Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
It is said and documented that Sir Donald Bradman called the rest of his Australian team onto the balcony to watch their mate Stan McCabe play one of the greatest test match innings of all time at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, England, in 1938.
60 odd years later on another English ground at Taunton in Somerset, a capacity crowd of around 9000 and another few hundred million television viewers watched two batsmen - Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid play the innings of their lifetimes. What made it more even more exciting was that they played in tandem.
What an unbelievable performance from them. Absolute class. If such a performance was predicted before the match began, the person with the crystal ball would have been forced to get his head examined!
Superlatives are not going to be good enough to describe their batting today. But the best compliment they could have received was from Martin Crowe, the former NewZealand batting great, who said on TV that "India is not missing Sachin today". To bat as well as they did and have no one from the public say "Wish Sachin was out here" speaks volumes for their fantastic effort, especially since Sachin was simply awesome in the previous game against Kenya.
The day began disastrously for India. Ramesh was dismissed in the very first over for just 5, bowled by Chaminda Vaas, captain Arjuna's trump card, who put the Indians in to bat after winning the toss.
After that it was carnage, mayhem, call it whatever you want. Rahul Dravid seemed... to have gone to sleep immediately after his hundred against Kenya and woken up at the wicket against Sri Lanka, such was the confidence he played with. He wasted no time in finding the boundaries on both sides of the wicket with sickening regularity (if you are a Sri Lankan fan!) and raced to his 50 in 43 balls while Saurav gave him perfect company at the other end.
The Sri Lankan bowlers have definitely seen better days. Today they were off target, off length and as their skipper said at the end of the day, "it was the most pathetic display of bowling I have seen from a Sri Lankan side" . And Arjuna has been around for 18 years now!
As the partnership grew and the tension in the Indian camp began to subside, the two batsmen decided to end the contest in the first half of the match itself. Rahul and Sachin did the same against against Kenya but this time Rahul and Saurav, realising that SL were a better batting side than Kenya, upgraded the score to a colossal 373.
However, even if it may be rude on my part to say so, I have a sneaking suspicion that because Rahul and Saurav were aware that Sachin was still to bat, they went after the bowling without a care and fortune favoured the brave.
Saurav struck seven huge sixes, three of them landing in the river adjoining the ground. In addition, he smashed 17 fours. Rahul Dravid hit 17 fours and the best six of the match in my opinion - an inside out shot over extra cover against the off spin of Muralitharan who we all know is a huge spinner of the ball.
Their partnership reached a mammoth 318, the world record for any wicket in one-day cricket when Rahul was run out by a whisker by a direct hit from long on. Rahul had played a fantastic knock of 145 in only 129 balls to emulate Mark Waugh who had back to back hundreds in the last World Cup in 1996. To think that Rahul was dropped last year for slow scoring is mind-boggling.
Saurav continued to butcher the Lankan bowlers, and was especially harsh on the spinners Jayasuriya and Murali. He finally holed out to a tired shot in the penultimate ball of the innings. He had scored a stupendous 183 in 158 balls, and considering he reached his hundred in 119 balls, he had scored his last 83 runs in only 41 balls!
The score of 373 was much beyond SL and I'm sure it would have been beyond any other side as well . Aravinda score 56 and Arjuna 42 while no other batsman threatened to win the game for SL. Robin Singh rediscovered his bowling form, much to the delight of the Indian team and ended with wonderful figures of 5 for 31.
Four years ago in the semi-finals of the previous World Cup at Calcutta, Azharuddin had won the toss, put SL into bat and lost the game. Today history repeated itself but the only difference was the winner. For Azhar the circle was complete.
All in all it was a performance SL will do best to forget. It is now crucial that Kenya beat SL and SA beat Zimbabwe in the event of England beating India. This is because if there is a tie among India, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, India will go through on better net run rate.
But all these calculations will not be required if India plays as brilliantly as they did today and beats England in the final group game at Edgbaston, Birmingham, on 29th May Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online. For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.