Indians fail miserably against seam bowling

S. DINAKAR

Hitchcock exults after he has dismissed V. V. S. Laxman, caught behind by McCullum. Both Hitchcock and 'keeper McCullum had a whale of a time in the third one-dayer.-N. BALAJI

SO far, this has been a boxing duel where the Big Punches have been absent for most part. In other words, booming blows with the willow, save Virender Sehwag's strokes in Napier and Nathan Astle's blitzkrieg in Christchurch.

But then, the bowlers will argue that there were some blistering strikes with the ball. If anybody said cricket was a `Batsman's Game', the bowlers of both sides, at least on this Indian tour of New Zealand, would take offense.

After all, it has been a bowler's, or rather a seamer's game on this tour, with the batsmen coming a poor second. It was no different at the Eden Park in Auckland, or at the Jade Stadium in Christchurch.

Even in the batsmen friendly Napier pitch, where Sehwag produced a well-made century, and Nathan Astle and Matthew Sinclair came up with sizable contributions, the Kiwi bowling and fielding carried the day.

Tuffey and McCullum celebrate, even as Indian skipper Ganguly departs in Christchurch.-N. BALAJI

After the first three duels of the seven-match series, the Kiwis led 3-0, which also meant the Indians, who had turned in outstanding displays in NatWest tournament and in the ICC Champions Trophy, were going through their worst phase in a long time, with the side's batting and fielding shown in extremely poor light.

New Zealand won the first ODI by three wickets, the second by 35 runs, and the third by five wickets, which suggests they have done enough and more to win.

Spearhead Shane Bond produced a scorching yorker to castle Virender Sehwag in the first game, missed the next two due to a minor side strain, but with Daryl Tuffey, posing searching questions to the batsmen, and the equally big-made Jacob Oram providing fine support, the Kiwis have hardly missed Bond's firepower.

Mills is jubilant and his victim is Sehwag in the third ODI.-N. BALAJI

Tuffey, in particular, has operated with so much discipline in this series, which, combined with the natural elements in his bowling in these conditions, such as bounce and an off-stump line, has made him a different proposition altogether. His 10-2-11-2 in Christchurch, reflects his unerring accuracy and the ability to pick wickets, keeping the pressure on.

And Jacob Oram, who too hit a length and gained lateral movement and bounce, provided Tuffey wonderful support and in Auckland, took on the lead role himself, picking five for 26. Oram also batted with responsibility lower down the order and has only added to this New Zealand side, without Chris Cairns' inspirational all-round presence.

And the bowlers were well supported by wicket-keeper batsman Brenden McCullum, on a comeback, who kept quite brilliantly in Napier, and had he not missed stumping Yuvraj at Christchurch, would have equalled the world record for the most number of dismissals by a 'keeper in ODIs. He still managed a unique record — ten dismissals (the most by any 'keeper) in back-to-back ODIs.

For India, Virender Sehwag, after an eminently forgettable time in the Test series, was fired out by Bond in Auckland, but, when the Kiwi pace spearhead was rested at Napier, the Indian opener emerged a different batsman, driving, cutting and pulling the pacemen in McLean Park ground which has short square boundaries. His 119-ball 108 was an effort where he blended caution with aggression, and, but for a needless risk that saw him running to the danger end, only to see bowler Tuffey out-dive him at all-important moment, might have well enabled India level the series.

Tuffey does a great job and Sehwag is run out. But the Indian opener played his part with a hundred in the second one-dayer.-N. BALAJI

Javagal Srinath, back for the ODIs, called the tune, except when Nathan Astle went after him in Christchurch. The senior paceman bowled an impeccable off-stump line, achieved bounce and took the ball away from the right-hander at will. He scalped eight in three games, gave very little away in the first two, and ensured his selection for a fourth World Cup. The old warrior still has some fight left in him.

Zaheer Khan, quite the most consistent factor in the Indian attack, bowled with purpose again, while the other left-armer Ashish Nehra impressed in Auckland but needs to put in a lot more effort into his fielding. Ajit Agarkar operated with zest when finally given a chance in Christchurch, seaming the deliveries away and cleverly bringing the odd one in. However, the bowlers were let down by the clueless Indian batsmen.

India was skittled out for 108 in both Auckland and Christchurch and it was a sorry tale of surrender in conditions where the batsmen needed to show character. There was hardly any application, hardly any tenacity, hardy any will to survive.

The Indian innings lasted 32.5 overs in the first ODI, 43.4 in the second, and 41.1 overs in the third. A shocking piece of statistics that exposes the hollowness of India's claim that it possesses the best batting line-up in the world.

For skipper Sourav Ganguly the tour of New Zealand has been a journey that has gone wrong. It is so vital for him to make runs, show the way at the top of the order, something he has done so often in the past in one-day cricket. His wretched run with the willow hasn't helped matters one bit and the captain is under considerable pressure.

It was also evident that the Indians had not learnt their lessons in New Zealand; there are so many aspects that can be learned even from defeats. However, the Indian batsmen, with an exception or two, have hardly brought about any change in their methods.

It was also clear that several of them have been pampered by the plumb conditions for batting at home, where the pacemen often become mere spectators.

Attempting far too many strokes away from the body and reaching out for the ball, rather than play close to the body, they have cut a sorry figure. Even somebody with the right approach and technique like Rahul Dravid is not being able to put together a lengthy innings, since the wickets have been falling like nine pins from the other end.

The biggest name in the two sides, Sachin Tendulkar, injured his right ankle in a freak accident during the nets before the Auckland game, keeping him out of the first three encounters. This surely was a blow, however, the side had other highly rated batsmen, who should have delivered when the heat was on.

Lou Vincent is castled by Srinath in the Napier match. Though India lost the match, Srinath had a good time with the ball.-N. BALAJI

With the Indian World Cup squad due to be announced after the second game, a couple of Indian players were on trial, and ultimately V.V.S. Laxman lost out, hardly doing justice to his ability, consumed time and again outside the off-stump.

Any side that tours has to adapt to the differing conditions and the Indians have failed miserably here, continuing to perish in the same fashion. Making excuses about the pitch is hardly going to take them anywhere, and had the Indian batsmen approached the challenge in a positive frame of mind, they could have won two out of the first three games.

Both at Auckland and Christchurch had the Indians grinded out the attack, they could have reached the 175-run mark, a match-winning score on the seaming pitches of Auckland and Christchurch.

If batting was the culprit in these two matches, then sloppy fielding let the side down in Napier, allowing New Zealand to make 254 after Ganguly won the toss.

Astle and Sinclair had a rollicking stand in Napier.-N. BALAJI

It was perhaps India's poorest fielding display in a long time, attempts were made to stop the ball with the feet, and there was a general lack of commitment by the Indians, who must have conceded 28 extra runs. To make matters worse, they were docked two overs for not maintaining the run-rate, and instead of chasing 255 in 50 overs, their task became a lot more complicated. It was also a day when the running between the wickets left a lot to be desired, and the Indians did succeed in making a mess of things after victory was in sight at 182 for five.

Shiv Sundar Das, who was to fly home after the Test series, received a bonus ODI in Auckland, following an SOS from the team-management. And rather ironically, the opener top-scored in the match with 30. The Orissa batsman, with his compact ways, appeared more suited to these conditions than some of the bigger names.

The pitches at Auckland and Christchurch probably did too much for a one-day surface, but that doesn't take away the fact that both the sides batted poorly, hardly displaying the right application needed to survive on such surfaces.

At home, not too long ago, we saw even the good balls being smacked for sixes in the home series against the West Indies, where the pace bowlers, on docile pitches, were like lambs to slaughter.

Oram has knocked out Ganguly's middle stump in the Auckland match. The Kiwi bowler picked up five wickets and also came up with a match-winning knock.-N. BALAJI

Here, it was a totally different ball game, where three slips and a gully waited for the edges, and survival was the key really. The Indian batsmen were found wanting.

The outstanding individual performance came from Oram in Auckland. This is turning out to be a remarkable season for the Central Districts captain and all-rounder.

On Boxing Day it was all Oram. With the ball, he ran through the Indians, when the visitors were going along rather well.

The Kiwis celebrate after the fall of Laxman's wicket in Auckland.-N. BALAJI

India was 63 for two, with Das and Ganguly attempting to bail the side out of trouble following a rocky start when Oram began his destructive run. Ganguly played on, losing his middle-stump, Yuvraj was picked up in the second slip by Astle, Mohammed Kaif was pouched in the first slip by Fleming, while Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath fell for no score to the Kiwi bowler. From 63 for three, India, after a rather bizarre collapse, had slumped to 74 for eight.

When Oram finished his first spell, his figures — 6-2-20-5 — were indeed outstanding. Using his height to great advantage, Oram got his deliveries to seam and bounce, and even if his pace was not threatening, his length was exceptional.

Then, when the Kiwis, chasing 109, were themselves in deep trouble at 52 for six, Oram, a southpaw, batted with much responsibility, to remain unbeaten with a 54-ball 27 (2x4), Kyle Mills and Daniel Vettori offering him valuable support as New Zealand eventually reached the target.

Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly pats Srinath, who almost bowled India to victory in the first match in Auckland. His four for 23 was a great spell, given the task that India had to defend a meagre total.-N. BALAJI

Oram may have been lucky to survive a confident Anil Kumble appeal for leg-before at 86 for seven, but held his nerve and drove confidently towards the later stages of his innings.

The Heavyweight did pack a punch on the `Boxing Day.' And then the Kiwis went on to increase the lead in Napier and Christchurch.

The scores: Christchurch, January 1

India: V. Sehwag c McCullum b Mills 7; S. Ganguly c McCullum b Tuffey 4; V.V.S. Laxman c McCullum b Hitchcock 10; R. Dravid c Vettori b Hitchcock 20; M. Kaif c McCullum b Oram 17; Y. Singh (run out) 12; S. Bangar c McCullum b Tuffey 1; A. Agarkar c Hitchcock b Astle 6; Z. Khan (not out) 8; H. Singh c Vincent b Hitchcock 0; J. Srinath c Fleming b Oram 1; Extras (lb-8, w-9, nb-5) 22; Total (in 41.1 overs) 108.

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-15, 3-38, 4-67, 5-82, 6-83, 7-90, 8-100, 9-102.

New Zealand: Tuffey 10-2-11-2, Mills 10-2-26-1, Oram 8.1-1-22-2, Hitchcock 8-0-30-3, Astle 5-1-11-1.

New Zealand: S. Fleming c Kaif b Zaheer 4; N. Astle c Ganguly b Srinath 32; M. Sinclair c & b Agarkar 0; C. McMillan c Kaif b Agarkar 22; L. Vincent lbw b Agarkar 15; B. McCullum (not out) 10; J. Oram (not out) 10; Extras (lb-6, w-9, nb-1) 16; Total (for five wkts.) 109.

Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-39, 3-50, 4-83, 5-92.

India: Srinath 8-0-44-1, Zaheer 9-2-26-1, Agarkar 8.5-1-26-3, Bangar 1-0-7-0.

Napier, December 29

New Zealand: S. Fleming c Kaif b Srinath 1; N. Astle c Zaheer b Ganguly 76; M. Sinclair c Dravid b Harbhajan 78; C. McMillan lbw b Srinath 5; L. Vincent b Srinath 34; J. Oram (run out) 4; B. McCallum c Yuvraj b Zaheer 7; K. Mills b Zaheer 5; D. Vettori (not out) 9; D. Tuffey b Zaheer 5; P. Hitchcock (not out) 2; Extras (b-9, lb-9, w-6, nb-4) 28; Total (for nine wkts) 254.

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-146, 3-157, 4-199, 5-204, 6-224, 7-233, 8-237, 9-252.

India: Srinath 10-0-34-3, Zaheer 10-0-47-3, Nehra 8-0-42-0, Harbhajan 10-0-56-1, Bangar 7-0-34-0, Ganguly 5-0-23-1.

India: S. Ganguly b Tuffey 0; V. Sehwag (run out) 108; V.V.S. Laxman c McCallum b Mills 20; R. Dravid (run out) 18; Y. Singh st McCallum b Vettori 0; M. Kaif c McCallum b Tuffey 24; S. Bangar c McCallum b Oram 4; H. Singh c McCallum b Hitchcock 14; Z. Khan c McMillan b Mills 11; J. Srinath c Oram b Mills 3; A. Nehra (not out) 0 Extras (lb-3, nb-7, w-7) 17; Total (in 43.4 overs) 219.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-57, 3-104, 4-104, 5-182, 6-187, 7-204, 8-206, 9-217.

New Zealand: Tuffey 10-2-35-2, Mills 9.4-0-45-3, Oram 8-0-50-1; Vettori 8-0-48-1, Hitchcock 8-0-38-1.

Auckland, December 26

India: S.S. Das c Fleming b Mills 30; V. Sehwag b Bond 0; V.V.S. Laxman c Mills b Tuffey 9; S. Ganguly b Oram 14; R. Dravid c Vettori b Tuffey 20; Y.Singh c Astle b Oram 2; M. Kaif c Fleming b Oram 6; A. Kumble lbw b Oram 0; J. Srinath c Sinclair b Oram 0; Z. Khan lbw b Vettori 14; A. Nehra (not out) 0; Extras (lb-6, w-5, nb-2) 13; Total (in 32.5 overs) 108.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-28,3-63, 4-63, 5-65, 6-74, 7-74, 8-74, 9-108.

New Zealand: Tuffey 6.5-0-23-2; Bond 7-0-32-1, Mills 8-2-20-1, Oram 10-3-26-5, Vettori 1-0-1-1.

New Zealand: S. Fleming lbw b Nehra 12; N. Astle c Laxman b Srinath 0; M. Sinclair c Ganguly b Zaheer 15; C. McMillan c Dravid b Srinath 4; L. Vincent lbw b Nehra 13; B. McCullum c Dravid b Srinath 4; J. Oram (not out) 27; K. Mills c Dravid b Srinath 21; D. Vettori (not out) 5; Extras (lb-2, w-3, nb-3) 8; Total (for seven wkts. in 37.4 overs) 109.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-29, 3-29, 4-48, 5-52, 6-52, 7-86.

India: Srinath 10-3-23-4, Zaheer 9-1-43-1, Nehra 10-3-16-2, Kumble 7-1-15-0, Ganguly 1.4-0-10-0.