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Just pick your best bowlers

Tuesday was baking hot, but on Wednesday, Adelaide became a bit like Brisbane with stray clouds in the sky and a sharpish breeze blowing across the ground, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2003 02:11 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur

Tuesday was baking hot, but on Wednesday, Adelaide became a bit like Brisbane with stray clouds in the sky and a sharpish breeze blowing across the ground.

The Aussies practised in the morning, later held a media durbar where everyone had 45 minutes to ask any player anything. The media zeroed in on Steve Waugh who handled the friendly fire impressively, his responses, as always, measured and statesmanlike. These melas are an opportunity to shoot one more quick question, obtain one more quote. The players endure the interaction because they know once this is done they are free from pesky journalists for a while.

The Indian team spent the morning catching up on gym sessions. Manager Shivlal Yadav, not one to be working the machines, sorted out team accounts and sent out reminders for the evenings function, an official (dress code: team blazer, white shirt and tour tie) dinner. Players, given half a chance, would skip these compulsory (meaning painful) engagements. What's there, they ask? Just one more bhashan in an accent which is difficult to understand.

The afternoon practice was serious but as the team prepares for Test 2, a familiar question confronts the captain -- three seamers and one spinner, or 2-2? If 3-1 then which one spinner, Anil bhai or Harbhajan? It is an extremely dodgy call. One bowler is senior, steady, experienced. The other has a formidable reputation against the opposition, which incidentally has several left-handers.

Sourav says he is going grey trying to sort this out. "I have no clear answer," he admits. "It is the toughest decision facing me before every match."

Over dinner in a restaurant which ferments its own beer, Gavaskar suggests a way out. Instead off equations, 2-2 or 3-I, just pick your best bowlers, he says, sipping his customary one glass of red wine. How does it matter even if it is 4-0? Idea is to have the best attack to take wickets.

This is unbeatable logic, and isn't there an old cricket saying that you must listen, carefully when the master speaks? Gavaskar is the ultimate cricket professional, there is nothing, however insignificant or trivial, that escapes him. His radar is always up, his cricket computer is forever logged on, his alert mind constantly buzzing with fresh ideas.

Among things exciting him presently is a coaching software he saw in Melbourne and a new formula about the rain law, which he reckons is a vast improvement on the complicated Duckworth Lewis method.

As ICC's Cricket Committee chief and boss of India's NCA, Gavaskar has the clout to take things forward and make a contribution. This he is doing by pushing through new ideas, for instance the radical proposal to impose run penalties, besides financial fines, on captains for slow over rates.

It will work as in tennis where players get points docked by umpires for certain infringements. In cricket, if a team takes excess time to change between overs or fails to maintain the prescribed run rate, the other side could be awarded runs.

The proposal is worth a try, says Gavaskar, because financial fines don't hurt players.

First Published: Dec 11, 2003 01:54 IST