Vantage point

Friday, February 21, 2003

The following numbers indicate the speed measurements (in miles per hour) of the six balls of an over by a particular bowler -

90.8, 91.6, 93.8, 93.2, 92.6, 91.0

Yes, that is right, miles per hour.

And you know who the bowler was? Ashish Nehra against Zimbabwe!!!!

He bowled an excellent spell and beat the bat a dezon times without luck. He has done that before. But when and how did he cross the 90 mph barrier? As I jog my memory, I recall that the only Indian bowler to be in this range was Ajit Agarkar. If Nehra has made some changes to his runup, after advice from Wasim, it explains this sudden pace.

By the way, about the Zimbabwe win, I won't even talk about how people are being a tad too euphoric about it. However I present another point. I am not of the opinion that changing the batting order had any great effect on the eventual score we got. If it had been 300 odd, OK, but I am sure we would have got 250 odd even if Ganguly had opened. In fact, looking at the way the opening bowlers bowled, maybe Ganguly would have cracked back to form.

I think the reason for our victory is the replacement of Kumble by Nehra. Taking two spinners was the stupidest things possible, especially when even the two combined are not as potent as Murali. Seamers are taking the wickets in this World Cup, and picking Kumble, who in my opinion has been sorted out by almost every team at least 4 years back, was stupid. If it had been Kumble who had come on first change instead of Nehra, the Flowers would have been able to consolidate easily and eventually even got 256. But Nehra kept such a tight line that the required run rate climbed and they had to take risks against Ganguly, before the Delhi left armer came back for another penetrative spell.

Harbhajan's dismissal of Andy Flower and Ganguly's dismissal of Grant Flower were exhilarating to watch, because both were plotted and successfully executed by the Indian team. Harbhajan kept bowling a leg stump line from his over, and even bowled a couple of wides. His line was such that it was difficult for Andy to hit a reverse sweep, his favourite shot against spinners. He tried it once, one handedly, like a table tennis swat, and looked very uncomfortable. In general, Flower was uncomfortable with the leg stump line and after a few attempts, and a few wides by Bhajji down the legside, decided to not fiddle with anything pitched there.

And then the beauty came, the ball pitched outside leg, Flower did not play at it, it spun and clipped the leg stump. The spin was so late that Andy Flower actually took off for a run, as he was not aware he was bowled.

The second well plotted dismissal was off Ganguly's bowling. The run rate had dropped a great deal, and Grant Flower, an aggressive player by nature, had been kept on a leash by Nehra and Harbhajan. So Ganguly brought himself on. Now people in my hostel started cursing him saying "Why the *beep* is he bowling? He is stupid!". I made a bet that ganguly would get a chance, if not a wicket in his very first over. Flower looked at ganguly as a relief, someone whom he could get a few quick boudnaries off. Ganguly bowled the first three balls very well, not giving Flower any room to play his shots. The first three balls of the "relief bowler"'s over were dot balls. At this point, I said to Pranav, "Grant Flower is too aggressive to take 3 dot balls lying down. Ganguly should bowl one short of length instead of pitching it up, since he will go for a hit anyway." The Indian captain did exactly that, he pitched it quite short on the offside, Flower went for a big hit, and holed out to long on.

This is what is more heartening to me than the so called "clicking" of the batting order. The great job Nehra did, and how the two best batsmen of the opposition were "plotted" out.

If we beat England on 26th, and assuming that the Namibia tie is not washed out, we should be in the Super Six with what our Quant Prof would call, a 99% significance level.