Dinesh Mongia is here to stay

S. SABANAYAKAN

THERE are two significant offshoots from India's series triumph in Guwahati. Firstly it was a one-day international series victory at home. And secondly it came after 15 months. Having drawn the ODI series (3-3) against England, the thought ought to have clouded the Indian captain and his players en route to Guwahati for the final one-day game. Never in the history of Indian cricket, a Zimbabwe side had extended the National team like this one led by Stuart Carlisle.

S. PATRONOBISH

Right from the first game, it was India which was under pressure to perform as the visitors won all the odd numbered matches. The Guwahati game proved to be different for the gutsy Zimbabweans. The smashing 101-run victory, authored by two youngsters, Dinesh Mongia and Yuveraj Singh, would be etched in memory for long.

Playing his 15th one-day game for India, Mongia's unbeaten 159 was the cornerstone on which the Indian victory was built. If the match referee, John Reid, named Mongia for both the Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards, it was indeed well justified. The 147-ball innings was dour and spectacular, business-like and classic. Two reprieves also marked the innings. The other innings was truly a thundering effort from Yuveraj Singh. These two knocks enabled India to reach a formidable 333 for six in 50 overs.

The target could have posed a real challenge to any side leave alone Zimbabwe. And that the visitors made 232 in 42.1 overs in a way was a fightback.

Yuveraj Singh made a power packed 75 and was associated in a 158-run stand for the fifth wicket with Dinesh Mongia.-S. PATRONOBISH

A target of 334 meant Zimbabwe looked at its experienced Alistair Campbell to take the lead role: staying around for 50 overs and guiding the innings. It was not to be as he fell at 50 with a personal score of 31 in the 11th over. A 62-run partnership for the second wicket between Dion Ebrahim and Travis Friend saw the total going past the 100 mark. Friend's ouster at 111 in the 23rd over and the dismissals of Andy Flower and Ebrahim in quick succession sent Zimbabwe out of contention.

In such a situation, a team needed good partnerships. And Zimbabwe suffered badly on this count. Only two associations, 61-run for the second wicket in 72 balls between Ebrahim and Friend and 84 for the sixth between Grant Flower and Heath Streak in 69 balls did not help Zimbabwe in its pursuit.

The Indian campaign to win the series began in right earnest when Ganguly won a good toss on a hard wicket. Mongia was circumspect early on and allowed his skipper to do all the attacking. Ganguly fell first in the 11th over. Laxman, left early as he was run out after being sent back by Mongia. This meant India looked to Rahul Dravid to give a boost to the run rate. 51 runs from 57 balls for third wicket helped Mongia to settle down nicely and anchor the innings.

The first of Harbhajan's four victims - Travis Friend is stumped by Ajay Ratra.-S. PATRONOBISH

Soonafter Mongia reached 50 off 64 balls with seven fours, Dravid was bowled trying to play across. Then Mohammed Kaif came and went. Then walked in Yuveraj.

The run feast began rightaway. From 157 for four in the 31st over to 315 for five in the 49th over, the two launched a murderous assault on the hapless Zimbabwe attack. Mongia reached his maiden 100 in 121 balls with the aid of 11 hits to the fence. Yuveraj, at the other end, was unstoppable. The two put on 158 runs for the fifth wicket in 107 balls which is the second highest for this wicket for India.

Like all good things coming to an end, Yuveraj's innings too came to an end when he mistimed a shot off Marillier when on 75. Mongia remained unconquered and his 159 was the fourth highest for India in the limited overs international. This was also the 15th highest and sixth among left-handers. The two Indian batsmen plundered 121 runs in the last ten overs and just 83 in five overs, beginning from the 43rd over. It was some unbelievable stuff from these two, who are set to serve Indian cricket for long.

The scores:

India: D. Mongia (not out) 159, S. Ganguly c Taibu b Streak 28, V.V.S. Laxman (run out) 16, R. Dravid b Hondo 26, Md. Kaif c A. Flower b Hondo 5, Yuveraj Singh c Friend b Marillier 75, V. Bharadwaj (run out) 0, A. Agarkar (not out) 6. Extras (b-4, lb-4, w-10) 18. Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 333.

Fall of wickets: 1-52, 2-98, 3-149, 4-157, 5-315, 6-316.

Zimbabwe bowling: Streak 9-0-54-1; Hondo 10-2-56-2; Friend 10-0-68-0; Brent 9-0-74-0; Marillier 6-0-38-1; G. Flower 6-0-35-0.

Zimbabwe : A. Campbell c Bharadwaj b Zaheer 31, D. Ebrahim b Ganguly 42, T. Friend st. Ratra b Harbhajan 31, A. Flower c Zaheer b Harbhajan 1, G. Flower b Zaheer 48, S. Carlisle c Dravid b Bharadwaj 17, H. Streak c Zaheer b Harbhajan 39, D. Marillier b Zaheer 0, T. Taibu (run out) 0, G. Brent c Kaif b Harbhajan 0, D. Hondo (not out) 1. Extras (b-2, lb-8, nb-4, w-8): 22. Total (42.1 overs) 232.

Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-111, 3-113, 4-114, 5-143, 6-227, 7-227, 8-22, 9-229.

India bowling: Zaheer 8-0-29-3; Agarkar 8-0-44-0; Bharadwaj 4-0-32-1; Ganguly 10-0-62-1; Harbhajan 9.1-0-33-4; Yuveraj 3-0-22-0.

THERE are different breeds of cricketers. Some are natural while some are made. Dinesh Mongia, the latest star, is one who belongs to the latter category.

There is nothing natural about his shot making ability or bowling prowess or even his fielding capability. Mongia's game plan is hard work. A prolific scorer in domestic tournaments, Mongia simply pulverised the opposition to make his presence felt.

Dinesh Mongia with the Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards.-S. PATRONOBISH

Elegance is normally associated with left-handed batsmen. But in case of Mongia he is far from it. Yet, he is effective and forthright. Endowed with tremendous patience and grit, Mongia belongs to the breed that does not miss an opportunity to grab even half chances. See how he took the chance to cement his place in the Indian team!

Mongia did take some time to settle down. After making his limited-over international debut versus Australia at Pune on March 28, 2001, which ended in a tragic run out, Mongia made his highest one-day score of 71 against England at the Eden Gardens on January 19. And now this splendid 159 not out. His best bowling figures being the three for 31 against Zimbabwe at Mohali in the series.

Humble and simple are his virtues. There is nothing spectacular in his batting. As a person too he belongs to that category. Playing for Punjab, Mongia was the team's mainstay getting tons of runs. He was also a regular in the North Zone Duleep and Deodhar Trophy teams.

Mongia scored most of the boundaries on the offside with some fluent drives. His first 50 came off 64 balls with seven shots to the ropes; the second 50 came in 57 balls with the aid of four boundaries. And the next 59 came in 26 balls with the help of six fours and one six. Such was the intensity of his onslaught.

At the same time he paced his innings very well keeping the need of the team in mind. The only time he seemed to fall back was when approaching the three-figure mark. But he made sure to make up once he crossed the magic figure.

The 'life' he enjoyed early on egged him on and he made Zimbabwe pay for it. No wonder skipper Stuart Carlisle gave him full credit for taking the match away from his team. Sourav Ganguly too praised Mongia for the way he kept going after scoring the 100.

Clearly, Mongia is here to stay. And he has proved his worth by accumulating 263 runs in this series besides grabbing three wickets.