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December 2009 - January 2010
India Sport Scene
Year in Perspective: Cricket-Hockey -Tennis-Badminton
Champions of Champions
Australia survived a couple of early scares riding a second hundred in a row by Shane Watson to ease home by six wickets over NewZealand and retain the Champions trophy they had last won in Mumbai three years ago. In doing so, Ricky Ponting team became the only ones to achieve the feat in this contest. Watson blasted sixes off the first two balls and scored 105 not out in 129 balls and Cameron White 62 calmed nerves in the dressing room with a partnership that began on a decidedly dicey note but picked up momentum till White fell in the 35th over . By then, the base had been laid and it was left to Watson to see the side home at 206/4 in the 46th over. New Zealand had played a brave hand but were undone at the very last step by the late pullout of their inspirational captain Daniel Vettori.
Sehwag, Yuvraj back in fold
Former Indian captain Rahul Dravid and Dinesh Karthik were the ones left out as the squad to meet Australia in first two of seven OdIs was announced. Yuvraj Singh (finger injury) and Virender Sehwag (shoulder) reclaimed their places in the Team. The selectors were advised that Yuvraj would definitely be fit to play from the second ODI. It is also possible that he may be able to play the first match and a decision on the playing XI would be based on Yuvraj;s fitness on the day of the match.
Kris Srikanth was pleased with the return of Yuvraj and Sehwag. They are world class players and match winners on their day. They will surely add strength to the top order. Dravid will have reason to feel disappointed after making 180 runs in five innings on his return. It is reliably learnt that the door has not been fully shut on the veteran batsman and his service will be used if and when the need arises. That the OdIs are to be played on flat home wickets could have gone against Dravid. The selectors also opted for an additional seamer in place of the second all rounder. Ishant Sharma who has struggled for rhythm in the recent times managed to cling on to his place while Sudeep Tyagi is being called up for the first time. Munaf Patel makes his way back and will replace an out of form RP Singh. Ashish Nehra and Parveen Kumar complete the seam component. Zaheer Khan who made a speedy recovery from his shoulder injury sustained during the IPL, is expected to replace Ishant Sharma when the team for next three matches is announced. Yusuf Pathan has been dropped after a string of poor performances. All rounder Ravindra Jadeja takes his place. Harbhajan is out of form.
Coaches Robin, Prasad sacked
Just ten days ahead of a series against top rated Australia, the Indian Cricket Board dispensed with the services of the bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and the fielding coach, Robin Singh. No immediate replacements were named either, which means India will take the field on October 25 without the services of two specialist coaches. The below par show in the World T20s’ and Champions trophy is seen as the major reason behind the decision. In sacking Prasad, the BCCI may have followed the thinking of chief coach Gary Kirsten whose reports from Sri Lanka and South Africa were not commendatory. The Chief Coach was of the opinion that they former Indian seamer was not adding value to the side. The removal of Robin Singh came as a shock to a few BCCI officials. As Kristan was happy with the progress the team had made as a fielding unit under Robin and had made a mention of it in the same report. Indian bowlers must use their brains to bowl line and length properly. They must also learn to bowl yorker.
Australia clinch the series 4-2
The seven-ODIs series ended as Six ODIs. The last match in Mumbai was lost to the vagaries of nature in the form of a storm and heavy rains. This would have done little to change the fate of the Indian side as they had already lost the last two matches in Mohali and Gowhati.
Sachin was 17 again. With 17,000 runs to his credit. naturally it was a Sachin Tendulkar Special as the batting maestro notched up his 45th ODI hundred. But India still ended up agonisingly short of Australia who edged home by three runs to take a crucial 3-2 lead in the seven-match series. With this The venue continues to remain a jinx for men in blue who have now lost all their matches played here at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium. Chasing 351 under lights, the Indians began well with Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag adding 66 for the first wicket before Sehwag at 38went for an extravagant shot to meet his end. Despite losing Gautam Gambhir (8) Yuvraj Singh (9) and MS Dhoni (6) cheaply, Tendulkar gave a lesson on how to pace an innings on a pitch that required patience more than panache. However, Sachin did essay those trademark cuts, elegant straight drives, paddle sweeps and some purposeful running between the wickets in his 209 minute stay at the wicket. More than scoring a chanceless 175 off 141 balls (19x4, 4x6), it was the manner in which they came that warmed the partisan crowd gathered which otherwise had to return to their homes dejected. During the course of his innings, Sachin got to his second highest one-day score. His unbeaten 186 against New Zealand in 1999 also at Hyderabad being his best and the 12th best in the history of one day cricket. Tendulkar’s enchanting 137 run stand with Suresh Raina 59 for the fifth wicket almost brought the hosts to the doorstep of a famous win. Alas! that was not to be. Once again, it was the indecision over the batting power play that torpedoed the Indians, who lost wickets in a heap when they finally did decide to go fort the field restrictions.
Earlier, Australia opened their inning with Steve Watson and Shaun Marsh who feasted on some listless bowling to race to 100 by the 15th over of the innings. Watson in particular tore into the hapless bowling, executing the pull shot and sweep shot with aplomb. Marsh led a charmed life when Indian skipper MS Dhoni dropped him on 29, a miss that was to prove costly, after being dropped at 90 by Yuvraj Singh, Watson took one chance too many when on 93 he skied a Harbhajan delivery for Ravindra Jadeja to lap up. But the misery for the Indians had only begun as Ponting scored a breezy 45 to maintain the stranglehold on the hosts. When he fell, Australia had reached 236 in the 39th over. At the other end, Marsh notched up his maiden one day hundred, 112 before he was caught by Gambhir off Nehra. His run a ball knock was studded with eight fours and two sixes. It proved to be a perfect platform for the late innings onslaught by Michael hussey 31 and Cameron White 57 that helped their side’s total soar to 350.
Result: Australia 350/4 India 347
On the lost game the Indian skipper felt that his side lost in the mental aspect more than the cricket. “I don’t think it was the talent part. I think it was the mental part, where you know you can pay a big shot and you back yourself to do that”, said Dhoni.
The 6th ODI in Gowhati was crucial for India. Dhoni took a great gamble. To bat first on the pitch under surface moisture was sheer misjudgment. It was visible when India went to bat. In the very first over India lost two wickets. When Australia went to bat, the pitch dried up and made the batsmen to flay easily.India scored only 170 all out. India’s top six batsmen found hard to play and they could not cope.
Australia scored 172/4 and won the series 4-2. In the lost two OdIs the difference was only of 3 and four runs. If only India could....
But that was not to be! India lost the series. The seventh ODI in Mumbai was a wash out. End of the sad story. No glory to India except that it was a great day for Sachin Tendulkar. The master batsman of all times.