Gambhir stands tall

Piyush Chawla cannot hide his joy after dismissing Mohammad Ashraful. The young spinner was very impressive.-

When a batsman puts a price on his wicket the contest intensifies, and it was a determined Gautam Gambhir that one saw at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. Vijay Lokapally reports.

Gautam Gambhir had a worried look when he played across the line and lost his wicket in the first one-day match. He returned to the same venue, much determined and much chastened from the experience. This time, he told himself, he would make the bowlers earn his wicket. When a batsman puts a price on his wicket the contest intensifies, and it was a determined Gambhir that one saw at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.

The hot and humid conditions presented a huge challenge. "It was hard to concentrate but then I knew I had to hang in there. I had made up my mind not to try anything fancy and I kept telling myself that I had to bat at one end as long as possible," Gambhir said of his improved batting approach. He came up with a century that should boost his claims for a regular place in the Indian team for the season ahead.

Gambhir's brilliant century laid the foundation for India's comfortable victory. The win meant the series was decided India's way with a match left. It was quite expected but then the World Cup debacle had created apprehensions in the minds of India's well-wishers.

The thumping victory, even if it was against a weak opposition, was just the boost that Rahul Dravid and his team needed ahead of a gruelling season.

Bangladesh could not be faulted for entertaining hopes of a revival in this match after its encouraging show in the first. Winning the toss may have given India the advantage of setting a big target and creating pressure on Bangladesh and full credit to Gambhir for the professional touch he brought to his batting.

It was tough for Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar to motivate his players once Gambhir set the tone for the innings. Virender Sehwag wasted another chance when he played an impulsive drive but Mahendra Singh Dhoni played his part in giving Gambhir the support to build on his start.

"Getting to fifty was a big relief," said Gambhir, who paced his knock astutely. Of course he got out playing across the line but then the job had been accomplished by then. The century, his second in 21 one-day matches, was a tribute to Gambhir's determination. "I was getting the starts and it was important to carry on from those starts.

"I thought it was the right time because we were 1-0 up and to seal the series it was very important for me to get a big score. Being on the winning side and getting a hundred always feels great. When I got my first hundred we had lost. But today it feels great that we won the series."

Dravid put things in perspective when he stressed on the future than the past. "We can't do anything about the past. The only thing we can do is play some good cricket in the games we have here and in the future and that is what we are focusing on. From that point of view it's good to play some good cricket here."

While Gambhir can take home some good memories from the match, there was also a noteworthy show by the young leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. The fact that he brought in variety to his bowling in his 10 overs spoke of the youngster's confidence.

He flighted the ball, bowled the googly and experimented with the line and length. He attacked and that was what stood out in Chawla's bowling on a pitch that was conducive to strokeplay.

The Indian team management had planned a specific role for each player. Dravid spoke his mind. "Part of the roles of our top-order is to be a bit aggressive and take a few chances. In conditions like this and against this attack one of the things we discussed is being positive upfront and taking a few chances. Some days it is going to happen that people are going to take some chances, maybe some day one chance too many and it may not come off.

"But that is part of the strategy. If someone gets an opportunity and puts up a score like Gautam did and wins the game by batting through in tough conditions, it gives the selectors a lot of confidence and hope," the skipper said.

True, the confidence that Gambhir and Chawla showed did raise hopes of greater contributions from these two.

THE SCORES Second ODI, May 12. India won by 46 runs.

India: V. Sehwag c Omar b Rasel 21; G. Gambhir b Rasel 101; M. Dhoni c Rahim b Rafique 36; Yuvraj Singh c & b Rafique 24; R. Dravid (not out) 42; D. Mongia c Rafique b Razzak 17; D. Karthik lbw b Rafique 6; P. Chawla st. Rahim b Razzak 1; R. Powar lbw b Mortaza 5; Zaheer Khan (not out) 9; Extras (b-1, lb-7, w-9, nb-5) 22. Total (for eight wkts., in 49 overs) 284.

Fall of wkts: 1-43, 2-130, 3-174, 4-210, 5-239, 6-251, 7-258, 8-273.

Bangladesh bowling: Mortaza 10-0-57-1; Rasel 10-1-49-2; Razzak 10-0-59-2; Hasan 7-0-40-0; Rafique 10-0-59-3; Aftab 2-0-12-0.

Bangladesh: J. Omar c Karthik b Zaheer 11; T. Iqbal (run out) 7; Aftab Ahmed b Powar 40; S. Hasan c Dhoni b Zaheer 5; M. Ashraful b Chawla 12; H. Bashar st. Dhoni b Chawla 43; M. Rahim c Karthik b Yuvraj 35; M. Mortaza c Sehwag b Yuvraj 42; M. Rafique c (sub) b Chawla 14; A. Razzak (not out) 9; S. Rasel (not out) 4; Extras (b-4, lb-2, w-6, nb-3) 15. Total (for nine wkts., in 49 overs) 237.

Fall of wkts: 1-18, 2-51, 3-60, 4-86, 5-92, 6-151, 7-176, 8-192, 9-230.

India bowling: Zaheer 7-0-32-2; Patel 7-0-34-0; Chawla 10-0-37-3; Powar 10-1-32-1; Mongia 8-0-57-0; Yuvraj 7-0-39-2.