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Commonsense prevailed when India batted

By Greg Chappell
February 20, 2003 18:12 IST
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With India's much-needed win over Zimbabwe, many of the team's demons have been put to sleep, at least, if not completely laid to rest.

Both coach John Wright and captain Sourav Ganguly will have slept a little better on the back of solid evidence of some fighting spirit from their charges. It is this fighting spirit that can take them to the final stage of this tournament if they remember how to do it, and can produce it under pressure from a more committed opposition than the hapless Zimbabwe team.

While the cricket world awaits the outcome of Shane Warne's hearing in Australia, the whole of India would have heaved a collective sigh of relief with the comfortable 83-run victory over Zimbabwe in Harare. The relief among the team members and management would have been even more palpable. It can't be any fun knowing your family and property are under threat back home.

Commonsense prevailed when India batted with Tendulkar and Sehwag opening the innings. They have been the best two openers in recent times and Indian spirits should have been raised seeing the master batting with his apprentice. The 99-run opening partnership was just what an ailing team needed and Tendulkar's poise would have done more for the Indian population than his appeal for calm from the team supporters back home a few days before.

Tendulkar is a class act and few can have experienced the pressure of expectation that he is subjected to each time he bats. No doubt Sehwag takes a lot of confidence from batting with the great man. Heath Streak gave them a stern test as he used all his wiles and experience on a wicket with spongy and variable bounce, and things could have gone horribly wrong had early wickets been lost.

Mongia looked out of sorts in his brief stay but while Tendulkar was at the crease a formidable score was always possible. It took the ball of the tournament so far to bring his innings to an abrupt and, seemingly, premature halt.

While Dravid and Ganguly were not quite back to their brilliant best, the time they spent together in the middle will have soothed a few jangled nerves. Ganguly still has a long way to go with his confidence but by the end of his stay Dravid was showing some of the fluency for which he has been renowned.

The batting line-up had a more settled look with these two in the middle order and this should be the configuration they use for the rest of the tournament. Batting is not necessarily any easier in the middle but it can be after a solid start like India received on this occasion.

Field placement is different, the ball is not as hard and the mindset of the bowlers is often quite different from the early overs with the new ball. Both Dravid and Ganguly can prosper in these middle overs if they use the bigger gaps to work the ball and run hard between wickets to put the pressure on to the opposition. Their experience can be put to good use if they can be spared until overs 20 through 40.

The score of 255 was not daunting, but Srinath showed all who were interested that batting was not as easy as the Indian opening stand may have suggested. He put the Zimbabwe top order through a thoroughly searching test and came out on top to put India into a strong position.

The loss of early wickets made the Indian total look more formidable and once Andy Flower was firstly wrapped up, then dispatched, the score quickly slumped to 83 for 5 and the death knell was nigh for Zimbabwe.

The spirit of the Indian teamed seemed high, as if the catastrophe of the Australian loss had galvanised them into a tighter knit unit. No doubt they were anxious to support each other in the face of very little support from home.

Perhaps, not even Sachin Tendulkar could appreciate the sort of pressure Andy Flower, Henry Olonga and others are under in their homeland.

Former Australia captain Greg Chappell played in 87 Tests, scoring 7110 runs at an impressive average of 53.86.

PTI

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