Ganguly?s ton lifted the whole team

The Indian team has performed very creditably in the first Test. In fact, way beyond expectations. In the past, the first Test has always been a problem as it takes us time to adjust to the different conditions.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2003 03:16 IST
Arun Lal

The Indian team has performed very creditably in the first Test. In fact, way beyond expectations. In the past, the first Test has always been a problem as it takes us time to adjust to the different conditions. Sourav Ganguly, I am convinced, has the rare quality of playing well just when everybody has written him off. This was an amazing innings as it was played with such dominance under extreme pressure. The shot selection was good, and execution perfect, and what's more, he seemed to do it with such languid ease.

This innings has brought him right back into the frame and more importantly, the Aussie gameplan of targeting the opposition captain to undermine his confidence, has come unstuck.This in itself has a cascading effect on the rest of the team and the fact that India managed to hold their own in the first Test is fabulous for morale. They will now go into the second Test believing that this Australian team can be beaten. It's also done a world of good for us supporters of Indian cricket.

When Sourav chose to field and India did not do too well on the first day, we heard a lot of views expressed, one of which was that this is a very negative and defensive step. I can't disagree more ? it is important to assess the conditions at the start, including the team composition and relative strengths of both sides. If it is overcast, raining, there is grass and moisture in the wicket and you have three fast bowlers, why on earth would you want to bat? Our bowlers could not exploit the conditions on Day One but came back with a bang the next day. In hindsight, I think it is clear that fielding was the right decision as the wicket tended to ease from Day Three onwards. Infact, there is nothing positive or negative about a decision, it has to be assessed as whether it will give you an advantage under the given conditions.

The batting succeeded despite the failure of Sachin or Dravid to score. VVS Laxman has been playing magnificent cricket right from the start of the season and will perhaps be the mainstay of the Indian batting on this tour.

Chopra showed good defensive technique and grit but he needs to be on the lookout for runs if he wants to be counted as a success in Australia.

It is imperative to play your shots on these hard bouncy but true wickets. Sehwag has the Bracken syndrome and the way he plays he may not be consistent but has the ability to play a match winning innings. Dravid would be relieved at the chance to spend time out in the middle. The only worry for India is that Tendulkar did not get amongst the runs.

The bowling is much too dependent on Zaheer Khan who bowled very well after a shaky start. Agarkar again showed that he has the ability but it is so frustrating to be let down again by his lack of consistency. Nehra showed a hangover of the long lay off due to injury. Harbhajan is the enigma and is definitely not at his best.

The Aussies are well aware of the devastation that he can wreak should he find his confidence and rhythm and so are attacking him from the start.

The Aussie batting once again showed why it's the best in the world. Hayden was awesome, Ponting with two fifties exuded class and Martyn the unsung hero, was once again at his most effective.

He gathers his runs quite unobtrusively but is the one who actually takes the game away from the opposition. Gilchrist had a lean game and India lost a great opportunity to pressurise Steve Waugh when Parthiv Patel fumbled an easy stumping. Waugh would have failed in both innings and Harbhajan would have had the much-needed confidence boost.

Surprisingly, their bowling looked a bit short. Bichel had an ordinary match and although MacGill took four wickets he can never really threaten India. Apart from Gillespie and to an extent Bracken, the bowling looked quite manageable.

First Published: Dec 10, 2003 01:49 IST