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Whatmore's dilemma and ethics

Like Bhishma, the coach's love and loyalty can waver between Kauravas and Pandavas, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: May 27, 2007 02:40 IST

Even as Indian batsmen go on piling runs, leaving Bangladesh nowhere to go, one question uppermost in everybody’s mind will be why didn't Whatmore’s team choose to bat first in conditions where bowlers were unable to go flat out. Where the spirit was willing, but the flesh was not!

The conditions were reportedly so harsh a day before that bowlers even found it difficult to undertake the rigorous net routines they normally do. Ditto turned out to be on the day of the match. So hot that the two Indian batsmen had to retire midway. Just think of poor bowlers and fielders!

"We knew what the conditions were overhead but not on the ground. We thought it would be a little bit more advantage bowling in the first session, but it didn't work out," says the outgoing Bangla coach.

Strange choice

Advantage bowling first! It looks little strange. In subcontinent, unless one has a strong pace attack, or it’s a green-top, teams always opt to bat first.

There could have been more advantage batting first in the series decider, as just three days before, Bangladesh had given a spirited reply to India in the fourth innings of the 1st test, comfortably racing to 104 for two in just 28 overs. The Indian pacers, even first innings hero RP, had looked clueless during that period.

In fact, in the previous three innings against India in this series, Bangladesh had always managed to reach around 240 mark. Batting first, which could have considerably negated the Indian spinners’ threat on day one, they could have easily hoped for a total in excess of 300.

Besides, among the Indian pacemen in the match on Friday, there could have been a, possibly nervous, debutant (Ishant), a bowler who has not really shown his class since the World Cup (Zaheer), and a bowler eager to prove that he does belong to the elite group (RP). The pressure would have been immense on all the three, to the benefit of Bangla batsmen. Even one of them failing would have put the pace attack under tremendous pressure.

Now when these bowlers would be firing, Bangladesh will be facing a monumental task of saving the follow-on target in access of 350 at least. It will be surprising if they do not crumble.

Kumble’s Factor

Kumble would have been a critical factor, but it is unlikely that the leggie would have been used before 15-20 overs have been bowled. Again a solid start would have given Bangladesh confidence to face Kumble better.

Bangla’s decision to bat first would have also given the veteran leg-spinner nearly two days less to further gain in strength to tackle conditions. Tough Sportsmen like him do recover quickly from illnesses, but at 36, even they will not welcome the possibility of going into the action just two-three days after such recovery and in such conditions. It would have again been advantage Bangladesh.

So the decision was queer indeed. And with the two sides battling it out, of one Whatmore is the outgoing coach, and of the other, he soon hopes to be the coach, it does raise some ethical questions.

Will Whatmore be really that ruthless in beating a team, whose confidence he is planning to boost in a few days time? If he is, then he is a tough man like the Indian mythological characters.

Right now, Whatmore is in the unenviable position of Bhishma. He would like no blood spilled in the battle, but draw looks highly unlikely. Both Pandavas and Kauravas are dear to him. Negotiations with BCCI midway through the series has ensured that!

Just imagine, one year from now India taking on Australia in a battle for supremacy in the home series with Cricket Australia officials negotiating with Whatmore to become the coach of Australia!

The situation right now is just similar!