and persistent bowling outside the off-stump can look boring for the 20-20 fans; but in my view, has a completely different type of entertainment quality to it!
Maybe in some future blog-post, I will discuss why I still like test cricket, as much as the newer varieties. Till that time, as usual feedback, comments and suggestions are most welcome.