Saturday, December 02, 2006

Indians enjoy their first taste of Bikini Cricket

By John Cheeran
Twenty20 has turned out to be the perfect vision for the Indian cricket team groping in the South African darkness.
India’s six-wicket win is important because it will inject a heavy does of self-confidence to the side. Watching Indian batsmen’s struggles at the crease I had even suggested that the limited overs game should be further cut to fit Indian size, which has shrunk in a big way recently.
Indians have struggled to bat through their quota of 50 overs in the first three one-dayers in South Africa.
Though South Africa did not field their frontline pace bowlers such as Shaun Pollock, Mkhaya Ntini and Andre Nel for this game, skipper Graeme Smith was keen to maintain the side’s dominance over Indian batsmen.
For that matter, India too was without skipper Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and VVS Laxman, the batting trio, who could have made a difference.
Going by the performance at the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday, Virender Sehwag is the future captain of India in Twenty20s. He has an enviable record now; he is India’s first captain in Twenty 20 cricket.
In fact if his recent displays are any indication, India’s lone triple centurion in Tests, has redesigned his stroke play for the bikini cricket.
For Dravid, the biggest plus point should be the form and fortitude of a young Dinesh Karthick who handled the chase of 126 with a cool head. Karthick’s unbeaten 31 off 28 balls won him the Master Blaster award. Karthick hit a six off the first ball of the final over bowled by Robin Peterson to make victory a reality.
Even in the earlier one-dayers against South Africa Karthick has showed his willingness to go for bold strokes. The Tamil Nadu youngster is getting used to the bounce of the tracks and should be a leading contender for a middle order slot in the Test series.
In fact there could be a direct tussle between Karthick, who is now taming the bounce of these bumpy tracks, and Indian cricket’s biggest come back hope, Sourav Ganguly. Ganguly has not yet reached South Africa and has a well documented and exploited frailty against fast bowling. And Ganguly’s aversion to mundane chores such as fielding is well known.
It is quite significant that team management has told Karthick to pay more attention to his fielding since he has been a wicketkeeper. "I really worked hard on my fielding and the results were there. I don't want to be a liability on the field. I want to make sure that I'm one of the top three fielders in India. Even if I play as a batsman, I can stop runs in the field,” says the youngster.
Karthick said the last over sixer was part of the plan, with nine needed from six balls. "I was confident that I could pull off a big shot," he said. "I had it all worked out in my mind. I knew there were a couple of areas where to hit."
Karthick felt India was always in control of the chase. "It was important that someone put up their hand and did well," he said. "Viru gave us a good start and Dinesh [Mongia] played very well and consolidated. It was important to get off to a good start and from there on, we did pretty well."
Indians have more strenuous work ahead of them in the final one-dayer to be played on Sunday in Johannesburg and the much sterner Test series to follow.
For Greg Chappell and Dravid, the architects of youth policy, Karthick’s progress and the promise he holds out should be welcome straws to clutch at.

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