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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sachin leads the way

Few days before his 25th birthday, Sachin Tendulkar played a blinder of an innings in Sharjah against Australia in 1998, taking the indian team to the finals of the tournament (that was followed by another beauty in the finals, helping India seal the tournament). 10 years later, when he is on the verge of his 35th birthday, he scored a quality century winning the first final of the triangular series.

Many people had doubted Sachin Tendulkar's temperament while chasing. They said that he usually didnt score in a major finals. India had not won a match against Australia in Sydney, forget winning any match in the triangular series finals. Nobody gave a chance to the Indian team to put it across the Australians today, including me.

Sachin Tendulkar showed what a great man he is, by taking the Indian team to the finishing line. He ensured that Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson were not given early wickets, by playing straight and risk-free. Of course, who could forget the innovative strokes above the slip's head that he has been hitting consistently this tour. The asking rate never went above Six an over. Everytime the rate was threatening to increase, Sachin and Rohit Sharma scored boundaries to keep the rate down. Sachin must have been very pleased to get a century today after his various attempts in the last year.

Rohit Sharma played a great knock on his own. He must have learnt quite a bit by playing alongside his childhood hero. It was as though Sachin was handing over the mantle to the youngster. Both tutor and pupil came together in a century partnership, taking India past the time when there was a risk that there might be a flurry of wickets. The pair played well together, running the singles hard and talking to each other frequently. Sachin was literally guiding the youngster through the partnership.

This match showed that experience does play a part, even though the youngsters are doing their best. This was one opportunity where Gambhir and Uthappa could not get going. Similarly, Irfan Pathan could do nothing right. But, Harbhajan alongwith the find of the tour, Ishant Sharma, reduced the Aussie run-rate from the heights of almost six to a more reasonable five. The inclusion of Piyush Chawla proved to be a master-stroke from Dhoni, since nobody from the Aussie team had seen him bowl earlier. It turned out to be a calculated master-stroke with the bowlers reducing the Australian team to a chaseable score.

No praise must be too much for MS Dhoni. He asked for a team that would add value in terms of better agility on the field and backed them throughout. Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa are the examples of how the captain has mentored the youngsters in this difficult tour. Following Anil Kumble's class act during the test series, MS has gone one notch higher in meeting the Aussies heads-on. When the Aussies got in return more than what they gave to the Indians, they didnt know what hit them.

The Australian top-order, as has been seen throughout the series, failed once again. It was left to the experience of Hayden and Hussey to take them through. Whenever India and Australia played against each other in Sydney this season, there has always been a number of incidents either from the players or the umpires. This time also, the decision against Michael Clarke was wrong. It was symmetrically opposite to that of Andrew Symonds in the test match. It was India's turn to get the rub of the green and they would not be complaining.

What it means is that the Indians go into the second finals, leading 1-0. The Aussies lost the triangular series last year, against the English team under Paul Colingwood. It remains to be seen whether the Aussies can come back against the Indians by winning the second final. For that to happen, their batting and bowling has to come to the party. And, more importantly, leave the chatter behind in the dressing room rather than the field.
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