Rohit makes dream debut
Can Tendulkar flicker at his brightest for one final time?
Shillingford exposes chinks in India’s spin armour
World chess Championship
Indian men lose 4-5 to Pakistan in ACT
Gangjee keeps Indian hopes alive
His unbeaten hundred and Ashwin’s 92 put India on strong footing on Day Two
Kolkata, November 7
Twenty minutes past 10 this morning, Rohit Sharma’s heart leapt right to his mouth -- his idol, his Mumbai and India teammate, Sachin Tendulkar, fell at that moment. Rohit was the next man in. This was a dream scenario, a schoolboy fantasy for even the older men — Tendulkar falls for 10, the young man is in at 82/4, trying to save India and the team from a likely defeat.
Except that it was no schoolboy — this was Rohit Sharma, the prodigy from Mumbai, the man celebrated as the next big thing in Indian cricket for the past seven years, but also the man who seemed to have thrown it all away due to, allegedly, lack of the highest discipline.
Rohit walked in as Tendulkar walked out of the ground; the two passed each other near the boundary line. Will this be remembered as a very significant moment in the annals of Indian cricket, when the torch was passed?
That, on the evidence presented today, is a thrilling possibility. Tendulkar, who stepped into the charmed circle of greatness long ago, has decided to make way for the new; Rohit seems to be the new star from the Mumbai school of
Rohit lived the dream to the full. He saved India from a very likely defeat. India, done in by carelessness of the top order and a stunning display of spin bowling by Shane Shillingford, were down to 83/5 in the 30th over of the innings.
Shikhar Dhawan had played away from his stumps and played on; Murali Vijay was deceived by a straight ball and was stumped; Cheteshwar Pujara played a low percentage shot — the ramp/glide over the wicketkeeper — too early in his innings; Sachin Tendulkar was surprised by a doosra, and handed an incorrect LBW verdict; Virat Kohli was out caught, off bat and pad.
When the rest of the batsmen are jumping over the precipice, or being lured over it, you want a steady man in the middle. That man happens to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His cricketing skills are of the mind — as a batsman, there’s no skill that he possesses which could make him a batsman superior to any of his teammates. Yet he’s the man you want in the middle, for he sizes up the situation in a flash and plays, to use that truest cliché, ‘according to the situation’.
The situation was thus — five men down, the ball spinning and jumping and keeping low. He knew driving was perilous. He knew he must play late. He knew he must attack the spinner and hit him off his length. He knew he must run very, very hard, and he knew he had to get his runs in and behind the square, employing the sweep shot often and with force.
Inevitably, he did it, striking the fourth ball he faced, from the newly-scary Shillingford, for four with a strong sweep. Dhoni exudes calm; he talked with Rohit, advised him, possibly calmed his nerves. Rohit got his first runs in Test cricket with a pull, a four off Sheldon Cottrell.
Dhoni got a life, dropped by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin off Darren Sammy; Sammy bowls medium-pace, Ramdin was standing up to the wicket, the deflection off the bat was big. Dhoni continued to attack — taking Shillingford for two fours in his 17th over. Rohit took the cue. The runs began to flow, and lunch was taken at 120/5. The ball was changed after 51 overs because it had gone out of shape; Dhoni fell off the first ball with the changed ball, driving far from the body, caught by Ramdin. India 157 for six.
Rohit, a classical batsman much more skilful than Dhoni, was joined by Ravichandran Aswhin. The two proceeded to make a mockery of the struggles of the top order.
The pitch suddenly seemed easier to bat on; there were no nerves, no chances. Rohit was calm, Aswhin equally so. The match, very suddenly and unexpectedly, turned.
Rohit knew, like Dhoni, that runs would be had square of the wicket; and they’d be had only if he hung on. He did that, beginning calmly and accelerating in the dying light of the early Kolkata sunset. Rohit hit the ball pleasingly all round the wicket, but not in the V in the front; half his runs (64) came behind the square, and only 10 in the V. The slowness of the wicket ensured that his wonderful drives weren’t needed.
“The wicket was really slow, and once the ball got older, it wasn’t coming on to the bat. So you’d got to hold back and play late,” he said later. “Playing on the rise wasn’t an ideal option on this wicket because the ball was stopping and coming. So I just had to hold back a little bit and use their pace to my advantage.” Rohit’s century (127*) was made with intelligence and grace. Ashwin (92*) was invaluable, contributing nearly an equal number of runs to their unbeaten partnership of 198 at close to four an over. The bowlers tired, the two attacked them, getting 125 runs in the final session, for a total of 317 for the day.
Twenty-four years ago, another Mumbai debutant batted for India at No. 6, in Karachi. He didn’t set the world alight instantly. That man is leaving the stage now. Have we found a worthy successor?
One of the most memorable moments of my life is meeting Sachin Tendulkar for the first time. It was surreal for me, something unbelievable- just like it has been to so many other cricketers who grew up watching and idolizing the legend.
That overwhelming moment came when I made it to the Indian team in December 2000. As I boarded the team bus in Bhubaneswar, where the team had assembled, he was sitting there right in the front. I stood there, speechless, somewhat in a trance. He shook my hand, congratulated me and wished me good luck. I mumbled something and trudged to my seat, watching my hand, reassuring myself that this was for real.
While I was already overwhelmed with his friendly demeanour towards a rookie like me, my best Sachin moment would come a little later, on our tour to Zimbabwe. The wickets in Zimbabwe were quite tough and I was struggling to put bat to the ball in the nets. We had a game the next day and I was feeling very low. Sachin noticed my discomfort and came over. He told me a few things that helped a little. Yet, I was quite downcast when we returned to our hotel.
I was grappling with my apprehensions when the phone rang. It was Sachin. He asked me to come over to his room. That left me a little confused and worried. I racked my brains trying to think if I had done something wrong as I entered his room. To my utter surprise, he made me sit down and spoke to me for about 20 minutes, trying to lift my morale. “You are indeed facing some problems but don't let that get to your head. Just believe in yourself, have faith in your game that has brought you into the side,” he told me.
When I came out from his room, I was feeling relieved and ready to face any challenge. More than what he said, the fact that he was thinking about me and my problems, and took out time to help me deal with it was both moving and motivating for me.
That incident made me a greater fan of Sachin the person than Sachin the cricketer.
— As told to Subhash Rajta by Reetinder Sodhi. He played for India between 2000-2002
Top of the line
136 vs Pakistan in Chennai, 1999
Those who have watched this innings will never forget it in their lifetime. The first Test of the home series against Pakistan in 1999, in Chennai, India were set a target of 271 to win. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis killed the contest by leaving India 82/5. Sachin and Nayan Mongia errected 136-run stand for sixth wicket. Sachin, with a sore back, reached his hundred in style and took India near to victory. Saqlain finally snared him on 136 with 17 still needed and 3 wickets in hand. India capitulated to Pakistan, losing last 4 wickets for four runs and end on 258 Figure this 51number of Test tons he has scored until now. Jacques Kallis (South Africa) is second on the list with 44 tons in 160 Tests. He has the best chance to break Sachin’s record. Ricky Ponting has 41 centuries from 168 Tests.
136 vs Pakistan in Chennai, 1999
Those who have watched this innings will never forget it in their lifetime. The first Test of the home series against Pakistan in 1999, in Chennai, India were set a target of 271 to win. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis killed the contest by leaving India 82/5. Sachin and Nayan Mongia errected 136-run stand for sixth wicket. Sachin, with a sore back, reached his hundred in style and took India near to victory. Saqlain finally snared him on 136 with 17 still needed and 3 wickets in hand. India capitulated to Pakistan, losing last 4 wickets for four runs and end on 258
51number of Test tons he has scored until now. Jacques Kallis (South Africa) is second on the list with 44 tons in 160 Tests. He has the best chance to break Sachin’s record. Ricky Ponting has 41 centuries from 168 Tests.
Can Tendulkar flicker at his brightest for one final time?
Kolkata, November 7
He’s the totem pole, the emblem, the pride of each team he graces; but for some time, he’s not been the key batsman the opposition fears and plans for. Before the light dies out of his batting, would Tendulkar flicker bright for the one final time?
It’s unlikely it would happen at the Eden Gardens. That possibility existed today until 10.20 am today morning; at that moment, umpire Nigel Llong made a mistake he’s likely to regret for a very long time. Tendulkar was beaten by a doosra from off-spinner Shane Shillingford; the ball missed his bat, spun past the inside edge and hit Tendulkar on his right thigh. Replays conclusively indicated that the ball would have passed over the stumps; Tendulkar walked back to the pavilion with sluggish feet, turning around only to throw one last look at the scene of the crime done to him. Did he wonder at that moment if he’d get another shot at an Eden farewell?
It was no crime, of course —it was just a commonplace umpiring error. To the spectators, to the people who had access to the slow-motion replays, though, it indeed was a crime, because Tendulkar may never bat at the Eden Gardens again.
Tendulkar’s protest was limited to just a gesture of his hand after he’d stepped out of the ground, after he’d disappeared from the public view; there, motioning to a teammate with an upraising palm, he indicated that the ball was too high for him to be given out LBW.
Forty-one minutes earlier, Tendulkar had seemed assured enough after walking in to bat. Murali Vijay’s dismissal had sent a wave of delight among the fans. There was a thunderous din, chanting, laughter and joy in the stands then; he took his time taking the guard; he surveyed the field in an unhurried manner. He seemed to be settling his nerves, waiting possibly for a funny feeling at the bottom of his spine to subside. The field was attacking, with three men in close catching positions; they didn’t seem to radiate aggression at the aged warrior; Tendulkar even seemed to answer a word of greeting from the wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin.
Tendulkar began without a flourish, running a leg bye second ball and then getting a single off Tino Best.
Best was reversing the ball, Shillingford was making it do all sorts of things — off-spin, doosra, straight ones.
Tendulkar quickly realised that he’d have to play square of the wicket today, for the wicket was too slow to drive on. He hit the seventh and ninth balls for fours, both off Shillingford, both in the midwicket region — he clearly wanted to play with the spin. Tendulkar then played out a defensive maiden, as did Cheteshwar Pujara. Then Pujara fell when he attempted the exciting ramp shot over the wicketkeeper, becoming the first Test victim of Sheldon Cottrell.
The next over, from Shillingford, ruined the day for the spectators, who were only beginning to fill up the stadium — Tendulkar given out to Shillingford for 10 off 24 balls.
India sank deeper in the day before rising high, courtesy Rohit Sharma’s debut century and an absolutely Laxmanesque display of batting by Ravichandran Ashwin. The man who looked absolutely mournful at the day’s end was not Tendulkar; it was Shillingford. Shillingford almost admitted that he was lucky to get Tendulkar; he was very defensive when asked about it. “That’s a funny question. At the spur of the moment, it’s every bowler’s reaction to appeal one time,” he said. “But when I got in and I had seen it and stuff... At the end of the day, the umpire made his decision. It’s my job to appeal, so these things happen in the game.”
He spoke these words with a funereal expression on his face. Was he sad? No, a West Indies contingent member revealed that the Shillingford is a loner and an introvert.
Rohit later said that if India got a good lead, they might not have to bat again. “We have good spinners and if we get a big lead, and if our bowlers bowl well, we might not have to bat in our second innings,” he said.
Even if India do have to bat the second time, they’d be unlikely to be chasing a big total. Tendulkar the batsman’s final tryst with the Eden, thus, may have ended on a gloomy note, but the likely win should dispel it. And he could yet get to bat a bit in the second innings and show that he’s still relevant, if in a relatively minor way.
Shillingford exposes chinks in India’s spin armour Rohit Mahajan/TNS
Kolkata, November 7
Off-spin is possibly the most commonplace among the different arts of bowling — everyone seems to be able to bowl off-spin. Not quite like Shillingford does, of course, or like Graeme Swann does, but off-spinners, and spinners in general, haven’t really bothered Indians much in the past.
The greatest of them all, Muttiah Muralitharan, averaged 32.61 against India; Shane Warne’s average against India was 47.18, and Abdul Qadir’s 51.51. Daniel Vettori was worse, at 55.73.
Indian batsmen haven’t been worried by the greats among the spinners; the nondescripts have troubled us, though: Nicky Boje (Bangalore 2000), Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds (Sydney 2008), Clarke and Nathan Hauritz (Mumbai 2004) and Ray Price (New Delhi 2000, when he got Sachin Tendulkar LBW twice), for instance. Going further back, we’ve occasionally struggled against Pat Pocock and Phil Edmonds of England, John Bracewell of New Zealand and Iqbal Qasim of Pakistan.
But India’s recent record shows worrying, increasing frailty against spin.
Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell and Xavier Doherty took 26 Indian wickets in four Tests earlier this year, though these wickets came at a huge cost and Australia lost 0-4.
India’s problems against spin were more brutally exposed last winter; Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar easily outbowled the Indian spinners in India, picking up 37 wickets in the series and ensuring victory for England. Tendulkar, especially, was almost humiliated by Panesar in Mumbai.
Why have the Indian batsmen, feared by the best spinners of the world, suddenly become suspect against the spinners?
“If you look at the recent record, medium-pacers are taking a lot of the wickets in domestic cricket,” says Rahul Dravid, master of bowling of any sort. “Earlier, one fast bowler and three spinners used to play for a team. Now, say, Karnataka plays just one spinner in the team. So our young batsmen are playing too little spin in domestic cricket.”
“To make it to the Indian team, you had to be a very good batsman against spin bowling because that was the only way to score runs,” says Dravid. “It’s not like that now. Spin is not used so much... For example, at Lahli recently (Tendulkar’s last Ranji Trophy match), there was very little spin bowling used. Our young batsmen are not playing enough quality spin bowling.”
Another problem is that Indian batsmen, once they make it to the Test team, rarely play domestic cricket; thus the only spin bowling they ever face is at the international level —which is not the best place to learn footwork or the deft hand-work that’s required to face it.
Shane Shillingford really befuddled the Indian top order today — though they did make errors, especially Shikhar Dhawan, who cut the ball without moving his feet and played it on to his stumps. But Murali Vijay, leaping forward to attack Shillingford, was beaten when he didn’t read a straight ball; Tendulkar got a fantastic ball, even if he was unlucky to be given out. Virat Kohli was also gobbled up by Shillingford. He and Tendulkar were beaten in defence — an even greater reason for mortification.
“Yes, that was a great ball that beat Tendulkar,” says Dravid. “The ball may have been too high and Tendulkar unlucky, but it was a very good ball that beat him.”
Spin bothering Indians on a regular basis — who thought we’d see such a day?
Chennai, November 7
Anand, the undisputed world champion since 2007, faces a strong challenge from the 22-year-old Carslen in one of the most awaited Championship matches in recent history.
Asked how well he has prepared for the event, Anand said, “I worked as I always did. Couple of months of training and I think I am ready to attack. We will see how it goes but I think I am ready to play. I am really excited to play in my home city. I am looking forward to the match and getting on to that,” he said after the inauguration of the event by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
In terms of hype, the match between five-time champion Anand and world No 1 Carlsen is comparable to the historic clash between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972.
The two players sought to play mind games in their first press conferences ahead of the match, with Carlsen refusing to disclose the names of his seconds after Anand said Indian Grandmasters K Sasikiran and Sandipan Chanda, Hungarian Peter Leko and Poland’s Radoslav Wojtaszek would assist him. “I appreciate Mr Anand’s openness about his team but I will say I am not going to return the favour,” said Carlsen, who won the right to contest against Anand after winning the Candidates Tournament earlier this year.
“I am happy today. It is good to be here. Everything is good so far and I am looking forward to the match,”
Anand said that he was not perturbed by suggestions that he would begin as the underdog in the match. “I don’t know. In general, I get ready to play against certain opponent. That is it. As for whether some think I am a favourite or not or the percentage that I enjoy, I do not know what you can do with that information any way.”
Having won five world titles, Anand said his experience could come in handy in the 12-game match which will be played at the Hyatt Regency here. — PTI
New Delhi, November 7
India, who have fielded 13 juniors players in the squad to give them exposure ahead of next month’s Junior World Cup, scored through Gurjinder Singh, Amit Rohidas, Manpreet Singh and Malak Singh.
For Pakistan, Abdul Haseem Khan, Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Rizwan Junior were the goal-getters.
The Pakistanis stunned the Indian defence as early as in the second minute with a field goal from Haseem. India drew parity in the 24th minute when Gurjinder successfully converted a penalty corner. Six minutes later, Rohidas converted another penalty corner with a low drag-flick to give India a lead.
Pakistan, however, equalised at the stroke of halftime through a penalty corner conversion by Imran.
Pakistan made a strong start after the change of ends and surged ahead in the 36th minute through Rizwan before India skipper Manpreet made it 3-3 four minutes later with a fierce shot from top of the circle after being fed by Malak.
Goals continued to rain as Rizwan scored his second goal of the day in the 44th minute to restore Pakistan’s lead. But India drew level once again when Malak scored from a field effort five minutes later before Rizwan Junior scored the winner for Pakistan in the 53rd minute. India will now play Malaysia in their last league match tomorrow.
Eves lose to Japan
India conceded a late goal to lose 1-2 to hosts Japan and slump to their first defeat in the women’s competition of the Asian Champions Trophy.
India, who play Japan in the final on Saturday, took the lead in the 33rd minute against the run of play through Chanchan Devi’s penalty corner goal. The Indian defence managed to hold back the Japanese till Arai Mazuki scored in the 59th minute and Otsuka Shiho scored the winner with just two minutes to go. — PTI
Gangjee keeps Indian hopes alive
New Delhi, November 7
Gangjee, who ranks 31st on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, shared the lead with Siddikur of Bangladesh, Mardan Mamat of Singapore, winner of the 2004 Indian Open, Asian Tour rookie Carlos Pigem of Spain and Thai duo Pariya Junhasavasdikul and Chapchai Nirat. Shankar Das made bright the Indian presence in the top-10 with 67, while Jay Bayron of Philippines, Shamim Khan and Unho Park of Australia were a further shot back at tied eighth in the $1.25 million event.
On a day when big names such as Arjun Atwal (73), Shiv Kapur (75) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (77) struggled, Gangjee was the cynosure of the Indian camp, with Jyoti Randhawa (70) and Anirban Lahiri (71) also under par.
“I kept going, I didn’t stop making birdies. I lost track of my score,” Gangjee said.
Gaurav Kanthwal/ TNS
Chandigarh, November 7
Punjab tried all the tricks of the trade but Jaffer was not the one to get entangled.
The visitors were comfortably placed at 207/5 in 71 overs with Jaffer (92;175b) and Hiken Shah (9) at the crease when the play was stopped due to bad light. Punjab managed to get rid of five wickets but its bowlers could not dictate terms to the visitors. It was the no. 3 Jaffer who batted for close to 60 overs, effortlessly negotiating the quicks and the tweakers to put his team on a strong footing.
Neither could the pacers unnerve him, nor could the spinners, including Harbhajan Singh, trouble him with their guiles.
The former India batsman’s straight drives, cover drives and back foot punches indicated there is nothing in the pitch. Manpreet Gony and Siddharth Kaul’s attempts to bounce him looked silly as he pulled them to deep square leg with all the time in the world.
The highlight of the day and Jaffer’s innings was a mighty six over long on; the bowler from the Pavillion End was none other than the Punjab skipper Harbhajan. Jaffer picked up the pace with boundaries after completing his half century.
Having opted for spin over pace — their main strength — Punjab could not force their way with pacers early in the innings. Siddharth Kaul, though, got a breakthrough in the form of opener Aditya Tare (LBW) in the 10th over it was Harbhajan who uprooted the off stump of opener Kaustubh Pawar (24) a little later.
The home team introduced spinners as early as the 17th over and relied on them for most part of the day. Yuvraj Singh effected a dismissal of the well set Suryakumar Yadav (44) towards the end of the day.
Brief scores: Mumbai 1st innings: 207/5 in 71 overs (Jaffer 92*, Yadav 44; Kaul 2/40)
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