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Cricket legends pour scorn on "pussycat" Indians - by Kuldip Lal


BOMBAY, March 2 (AFP) - India's cricket greats Sunil Gavaskar and Bishan Bedi lashed out at their national team on Friday, saying Sourav Ganguly's men were not good enough to play Test cricket.

Both paid glowing tributes to Steve Waugh's magnificent Australians, who extended their winning streak to 16 matches after completing a 10-wicket romp in the first Test here on Thursday.

But Gavaskar lamented the "timid" batting of the Indians, who capitulated in under three days to give the tourists a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

"The Indians have often being described as tigers at home and lambs abroad," Gavaskar wrote in a syndicated column. "Perhaps the time has now come to change that to pussycats at home as well as abroad.

"Unless the team changes it's attitude, it will be meow, meow and more meow."

India, which did not lose a home series for 12 years between 1987 and 1999, have suffered embarrassing reverses in their own backyard over the last two years.

Pakistan won two of the three Tests on their tour of India two seasons ago, and South Africa completed a 2-0 whitewash last year -- including a three-day win at the Wankhede stadium here.

"Unless the basic flaws in Indian cricket are sorted out, home wins will dry out unless Bangladesh or Kenya are the visiting team," Gavaskar wrote.

"Waugh's gamble of asking India to bat first on a lively wicket succeeded because of timid batting."

Gavaskar, the first man to score 10,000 Test runs. said the lifeless wickets provided in domestic cricket were contributing to the team's downfall.

"Once the ball starts to bounce above the knees, the Indian batsmen suddenly freeze," he said.

"On domestic pitches that are as flat as the autobahns of Germany, all the batsmen have to do it to get on to the front foot.

"But the moment they are pushed on the back foot, they are lost. How does one expect them to be good against a relentlessly accurate Glenn McGrath."

Bedi, one of the game's great left-arm spinners, took a swipe at all-rounder Ajit Agarkar, who recorded his seventh successive duck against the Australians.

"If Ajit is persisted with as an all-rounder, than I was a mainline batsman," he said.

"Surely the Indian batting cannot revolve around Sachin Tendulkar all the time.

"And captain Sourav Ganguly was anything but an inspiration for his team -- a marked difference between the two leaders.

"There is plenty to learn from this Australian side...owning up individual responsibility, pulling your weight in the side and discipline in every department of the game," Bedi said.

Tendulkar played a lone hand for India with 76 and 65, showing why he is rated one of the best batsmen in modern cricket.

Ganguly, under media scrutiny recently because of his reported extra-marital affair with a film actress, managed just eight and one in the match.

The elegant left-hander faces an uphill task to change the course of the series when the second Test begins in his home city of Calcutta from March 11.

India may be without pace spearhead Javagal Srinath, who broke a finger on his bowling hand while fielding.

"We could not do anything to stop the Australians in the first Test," Ganguly conceded. "We have to work on our overall cricket to match them."

A victory for the tourists in the second Test will give Australia their first series on Indian soil since Bill Lawry's side won in 1969-70.