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Blues call it not quite cricket

Indians peeved with Lions’ decision to bat on; Strauss, though, insisted that it was in his team's interests to bat oht goes to england, reports Rohit Mahajan.
Hindustan Times | By Rohit Mahajan, Chelmsford
UPDATED ON JUL 17, 2007 01:00 AM IST

Dinesh Karthik does not possess an outstanding record as a bowler — he had delivered a total of 24 deliveries in his entire recorded career as a professional before Sunday.

However, on Sunday, against the young, talented England Lions, Karthik sent down a spell of four overs.

At that point, around 38 overs still had to be bowled in the third and final day's play and Owais Shah and Jonathan Trott were proving to be difficult to dislodge on a very placid batting track.

Sachin Tendulkar, though, threw the ball to Karthik, whose CV doesn't even list what kind of bowler he is. Now we do know though — he tries to bowl leg-cutters, and has a proclivity for bowling full tosses. Was he asked to bowl for shock value, or was there another reason behind this?

There was, it seems. The Indian team had made a proposal to Andrew Strauss, the England Lions captain, to set up an exciting last session of play — just like at Hove the previous week, when India and Sussex spiced up the fourth day's play with a quest for victory.

Strauss, though, refused and was adamant — he said he did not believe his team had a chance of winning by bowling out India on this wicket. That's quite true, and tactically too it made sense for him to deny the Indians protracted time in the middle. However, that made for a very dull hour's play, when, for 18-odd overs, the game was totally devoid of interest or logic. And the Indians were not too happy.

Thus, the unveiling of Karthik. When he came on to bowl, England were 199 for two, 229 ahead, with around 38 overs to go. Clearly, that was the point when the match could have been made interesting — if Strauss had declared.

Strauss, though, insisted that it was in his team's interests to bat on. “I don't think a result was possible from what happened over the first two days,” he said.

“The Indians talked about setting something up, but there wasn't enough time for us to bowl them out. The maximum that we could have bowled at them was 40 overs which on that that flat wicket, wouldn't given us a realistic chance to bowl them out.”

Yuvraj Singh, who ended up with a spell of eight overs, displayed his impatience as he bowled — he once delivered a ball with a slo-mo run-up, and, often with just a one-step run-up.

Later, he indicated that the Indians were indeed unhappy. “We wanted to make a match of it, we thought it would provide some exciting cricket to the fans,” he told HT.

“We wanted to play positive, exciting cricket.”

“If they come to India, there is every possibility that they might not be able to dismiss one of our teams on those wickets, but that does not mean that we'd go on and on and on!” he added.

When the declaration did come, the Indians chose to bat out the 20 overs possible, even though, with no possibility of a result, the match could have been called off before the final hour started, after just five overs of the Indian innings.

Karthik, in a more familiar role now, hit a sparkling half-century, Wasim Jaffer also got some valuable time in the middle, which the Indians wanted.

And which was not what Strauss wanted. “Sometimes, you've got to look at the bigger picture rather than just at what you're doing at the time,” he said.

The mindgames and more, have begun in right earnest.

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