From the publishers of THE HINDU

Vol. 25 :: No. 12 :: Mar. 23 - 29, 2002



Zimbabwe dents India's reputation


"IT'S a long drive to Faridabad, isn't it?" asked Andy Flower. He should have known, having played a three-day game and a one-day match at the Nahar Singh Stadium on his previous visits. It was a long drive indeed but a strikingly joyous one when the team returned in the evening.

V. V. S. Laxman, who made a classy 75, drives Grant Flower.

The Zimbabweans had pulled off a sensational win against an Indian team which again allowed things to drift. None would grudge the Zimbabwe achievement because it exposed certain shortcomings in the Indian preparation for the series.

In the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, the teams were expected to be evenly balanced and the equation remained so as Zimbabwe matched India in every department.

Sourav Ganguly may not have given credit to Douglas Marillier, who changed the course of the match with a clinical demolition of the Indian attack. It was one of the finest demonstrations of sensible batting when under pressure.

At no point did India look like losing until the final nail in the coffin put things in the right perspective. There was a sense of complacency that affected India's approach to the job during the end overs.

The Indians expected Marillier to play a false shot but it did not happen for the simple reason that it was his day. He got away with everything he tried and in the end the Indian reputation lay in tatters. What stood out sorely was India's failure to check the flow of runs.

Md. Kaif's good show with the bat and Ajit Agarkar's (right) cameo knock gave respectability to the Indian score.

Former Test cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar was quite forthright when he said "honestly I can't find any faults with the Indians. They tried the best under the given circumstances and the effort was there for everyone to see. If the Zimbabweans won the match, the credit ought to go to them for the brilliant batting."

Maninder Singh agreed with Manjrekar. "I thought it was a fair result because Zimbabwe did well to recover and bat with purpose when it mattered most. The innings by Marillier was one rare performance and I don't think the Indians should be criticised for the defeat. It was a good match and I would like to remember it for the performance of Marillier", said the former Test left-arm spinner.

Alistair Campbell gave the much needed impetus to the Zimbabwean batting with a fine 84.

Even as Zimbabwe earned praise for the show, former captain Bishan Singh Bedi found the defeat hard to digest. "What were the Indians doing when Marillier took the bowling apart. I thought the Indian team lacked purpose and direction in the field. To me, it was hilarious really, watching the Indians go down in a most unprofessional manner," he thundered.

It was even more absurd to see India allow the game to drift. Having set a target of 275, the Indians should have wrapped up the match comfortably. But two fine knocks by Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell gave Zimbabwe the much-needed impetus at the top and then it was Marillier who took over.

The Indian innings was built around the classy knock of V.V.S. Laxman and Ganguly's determined effort to come to terms with his form.

The team management had experimented with a new opener in Dinesh Mongia and it was not a bad move considering the Punjab left-hander's ability to strike the ball hard.

The innings by Mohammad Kaif should boost the youngster's confidence and it reflected in his wonderful fielding during some tense moments when Zimbabwe launched an inspired chase.

Andy Flower (71) is castled by Anil Kumble.

There was this cameo by Ajit Agarkar too but then he seems to reserve his batting exploits against Zimbabwe only. His knock gave the Indian innings the platform to look for a comfortable victory, but he came a cropper with the ball, failing to do the job. The Indians need Agarkar the bowler more because a lot depends on his skills in the end overs.

The Indians never seem to have an answer when a batsman decides to go after their bowlers. At various points in the past, batsmen have destroyed the Indian attack and what has always stood out is the abject surrender by the bowlers. Marillier exposed the Indian attack and the fielding standards also took a dip with the exception of Kaif.

Zimbabwe recovered from two early blows, thanks mainly to Andy Flower and Campbell. It was their experience which stood out and of course the magical innings by Marillier as Zimbabwe plundered 48 runs in the last four overs to reach the target with two balls to spare.

Zaheer Khan, who was India's best bowler in the initial stage, was given a rude shock in the closing stages. His first two spells put India on the road to victory but his third showed the left-arm seamer in poor light as he went for 34 runs in two overs. The yorker deserted him and it placed enormous pressure on the Indian skipper who sought help from Anil Kumble.

The veteran leg-spinner too failed and with him went India's last hope of salvaging prestige. It was a contest which contributed to enliven the one-day series even as it highlighted a few shortcomings that continue to plague the Indians.

Douglas Marillier, for his lethal assault on the Indian bowlers, won the Man of the Match award.

It would not be fair to single out the skipper alone for the defeat, or Zaheer for that matter. The blame lay in collective failure of the side and that is a flaw which has haunted the team for quite some time, with no solution in sight.

The scores:

India: D. Mongia c Taibu b Streak 25; S. Ganguly st. Taibu b Marillier 57; V. V. S. Laxman (run out) 75; R. Dravid lbw b G. Flower 23; M. Kaif (not out) 39; S. Bangar c Friend b Streak 0; A. Ratra (run out) 6; A. Agarkar (not out) 40. Extras (lb-1, nb-2, w-6) 9. Total (for six wkts in 50 overs) 274.

Fall of wickets: 1-46, 2-123, 3-171, 4-193, 5-193, 6-211.

Zimbabwe bowling: H. Streak 10-0-53-2, T. Friend 10-0-68-0, G. Brent 10-0-68-0, D. Marillier 10-0-53-1, G. Flower 10-0-31-1.

Zimbabwe: A. Campbell lbw b Zaheer 84; C. Wishart b Zaheer 1; T. Friend b Zaheer 7; A. Flower b Kumble 71; S. Carlisle c Ratra b Zaheer 23; D. Ebrahim c Ganguly b Bangar 10; G. Flower c and b Harbhajan 2; H. Streak c Ganguly b Harbhajan 1; T. Taibu c Ratra b Bangar 8; D. Marillier (not out) 56; G. Brent (not out) 1. Extras (lb-5, nb-6, w-2) 13. Total (for nine wkts in 49.4 overs) 277.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-21, 3-132, 4-186, 5-193, 6-198, 7-200, 8-210, 9-253.

India bowling: Z. Khan 10-2-47-4, Agarkar 8-0-45-0, Bangar 9-0-42-2, Harbhajan 10-1-48-2, A. Kumble 9.4-0-70-1, Ganguly 3-0-20-0.

"I just played my shots"

IT was a once in a lifetime performance and the innings grew in stature because it came from the bat of a number ten.

Now, Douglas Marillier is not a rabbit with the bat but then to expect him turn the tables with such an astonishing knock would have been beyond the imagination of even his mates.

"I know he could bat but this knock simply took the breath away. It was as if he knew it coming, because he was confident all the way. He likes to bat in his own manner and I'm glad for the lad because he had to struggle a lot," said Andy Flower as he praised Marillier's sensational performance of an unbeaten 56 off a mere 24 balls with ten boundaries and a six.

It was the fifth fastest half century in the history of the game, coming off just 21 balls. But what counted was that it was a match-winning effort.

Marillier was the unchallenged candidate for the Man of the Match award, which would have gone to Zaheer Khan had the Indian bowler kept his cool in the closing stages. Marillier had first made news when he played the 'scoop stroke against Glenn McGrath in a match which saw Zimbabwe almost chase a 300-plus target.

He had failed then but not this time as the Indians stood helpless, Marillier scored off one-bounce boundaries to the sightscreen behind the wicket-keeper, a most innovative shot which took the game away from India.

The most striking feature of Marillier's knock was his supreme confidence. Not once did he show signs of wilting and thrived as the game progressed. "I just played my shots," said Marillier modestly. His lethal assault placed his innings among the all-time greats for the simple reason that it was an incredible show.

Forty-eight runs in four overs was a stiff target and few teams would have backed themselves to achieve it. Even Zimbabwe did not but Marillier was in a mood to contribute, even if batting at number ten placed him in a very difficult position.

"You don't play such innings everyday," Sourav Ganguly said in defence of his bowlers. Zaheer Khan failed to bowl one yorker in his last spell. All his slower ones were spotted early by Marillier, who had the presence of mind to keep changing the direction of his shots. A couple of drives and a timely six reflected the wide range of his shots.

"Marillier is a brave guy," said Andy Flower. To have come back from a crippling injury, a car accident which crushed his legs, has to be a saga of dedication and hard work. Spending time on a wheelchair made him more determined and he made a remarkable comeback to the game. "I admire him for his spirits," said Andy Flower, who had always spoken highly of this 24-year-old cricketer from the Midlands.

The innings by Marillier shall be recorded as one of the finest in the game and his reaction to the honour was as modest as the man. "I'm happy only because it helped the team win the match," he said, underplaying his magnificent show that laid a team like India low even in favourable conditions.

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