Shane Bond has given us a psychological edge over India
INDIA READY themselves for their second encounter of the Videocon triseries on Monday, and they will be looking to use this match to get into some kind of batting form after their poor performance against our bowlers on Friday. The Harare pitch is very different from the one at Bulawayo in that it has more bounce and is definitely quicker. This will not be good news for the Indians as they will have to face Shane Bond in bowler-friendly conditions twice over the next week.
I will be the first to admit that Shane transforms our side whenever he is fit enough to play for us. We were a competitive side over these last two years, but Shane's presence raises us and makes us one of the best one-day sides. The game against India was an example of how vital he is to the side. We were defending a moderate total against a solid batting line-up, on a good batting track. With his pace and variety, Bond forced us back into the game within the first hour. From then on, the Pathan-Yadav resistance notwithstanding, there was only one side that could win the game.
Some players have a talismanic quality about them, and Shane possesses it in abundance. The last two years have been a testing time for the 29-year-old, and there were moments when he thought he would never be able to bowl fast again. In those dark periods, he would often have to think of a future without cricket, and those were tough times for the injury-hit paceman.
The lowest point was reached when he broke down immediately after making a comeback against England last year. A back surgery was inevitable, and nobody knew then how well he would regain his strength. As captain, I was also pretty worried about Shane's future. I had seen the way injury had cut short the career of Geoff Allot, a promising fast bowler, who had been the top wicket-taker in the 1999 World Cup. Geoff got in touch with Shane right through his rehabilitation period, and was a constant source of support and advice for the latter.
It's great to see Shane back on the field once again, and he is working hard to ensure that he maintains his fitness levels. We need him to win games, and we're all hoping that his surgery holds up well.
Getting back to Friday's game, I was a little surprised to see India arrive at the match venue less than 24 hours before the game. Call it questionable attitude or poor scheduling, it was not the best way to prepare for your first game. However, I liked what I saw of some of the young players.
I was particularly impressed by Irfan Pathan, whom I have played against in the county circuit. He is Scotty Styris' teammate at Middlesex, and we got to know that he has great attitude, good fitness and is an asset on the field. Irfan and Nehra were both extremely impressive in the morning, when they gave a great exhibition of swing bowling. The other newcomer who impressed me was Yadav, who was adequate with the ball, and showed great spirit with the bat. India have been looking for an all-rounder for quite some time now, and Yadav could be developed for that slot.
Another area in which the Indians have been struggling for some time is wicket-keeping. Dhoni looked pretty neat and efficient behind the stumps, even when the left-armers were moving the ball in the first hour. I am sure Rahul Dravid will be the man most relieved by the young keeper's progress! Most of the interest in this tri-series centres around how India and New Zealand fare against each other. Shane has not only helped us register a good win, he has also given us a psychological edge. Having said that, our batsman will need an improved performance in our next game against India. After all, we can't always rely on the Canterbury cop to bail us out.