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Pity the poor bowlers in ODIs.
by Gulu Ezekiel
Mar 19, 2006
Across three continents, three time zones and three engrossing contests, March 12 (Sunday) was unfolding as one of cricket's most dramatic days.

It started in the morning with the news coming in from Auckland that the first Test match between West Indies and New Zealand was heading for an exciting finish.

West Indies had ended the fourth day eight wickets down and 45 runs away from victory. The odds though favoured the Kiwis.

India began the day with their backs to the wall, four wickets down and still quite far behind England's first innings total of 300 all out.

They ended it in a position of strength thanks largely to Rahul Dravid's 95, vital knocks by the tailenders and then some incisive bowling by Anil Kumble who had already picked up five wickets in the first innings, becoming in the process the first Indian to reach the landmark of 500 wickets.

It was in the early evening that word spread that Australia had posted a humungous total in their ODI against South Africa at Johannesburg. It was a world record 434 for 4 and many of us changed channels. The Safs of course would not stand a ghost of a chance!

That evening I had the opportunity to meet Kumble in his hotel room for an interview. Still fielding calls of congratulations for his landmark achievement,

Kumble was stunned when told of Australia's score. Just imagine if it had happened in the sub-continent.

Immediately the flat pitches would have been condemned. "It's becoming very tough to be a bowler in ODIs," he commented to me.

From there I headed to another hotel in Chandigarh to meet England's one-day specialist of the late '80s, Derek Pringle. Not to discuss cricket, but instead our shared passion for rock music.

Our chat in the coffee shop was interrupted by former England pace bowler Jonathan Agnew who stuck his head round the corner from the lift and told Pringle to join him upstairs to watch the match.

"South Africa have seven overs to go and Gibbs is still batting. They have a chance," Agnew said with an incredulous look on his face. Pringle did not need a second invitation - he hurriedly excused himself and rushed to his room.

From there I made it as quickly as possible to my host's home in Mohali where a famous guest was glued to the TV - spin legend Bishan Singh Bedi.

I made it just in time to watch the final over. With two deliveries to go, one wicket in hand and the scores tied, the scene of the tied semi-final of the 1999 World Cup naturally flashed through my mind, as it no doubt did to millions of others watching around the world. Mark Boucher of course settled it for the Safs this time.

Yes, they had achieved the impossible with a total of nearly 900 runs scored in a day, the most by far in the history of cricket.

Bedi has always been a bowler at heart and his first reaction was to wonder what the poor bowlers' analysis looked like! Then his sympathies switched to Kumble and his brilliant performance that had taken India to the doorstep of victory at the end of the fourth day.

"Now everyone will forget about Anil and the whole cricket world will be talking about this match for days on end." He was spot on. The next day New Zealand won in Auckland and India in Mohali. But it was the J'burg miracle that had everyone awe-struck.

One-day cricket will surely never be the same again. Pity the poor bowlers, reduced to cannon-fodder!

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