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February - March 2006


India Sport Scene

Cricket

by Ramesh Seedhar


A high-voltage contest is on the cards when India, led by Rahul Dravid, locks horns with Pakistan, under Inzamam-ul Haq’s leadership, in the forthcoming ‘mother of all’ series from January 13. For cricket enthusiasts, it is more of a contest between the Master Blaster and the Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar than a clash between two teams. The Pakistan team, rejuvenated by their success against England would be hard nut to crack on their home soil. England winner of the ashes in the epic series in September 2005. is the team to beat as it looked like reaching the number one spot. England slipped to third place in the ranking after losing the series against Pakistan.

Australia despite the loss of the Ashes, have not lost their number one spot but instead consolidated that position with some fine wins. When the ICC world XI came down under last October, people expected Australia to continue on a down ward spiral. However, they were all proved wrong. Australia went back to the drawing board making wholesale changes to the team that toured England. The result is astounding with Australia. not losing any more series, They comprehensively beat the ICC XI, and followed it by a win against West Indies and then against South Africa.

For India, who regained the number two spot in the ICC rankings with wins against Sri Lanka and a drawn series against South Africa, the series encounter against Pakistan is a decisive test.

A tour of Pakistan has proved a happy hunting ground for some Indians, and it is hoped that it will once again be the case in this series. It was in Pakistan in 1978-79 that Kapil Dev made his mark as a pace bowler. In 1989-90, the 16 year-old Sachin Tendulkar made history by smashing 27 runs in an over of Abdul Qadir and then recently in 2003-04 Virender Sehwag became the first Indian to hit a Test triple-century. Let us hope Rahul Dravid and Team India come out of the Pakistan trip with flying colours, and Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan follow in the footsteps of Kapil Dev.

Zaheer khan is the latest bowler to join the Indian squad against Pakistan. Having forced his way back into the national squad with fine performances, Zaheer Khan is relying on his “new bowling style” to deliver the goods during the gruelling tour of Pakistan and admits it could be the turning point of his career.

In the five matches of the domestic cricket season, the man from Srirampur picked 33 wickets, 23 of which have come in Duleep Trophy. This season Zaheer emerged as the highest wicket-taker in Duleep Trophy, a feat that ensured his entry into the Indian team for the Pakistan tour. The 27-year-old pacer indeed has a great record of accomplishment. In 40 Tests that he has played, he picked up 111 wickets with three five-wicket hauls and four four-wicket hauls. Zaheer Khan has age and experience on his side and is now set to start the second phase of his career. It is a big test for the Borada bomber and he will have to show spirit on the field once again to prove that he is indeed India’s premier fast bowler, even better than Irfan Pathan. On his day, Zaheer is virtually unplayable; his reserve swing is often hard to read. His Yorker, is still one of the best in the business adding to that the fact that he is a southpaw and no one needs to look beyond the Borada bowler for inspiration?

When facing India, it is facile to concentrate around Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. They are, after all, cricketers who have proven their ability to put any bowler on the international scene into a deep depression. After the outstanding show against England, Pakistan is exuding assurance in their own ability by concentrating their efforts on these Big Guns, But it is not a normal Indian team they face, not since Greg Chappell took over. The Indian side does not revolve around the ‘chosen few’. Long gone are the days of dependency on the top order. Team India, now has in its possession a hidden arsenal of young players like Yuvraj, Dhoni and Irfan Pathan as an all rounder.

For Pakistan, their wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal has come a long way ever since he cracked a ton against India at Mohali. He has been a revelation for the Pakistanis, having cracked three centuries last year. The Pakistani keeper, who is 23 years old, has already played five Tests against India averaging 25 runs with the bat; Akmal has also held 14 catches and executed nine stumpings. Akmal, who hails from Lahore, probably has an edge over Dhoni, his Indian opposite number.

Dhoni has not played as many Tests and is still raw. However, the Jharkhand wicket keeper loves a challenge as he demonstrated in his swashbuckling 148 in an ODI against Pakistan last year. The face-off between the two would be an all-important clash at No.7, which could virtually decide the outcome of the series.

England versus India

England‘s women lost the one day series against India in when they were thrashed by 10 wickets in their fourth match. They were all out for 50 runs. India took little time in wrapping up the win without losing any wicket. For England Jenny Gunn was the top scorer with 13 runs. Five England players failed to score as they capitulated in 30.4 overs. For India the fast bowler Jhula Goswami took five wickets for 16 runs, while Amit Sharma and Neetu David weighed in with two wickets each. A near-capacity crowd of 20,000 at the Jatinder Mohan Dev stadium was treated to some magnificent medium pace bowling from Jhula Goswami who also won the woman of the match award. By winning the fourth test India took an unassailable 3-1 lead in a five match series. The England team had themselves to blame as their players played reckless shots. This was the lowest total ever made by England.

In the fifth and final test match, Karuna Jain hit her first century for India. This was a much closer contest despite the fact that England made another poor start. India scored 234 runs for the loss of four wickets in their innings. England initially slumped losing four wickets for 26 runs but recovered to be all out for 205 runs in the 47th over. By beating England by 38 runs in the fifth test match in Kolkata, the Indian side completed a series 4-1 victory.

In the Women’s world cup cricket final in 2005, India lost against Australia due to run outs. Now again in the last one day match against England, there were three run outs in the Indian innings. India should concentrate to improve their running in between their wickets in order to be a great side.

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