August 25, 2007

by Aparajith Ramnath

The pavilion seat always commands an excellent view of the playing field. You readers (if any) must be saying now: ‘Yes, it’s a great view, but the field’s been deserted for so long!’ Despair not, my friends. Stay put in that seat. You’ll get your free ticket’s worth.

For those who watched the second NatWest one-dayer between India and England at Bristol, I need hardly ask whether you enjoyed it. Wait a minute – don’t I? Any media pundit will tell you it was a cracking match. With over 650 runs scored, a pile of sixes struck, and a run-chase that was technically on until the last over, it’s difficult to quibble with that.

But then I watched the highlights. Oh, it was action-packed. The ball whizzed to the boundary before you could say ‘leg-glance’. It was what commentators love to call a ‘lightning-quick outfield.’ Except there wasn’t much of an outfield. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I get the feeling that the Bristol ground would fit comfortably inside Lord’s and still leave enough room for an athletics track on the remaining area. Add a flat wicket, and there were plenty of baseball shots (in the extremely unlikely event of the existence of a person who is reading this article AND is a baseball fan, I hasten to say that this is no comment on the aesthetics of baseball – except that it looks funny on a cricket ground) going for six. Ganguly’s straight six was especially ungainly for a batsman usually capable of great elegance. Dimitri Mascarenhas’s valiant knock later in the day was commendable for its spirit, but there wasn’t very much science involved there. All this is not to say that the players did not play well. Tendulkar was in his element with his leg-side whips and Player of the Match Dravid was at his one-day best, and one of his late dabs to the third man boundary was as subtle a stroke as you could expect to see on any ground (though he played one fairly ugly stroke to mid-wicket too, at the beginning of the slog overs). And one mustn’t forget the excellent work from Chawla and Powar, who turned the tide in India’s favour with their brave and wily bowling. I’m glad India decided to play five bowlers finally. It paid off here.

It was nice to see India pull off a win, and they should have done so much more convincingly if it hadn’t been for some atrocious fielding. But at the end of the day (or the hour, for I was only watching highlights, after all), I got the feeling that this match was little more than an extended Twenty20 game. My opinions on that version of the game – it’s fertile ground for debate, with much to be said for and against – I will reserve for another occasion.