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Aussies level series after pitch drama

Like the last day of the Adelaide Test, the sun came out in all its glory, but instead of hope there was despondency in Indian camp.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2003 11:06 IST

Like on the last day of the Test in Adelaide, the sun came out in all its glory here at the MCG, but instead of hope there was despondency in the Indian camp. The Test was over in less than two hours.

Nothing unexpected given the state of the match but one keeps hoping till the end - especially when the wicket is expected to be at its treacherous best.

Much before the match began this morning, came the revelation that the MCG wicket had been tampered with. Among the pundits of the game at the ground, "shock" and "disbelief" were the most frequently uttered words.

As one entered the media box, an angry Geoff Boycott could be heard saying: "Had this happened in either India or Pakistan, everyone would have called them cheats. This is simply unpardonable."

It was shocking to know that the groundsman, Tony Wares, had repaired the wicket by filling in two badly damaged spots - around just short of good length area - with fresh solid portion of clay. This was entirely against the rules as the state of the pitch can under no circumstances be changed.

Mr Wares's explanation that he thought that the wicket had got damaged while being brushed after play, and that was the reason why he had got it repaired, was found to be untrue.

In the end, the contentious, and even scandalous, issue was resolved when match referee Mike Proctor got the wicket restored to its original damaged state.

Proctor later gave a clean chit to the curator, saying he was "satisfied with Wares's explanation" and as far as he was concerned the issue had been resolved without Wares being at fault.

What Proctor's statement meant was that whatever happened, happened unintentionally and there was no sinister motive behind Wares's action. But Boycott was right. Had the same thing been done by a groundsman in India, the whole world would have cried foul. We still live in a world where some people are more equal than the others.

Now back to cricket or whatever little of it was played on Tuesday.

There is nothing much a team that has to defend only 95 runs can do, even if the wicket is expected to be spiteful.

Lingering on the subject of the wicket a bit longer, one could see huge cracks and even couple of holes on the surface. That it did not produce a shock result in the end may have a lot to do with the firmness of the wicket.

It was still as solid as a rock. And India were without their frontline bowler Zaheer Khan, who was finally declared "unfit". He did not take the field on Tuesday.

It is shocking and even sad to see that a team which is trying to create a new image for itself, cannot detect injuries to its players well in time. First there was the Harbhajan instance and now this Khan injury.

Why was he allowed to play? Was he hiding an injury? These are very vital questions and need to be addressed properly so that they are not repeated again for the good of the team.

On hindsight, India lost a match that for the first five hours was in their complete control. From 278 for one to 366 is an embarrassing collapse.

What a thrilling contest it could have been here too, had India scored around 500 runs in the first innings. Who could have even dreamt before the team left for Australia that India could have been in a position of going 2-0 up in the series!

But that indeed was a strong possibility. All you had to do was to look at the relief and joy on Steve Waugh's face at the press conference and it was obvious the Australian captain knew he had just about managed to win the Test.

Don't go by the scoreboard which says India lost by nine wickets. Yes they did but the Test was poised on the razor's edge till as late as the fourth afternoon.

India should draw a lot of comfort from the fact that they are going to Sydney with the series still alive and kicking. But yes, they must sort out their messy bowling problems well in advance and not draw public ridicule by juggling around with unfit players.

Scorecard

First Published: Dec 30, 2003 07:31 IST