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Oct 22, 2008
It's been quite an interesting few days, not so much for what has happened on the field but more so at the exchange of words that has taken place between those connected with the game. It's not just the Indians returning fire on the Aussies but also making a statement against the media. Ever since the commercialisation of the game began, one of the factors that changed was that players who hardly ever spoke on record to the media were now duty bound to offer their priceless views to the media after a days play. This has been a boon to the media who have expanded incredibly and in India the press conference can have as many as 200 people in attendance excluding the cameramen. Often after the player has given his views on the days play which can often be tepid copy, he is asked to react to something that someone especially from the opposition has said and that can bring out what the media is actually looking for its next headlines.

Anil Kumble who can be the mildest of men off the field had his say about the media in his column particularly after all the stories which were mainly speculative about the future of the senior players in the Indian team and when asked by the media responded that those were not his views alone but also those of his team. His decision to rest his injured shoulder and give himself an opportunity to be fully fit for the next two tests is typical of the man whose heart is in the right place. He knew that he was not going to be able to bowl in the manner in which he is used to and he was not going to play at anything below his best. Those who brought out the jaw breaking injury in Antigua must remember that he was in the middle of the test when he got that injury and it tells a lot of his determination to do his job that he still came out to bowl with that handicap. In this instance he knew of his injury beforehand and so was aware that if he went in a test in that shape then he wouldn't be doing his team any favours and in fact letting it down and so he withdrew from the test. It is the kind of decision that you would expect from someone who has given his all to Indian cricket and entirely in keeping with the man's persona and full compliments to him for that.

Zaheer Khan's comments after getting the man-of-the match award in the first test at Benguluru expectedly stirred up the Australians who believe that they hold the monopoly of making adverse comments about the opposition but the opposition cannot do so and return the compliments. Zaheer was just trying to rub-in the fact that Australia were not able to get him and Harbhajan Singh out in their partnership and he therefore believed that they didn't have the bowling attack to dismiss India out twice. He also added for good measure that Australia who believe in scoring at more than four runs an over had not been able to do so at Benguluru and so weren't the team they were once. Without McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist the Australians are of course not the awesome team they were but they are still the top of the tree. With the passing of time some skills do become less and so the effectiveness is reduced but the great players and teams invariably use the experience gathered over the years to adjust to the slowing of reflexes and diminishing of skills so anybody who writes off this Australian team is kidding himself. Zaheer was obviously trying to get under the Aussie skins and he succeeded because the reaction from Ponting came soon after suggesting that it was unusual for Zaheer to do well and so he must have said what he did about the Aussies but indeed by reacting in this manner Ponting pretty much confirmed what Zaheer was saying about this Australian team not being the same as earlier teams. After all Zaheer did not have that success against previous Aussie teams did he?

Zaheer's success also showed that apart from sledging the Indians are also learning that the tail should not be throwing their wickets away but hanging in there especially if a regular batsman is batting at the other end. Look at the way Staurt Clark stuck around with Michael Hussey in the warm up tour game and added almost a hundred runs and also helped Hussey get to his century. The number of times Steve Waugh has gone to a century or taken Australia to a top score with tailenders for company is countless. Of course it is easier for tailenders to hang around a lot more now that there is a restriction on the bouncers and not too many genuine pacers around but its still admirable the manner in which Zaheer and Harbhajan applied themselves in the first test and no less behind were Anil Kumble and Ishant Sharma who too had to be prized out by the Australians.

The second test has begun and the little champion has become the highest run getter in test history and so far the only fireworks have been the ones seen after he reached the landmark and lets hope that it stays that way for the rest of the tour.
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