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No country is truly comfortable against fast, short bowling - Sunil Gavaskar Column
by Sunil Gavaskar
Jul 26, 2009

What a topsy-turvy game cricket is. At Cardiff in the first Test England just about scraped home with a draw after it’s time wasting tactics brought about a howl of protest from the Australians. A few days later at Lords where England have a poor record against the old enemy, they went on to win by a handsome margin of 115 runs and that too with more than two sessions to spare. The Australians would be even more mad now because if they had won the first Test then the series would have been one all now, instead of them being one down with three Tests left to play.

The nightmare for Ricky Ponting is beginning all over again and the former players and the media are getting stuck in questioning his skills as a skipper. Of course the sport has this amazing aspect called ‘short memory’ and people forget how Ponting had got his team to fight back after losing the series at home against South Africa and won the Test series in South Africa a few days after they lost a series at home.

Ponting will have to lead from the front again because when he scores Australia invariably have a good total on board and his twin failures in the second Test saw Australia flounder against some fine swing and seam bowling from the Englishmen.

The much heralded Phillip Hughes has struggled against the short ball, not that the other Aussies have dominated it, but of course nobody will suggest that they are weak against it like everybody and his aunt would have, if it had been Indian batsmen who were seen hopping. At least Indians have an excuse that they don’t get to play quick bowling at home in their domestic cricket but what is the excuse for the Australians, English and South Africans when they are fending deliveries as if trying to swat flies off their faces. This stereotyping will continue as will the blame game for injuries being laid at the door of the Indian Premier League. At least Andrew Flintoff has gone on record to say that it was fortunate that his knee injury came about in the IPL because it was one, as his doctor then and physician now confirm, that could have occurred any time. The injury having come in April allowed him to treat it and get fit for the Ashes series but just imagine if it had happened in the middle of a Test and he was out of the series. Pietersen’s injury is big blow indeed and it will be interesting to see who the selectors pick for the next Test. Ian Bell is the favourite of course mainly because in an Ashes series the selectors will be reluctant to take chances and pick a newcomer.

Andrew Flintoff’s sustained spell of quick bowling has come in for universal praise including from those who likened him to a second hand car. He bowled at more than 90 miles per hour for more than an hour on the final morning and it not only showed his commitment but also his determination to go out on a high. It was during this spell that he unnerved even the centurion Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin and once again showed that when it comes to facing fast, short bowling there is no country that can say it is truly comfortable. It is just a matter of coping with it as best as you can.

The day after Flintoff’s heroic bowling that won a Test at Lords for England against the old enemy after 75 years, his foundation was having a fund raising dinner at one of London's oldest club, the Hurlingham Club. At the same time there was an exhibition of classic cars as well as new cars and motorbikes and seeing the display of those gleaming vehicles one thought of Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni who love speed. While the new Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rio premiers were fantastic, the one that caught this 60 years old’s eyes was a motorbike. It was a MV Agusta and it was one out of only 100 manufactured in the world. It is just perfect for the Indian skipper who loves his bikes and it would have been just the thing he would have loved to have. I must confess here that I don’t know the skipper well enough but have heard about his love for bikes and that’s why the first thought that came to mind was how he would have loved to ride the beauty. The Indians are having a well deserved break from the game and it is in these small breaks that players can indulge a bit in their favourite hobbies. Once the season starts, it is back to serious business again. So enjoy it guys because there is a heavy season coming up soon.

 
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