The master & the pupil flex their muscles

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

THE four light towers presented a symbolic picture of the progress made by Green Park. Signs of modernisation have taken time to embrace this traditional cricket centre even though the India-England one-day contest, won by the former, was not played under lights. The usual pre-event chaos was there, but the conduct of the match itself was impeccable. Full marks to the administrators and the police for a job very well done, barring the press box, where the officials in charge forgot that the colonial rule had ended in 1947.

Virender Sehwag, revelling in the company of Sachin Tendulkar, despatches Matthew Hoggard to the fence.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Crowd control was efficient and the ticket distribution far more disciplined than at many other centres. For those familiar with Kanpur, it was a pleasant change. The Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association secretary Jyoti Bajpai was indisposed, but he was reportedly in touch with the administration. The police force too appeared to have been trained for handling the crowd but had little role to play since the spectators behaved themselves.

The Green Park may not have the modern infrastructure associated with international cricket these days but it has its own character. It was a tribute to the groundstaff that they managed to squeeze in a 39 overs a side contest after overnight rain had presented them a challenge. Heavy dew added to the woes and the groundstaff worked most diligently to get the outfield playable. They had no modern techniques to assist them and the thunderous round of applause when they took the covers off the pitch was a fitting reward for their toil. The two teams, too, made it a point to thank the members of the groundstaff.

Had it been a day-night affair, it would have been a better contest but then the spectators did get their money's worth. The overs may have been curtailed but not the excitement as the audience was treated to some vintage strokeplay by Sachin Tendulkar, innovative hitting by Nick Knight and some dazzling work by Virender Sehwag. It was a heady mix of quality batsmanship.

Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the cheers for his 11,000th run in one-day internationals.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The run-up to the match was sad, especially for the Indian camp, when news came in of WorldTel chief Mark Masceranhas having died in a road accident. Tendulkar was stunned by the news when The Sportstar met him. "I'm shattered," said the little master as he recalled his association with his agent. "He was more than an agent. He was a friend," remarked Tendulkar. The next day the Indian team wore a black band in unison as a mark of respect for the man who brought the game to the drawing rooms, beaming matches from cricket fields all over the world.

The English camp ran into problems on the morning of the match when James Foster was flattened by a tummy upset. Graham Thorpe was drafted in and Trescothick asked to keep wickets. Not the ideal start they would have asked for, but then the opening stand between Nick Knight and Trescothick raised visions of a grand match and a possible English domination, but things fell into place in quick time for the Indians, who won with plenty to spare.

It was not a match to remember for it never created the kind of situation which makes limited overs cricket a spectacle. The passion for cricket in India is unmatched and the partisan support for the home team was as much a challenge to the visitors as was the battle in the middle where Javagal Srinath had discovered new ways to make his presence felt.

Michael Vaughan takes a swing at Sourav Ganguly, but hears the rattle of timber behind him.-V. V. KRISHNAN

For the Indians it was a performance which saw almost everyone making some kind of contribution. Tendulkar and Sehwag made a mockery of the target and the English attack; Srinath bowled like a champion and the ground fielding was given a thrust by the electric Mohammad Kaif and Hemang Badani with Ajit Agarkar too showing a strong arm. His bowling was, however, in tatters as the English openers targeted him. In five overs, Agarkar went for 40 runs, much in contrast to his showing in the last two matches at Chennai and Cuttack.

Knight came up with an entertaining innings, clobbering the seamers and dominating the spinners with his sweeps and reverse sweeps. It was this shot that proved his undoing but by then he had done enough to leave the Indian bowlers a worried lot. The Englishmen showed needless haste to get on with their strokemaking even as skipper Nasser Hussain defended the slide: "the ball had become soft and it was difficult to get runs." But the English skipper agreed there was need for the middle-order to improve its record. "The middle-order has to bat in a different tempo, like Thorpe," he said.

The English camp once again sought refuge by blaming the umpiring, which one thought, was flawless. Messrs I. Sivaram and C. R. Mohite distinguished themselves with their supervision even as Hussain argued that Tendulkar was caught down the leg side off the first ball of the innings that he faced from Darren Gough. The umpire, Mohite, was firm and signalled a wide. "I was convinced, as were my mates, that Tendulkar had got a snick. It could've been a close match," said Hussain, who was certainly not in a better position than the umpire to hear the nick or follow the deviation, if it was from the bat. And remember, Mohite did not enjoy the privilege of slow motion replays.

Harbhajan Singh takes the return catch offered by Nasser Hussain.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The Englishmen were blown away by the batting of Tendulkar and Sehwag, the target hardly putting any pressure on the openers. Sehwag had to be promoted since Sourav Ganguly, who had left the field to nurse a catch in the leg, could not bat at the top. It was a boon for the Delhi strokeplayer and for the crowd too, which was treated to some exciting stuff from the two. "They (openers) won the match for us," praised Ganguly. An apt statement of the match which was dominated by Tendulkar, Sehwag and Srinath.

A word about the officials in the press box. They ended up apologising in writing after having treated the Indian and the English media differently. The English were given royal treatment, served at the seat, even as the Indian scribes were asked to fend for themselves. Only when a young local scribe, Dharmendra Kishore Tripathi, took up the matter did the officials wake up to the needs of the Indian scribes. It was too late though. The British were not to be blamed. These UPCA officials were just too keen to make them feel at home, like in the pre-Independence days.

The scores:

England: M. Trescothick c Mongia b Kumble 18, N. Knight c Kumble b Harbhajan 74, A. Flintoff c Tendulkar b Kumble 18, N. Hussain c and b Harbhajan 15, G. Thorpe (not out) 36, M. Vaughan b Ganguly 4, P. Collingwood b Ganguly 6, B. Hollioake c Sehwag b Srinath 13, J. Snape (not out) 9, Extras (b-1, lb-19, nb-1, w-4) 25. Total (for seven wkts. in 39 overs) 218.

Fall of wickets: 1-71, 2-111, 3-144, 4-151, 5-156, 6-166, 7-197.

India bowling: Srinath 8-0-31-1, Agarkar 5-0-40-0, Harbhajan 8-0-40-2, Kumble 8-0-44-2, Ganguly 5.1-0-17-2, Sehwag 1-0-9-0, Tendulkar 3.5-0-17-0.

Nick Knight, who top-scored for England, attempts to reverse sweep Harbhajan Singh.-V. V. KRISHNAN

India: S. Tendulkar (not out) 87, V. Sehwag c Hoggard b Collingwood 82, S. Ganguly b Gough 26, D. Mongia (not out) 17, Extras (b-1, lb-2, w-4) 7. Total (for two wkts in 29.4 overs) 219.

Fall of wickets: 1-134, 2-179.

England bowling: Gough 6-0-44-1, Hoggard 5-0-38-0, Flintoff 3-0-25-0, Hollioake 4-0-33-0, Snape 5.4-0-45-0, Collingwood 6-0-31-1.

Tendulkar is his hero

THE sunglasses he wears do not project the right image of the man. He is an extremely shy character, who speaks only when he is addressed. Of course, he does give himself the liberty of speaking to himself repeatedly when batting in the middle. Left to himself, Virender Sehwag would only like to listen, and especially if the man speaking happens to be Sachin Tendulkar.

The striking resemblance between the two has often proved an embarrassment for the rustic Sehwag. It is natural for the conversation to drift towards a comparison between him and Tendulkar and that is the time when you see Sehwag going red-faced, from embarrassment and anger. "Inko cricket ki samajh hi nahi hai (they just don't understand cricket)," he once hissed when someone compared him with Sachin.

"I adore Sachin. He is the god of cricket as far as I am concerned and has been my role model. I copy his shots and that's it. Please tell people not to compare me with Sachin because no one can ever bat like him, no one," said Sehwag, the 'Man of the Match' at Kanpur.

"He's a very exciting batsman and it's a pleasure to bat in his company," was the warm response from Tendulkar, who enjoyed watching Sehwag destroy the English attack with his clinical hitting.

Some effortless shots from Sehwag saw Tendulkar going up and patting the Delhi batsman affectionately on the back thereby providing him the motivation to keep up his good work.

If there was a flaw in Sehwag's performance at Kanpur, it was his failure to convert the excellent effort into a century. As he reached the half-century, Tendulkar reminded him that he was now beginning his innings afresh. Sehwag nodded, set his sights on a century, but played a poor shot to miss the distinction. "It was very disappointing. I mistimed the shot. Had it cleared the fielder, it would have been a boundary," said Sehwag. Even Tendulkar was disappointed at Sehwag missing out on his century.

It was a credit to Tendulkar that he chose to play second fiddle and allow Sehwag to dominate. The master encouraged the pupil to play his natural game and the 100-plus association effectively snuffed out the Englishmen's fight.

"I enjoyed the knock, but it was not my best. But it was indeed special because I was in the middle with my hero," said the modest Sehwag.