Bravo, gutsy Greg!

The Indian cricket coach is never afraid to experiment, even though it may not always pay, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 18:21 IST

Tough Customer

Greg Chappell is a tough cookie. And he knows what he is doing. There will be occasional team failures, like in Karachi Test and at Peshawar ODI, but his experiments will bear fruits more often than not.

The Aussie has the courage of his conviction, and it has shown in the improving performances of Pathan and Dhoni with the bat.

Two overs into the Peshawar one-dayer, and India were pitted against the tide of history after the early departure of Sehwag.

The visitors had lost all seven matches against Pakistanwhen Sehwag had been out for less than 20. Four times they were batting first and thrice they were batting second.

India's performance against Pakistan
(When Sehwag Scores less than 20)

 Ind vs Pak Matches Won Lost
 Batting First 4 0 4
 Batting Second 3 0 3
 Overall 7 0 7

Play Brave, Not Safe

Now, in such situation, any other coach would have opted for a safe way out by sending a regular like Dravid or Kaif to consolidate the innings. But not Greg!

In came Irfan Pathan and not without reason. Ever since Greg Chappell brought the Baroda's paceman as pinch-hitter, the leftie has seldom disappointed. A brilliant 83 against Sri Lanka at Nagpur were followed by 35 against the same rivals and then 37 against South Africa at Bangalore.

India had won all these matches. Irfan'srare failure came at Kolkatta when as opener, he was castled without scoring.

Greg's experiments with Irfan

 Batting Position Opposition Runs Result for India
 One Down Sri Lanka at Nagpur 83 Won
 One Down Sri Lanka at Baroda 35 Won
 One Down Sri Lanka at Bangalore 37 Won
 Opener Sri Lanka at Kolkata 0 Lost

With this gutsy left-hander on the crease, India were hoping for some reversal in fortune, and well, fortune does favour the brave.

Experiments continued and began to pay dividends. India needed some adventurous stroke-play in the face of some really hostile bowling and after some initial tentative play, Irfan Pathan got into the groove.

After sharing the first 25 runs of the second wicket partnership with Tendulkar, he, in fact, even overshadowed his senior partner, and by quite some distance.

Partnership of 94 runs off 94 balls

  Pathan Tendulkar Extras
 First 25 runs 9 10 6
 Next 69 runs 56 9 4

Sky is the Limit

After Irfan’s departure and India comfortably placed at 99 for two, Greg could have still played safe. But that’s not the stuff the former Australian captain is made of.

In came Dhoni and thanks to his 68 off just 53 balls, India kept the momentum going. They scored atmore than run a ball even in the final ten overs,when they lost as many as seven wickets.

The progress of Indian innings

 Overs Runs Wickets Strike-rate
 1-10 45 1 75
 11-20 81 0 135
 21-30 66 1 110
 31-40 74 1 123
 41-50 62 7 107

Cricket is about spirit

Pakistan was left with the almost impossible task of undertaking the second biggest chase in the history of world cricket. To their credit, they managed it, though not the record.

Highest successful chases in the history of world cricket

 Target Match Venue Season Margin
 332 NZ beat Aus Christchurch 2005-06 2 wickets
 327 Aus beat SA Port Elizabeth 2001-02 3 wickets
 326 Ind beat Eng Lord's 2002 2 wickets
 325 Ind beat WI Ahemdabad 2002-03 5 wickets
 316 Aus beat Pak Lahore 1998-99 6 wickets
 316 Pak beat Ind Ahemdabad 2004-05 3 wickets

Whatever be the disappointment for the Indians, even Chappell’s biggest critics will admit that this thrilling encounter would not have been possible without the risk-taking ability of the Indian coach.
India’s fate may be cursed, but not Chappell’s experiments.

First Published: Feb 07, 2006 15:07 IST