Yuvraj gets going

India, expectedly, swamped Bangladesh by 200 runs on a sluggish surface at the Bangabandhu Stadium, and it was a young man, donning the garb of a senior who made the most of it. Yuvraj Singh could celebrate at last.

S. DINAKAR

Yuvraj Singh, who notched up his maiden one-day hundred, punishes Alok Kapali. — Pic. N. BALAJI-

THIS was a competition the Indians could have done without. A gruelling World Cup campaign was just behind them and now they had to sweat it out in the hot and humid Dhaka.

Physically the men in blue might have been tired. However, willing themselves mentally for another effort, so soon after a major event, would be even more demanding.

In the event, the fact that five key cricketers were unavailable for the TVS tri-nation tournament due to injury or personal reasons was actually a blessing in disguise for the team.

Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Ashish Nehra were not in the team. Yet, with the inclusion of youngsters such as Avishkar Salvi, Gautam Gambhir and Amit Mishra, there was an element of freshness in this Indian side.

At least some new talent will be on view. It is in this context that Sourav Ganguly's participation in the side assumed significance. It is no secret that Ganguly had reservations about participating in the tournament. Apart from mental fatigue, the skipper had a niggle in the back, and he had done enough on the field to earn a well-deserved rest.

However, with the youngsters in the fray, it wouldn't be a bad idea if the captain had a closer look at the boys in the heat of the competition.

Even if Bangladesh was a minnow, he could at least test the youngsters' temperament and skill against the South Africans. This could, after all, turn out to be a more fruitful tournament for the Indians.

India, expectedly, swamped Bangladesh by 200 runs on a sluggish surface at the Bangabandhu Stadium, and it was a young man, donning the garb of a senior who made the most of it. Yuvraj Singh could celebrate at last.

That he had gone 70 ODIs without a hundred rankled him. He had been within a whisker of a century against the Sri Lankans on a seaming Sinhalese Sports Club wicket a couple of years ago, but ended up unbeaten two runs short of the mark.

Like that innings, Yuvraj's unbeaten 102 surfaced at an adverse moment for India, when the side was in a spot of bother at 172 for six, with the Bangladesh bowlers and fielders cock-a-hoop. He responded to the situation with a beautifully paced knock, his first fifty taking up 60 balls and his second consuming just 28. Yuvraj, with Ajit Agarkar providing him useful support, explored into a flurry of shots — the cover and square drives, the pulls and the lofted hits.

The Bangladesh attack might not have held much of a threat. Still, the slowness of the pitch meant this was not the easiest wicket to produce strokes and the home bowlers, leggie Alok Kapali and Sanwar Hossain, were operating with a measure of discipline.

The aggressive Punjab batsman dismantled the attack, and when he reached the landmark, despatching Bangladesh captain Khaled Mahmud to the fence in the final over of the innings, he burst with joy, and his team-mates cheered him on from the pavilion.

Yet, glimpsing at the larger picture, it hardly did the Indians credit that they were bowled out for 276 by a minnow — it could easily have been much lower.

Apart from Yuvraj, the only other significant contribution came from opener Virender Sehwag, who blasted a 51-ball 63. The fact that Dinesh Mongia was still finding runs hard to come by was worrying.

However, if Bangladesh, whose last win over a Test playing nation was against Pakistan in the '99 World Cup, was nursing any hopes, they soon vanished into thin air.

Ganguly threw the ball to debutant paceman Salvi and the Mumbai youngster responded, trapping Mehrab Hussain in his first over. Now, Salvi is one with a definite future.

He ran in well, released the ball smoothly, operated at a brisk pace and managed to achieve lateral movement under the lights. Salvi's opening spell and Ajit Agarkar's zest bowling — he is a cricketer who has not always received the fairest of deals — were the positives for India on the field.

As for Bangladesh the less said about its batting the better. This team finds 200 an insurmountable hurdle. In this case, even hundred was a faraway mark.

The scores:

India: G. Gambhir c Khaled Mashud b Tapash Baisya 11; V. Sehwag lbw b Mohammad Rafique 63; S. Ganguly c Mohammad Rafique b Alok Kapali 30; M. Kaif c Khaled Mashud b Sanwar Hossain 23; Yuvraj Singh (not out) 102; D. Mongia lbw b Alok Kapali 3; P. Patel c & b Sanwar Hossain 4; A. Agarkar c Tushar Imran b Khaled Mahmud 20; Harbhajan Singh b Tapash Baisya 3; Z. Khan b Tapash Baisya 0; A. Salvi c Alok Kapali b Khaled Mahmud 0; Extras (lb-5, w-10, nb-2) 17. Total (in 49.3 overs) 276.

Fall of wickets: 1-46, 2-82, 3-132, 4-144, 5-162, 6-172, 7-264, 8-271, 9-271.

Bangladesh bowling: Manjural Islam 6-0-31-0, Tapash Baisya 10-0-65-3, Khaled Mahmud 7.3-0-46-2, Mohammad Rafique 8-0-52-1, Alok Kapali 10-0-42-2, Sanwar Hossain 8-0-35-2.

Bangladesh: Mohammad Ashraful c Sehwag b Salvi 5; Mehrab Hossain lbw b Salvi 0; Tushar Imran b Zaheer 2; Alok Kapali c Salvi b Zaheer 5; Khaled Mashud lbw b Agarkar 12; Akram Khan c Patel b Agarkar 9; Sanwar Hossain c Gambhir b Harbhajan Singh 0; Khaled Mahmud c Patel b Agarkar 10; Mohammad Rafique (not out) 18; Tapash Baisya c Patel b Zaheer 2; Manjural Islam c Harbhajan Singh b Zaheer 1; Extras (lb-5, w-5, nb-2) 12. Total (in 27.3 overs) 76.

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-5, 3-11, 4-24, 5-37, 6-43, 7-43, 8-65, 9-74.

India bowling: Salvi 7-1-15-2, Zaheer 7.3-1-19-4, Agarkar 7-2-18-3, Harbhajan Singh 6-2-19-1.