Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Total Recall - 1 India vs Australia, 21st October 1996, Bengaluru Titan Cup (Group Fixture)

Every journey is gradual. The pedestal on which Indian cricket rests today has been due to the years of toils of the players, and the business acumen of the administrators. If cricketers brought the spectators to the field, the administrators brought the sponsors and money into the game. The decade of 90’s saw both these factors gain more traction and get the ball rolling for Indian cricket.
In this special series of ‘Total Recall’, I will take you back to those memorable matches from yesteryears, so we can relive those numerous unforgettable moments again. The first segment in this series is the Titan cup match between India and Australia in Bengaluru.
Australia Innings
Having lost their opening matches against a strong South African team, both India and Australia were looking to get a win in this game and open their account in the points table. Opting to bat first, Australia got off to a slow start, and by the end of 10th over, they were struggling at 23/2. Steve Waugh joined his captain Mark Taylor in the middle and they forged a partnership of 92 before Steve Waugh departed in 31st over. Michael Bevan, who was yet to claim his fame as Mr. finisher, came to the middle and had a partnership of 82 runs with Taylor, before the latter fell for a laborious 105(144). This was Taylor’s maiden ODI century in his 98th match. 
                                      A crowd of people watching a baseball game

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A late flourish from the lower middle order helped Australia reach to a modest total of 215/7, which was far lesser than what India managed against Pakistan in the World Cup quarterfinal at the same venue, just over 6 months ago. But from the start of the Australian innings, it was evident that this pitch far more sluggish from the earlier one. The chase was not going to be an easy one, against a competitive Australian bowling line up.
India Innings
Sachin Tendulkar, the new captain, opened the innings with the new player Sujith Somasunder from Karnataka. In fact, he was one of the 6 players from Karnataka in the team that day! This was just his 2nd match and if the struggle against Allan Donald and company was not enough in his debut match, this one was a nightmare against the menacing opening spell of Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming, and Jason Gillespie. He especially struggled against the short pitched and accurate bowling of McGrath and scored a painstaking 7(31) before seeing his stumps shattered by a peach of a yorker by his nemesis. India was 30/1 at the end of 11th over, and McGrath’s figures read an unbelievable 6-2-8-1! 
India slumped to 42/3 by the 16th over, when Md. Azharuddin was adjudged LBW against Gillespie. That was a tight call, and the displeasure shown by Azhar on being given out was enough to make the crowd, who had been seeing their team suffer, start protesting by throwing items on the field. The match had to be stopped for about 20 minutes, and Azhar himself had to venture out to the boundary line and try to pacify the angry crowd. It was unbelievable because Sachin, India’s one-man army in the 90’s, was still at the crease, looking bewildered at the scenes unfolding in front of him. But one has to realise that the Indian fans had been subjected to disappointing performances by team India throughout the year, starting in the infamous world cup semi-final walkover and continuing in the Singer cup in Sri Lanka and the Sahara cup in Toronto against arch rivals Pakistan. Their anger was going to spill over sooner or later.
                A crowd of people watching a baseball game

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When play resumed, India faced a further setback in just the next over, when a bad call on a misfield by Sachin sold Sourav Ganguly down the river and he was run out. Ajay Jadeja walked out, one of India’s rescue men in the 90’s. He started to resurrect the innings with Sachin and although playing a slow knock, he made sure that the scoreboard kept ticking as Sachin was able to score the boundaries. But this was not supposed to be a match devoid of any more drama, as while taking a quick run on his call, he collided with McGrath mid-pitch and both the players were floored. Meanwhile Steve Waugh snooped in from mid-on and broke the stumps. Mark Taylor did not retract his appeal and Jadeja was gone for 27 with India at 126/5. Wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia and Sunil Joshi also did not last long, and when Sachin missed a full toss from Steve Waugh (who was a handy bowler back then) and was adjudged plumb LBW, India was 164/8 after 42.1 overs. With 52 needed in 47 balls, the match was almost over. Or so we thought!
The local boys Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath were out in the middle. Kumble is supposedly more accomplished batsman of the two and he played that way, taking singles and rotating the strike. Srinath, known to bat as recklessly as a bull running astray, was playing his shots. He connected a full delivery from Steve Waugh and dispatched for a huge six over long off. Even McGrath and Gillespie were dispatched for boundaries. The sloppy fielding from the Aussies, who were slipping in the outfield due to the dew was also partly responsible for giving some easy runs to India. The highlight package of that partnership was the presence of Kumble’s mother and grandmother in the stands. Once the partnership picked up pace, the cameraman was panning the camera on them in the stands almost after every delivery. Kumble’s mother’s folded hands, joy on each boundary, nervousness on a close LBW call and the overall anxiousness was probably representative of most of the fans watching the match live on tv, including me.
                        A group of people posing for the camera

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Once the winning runs were hit, the crowd was delirious. This was the same crowd who was protesting some 2 hours back, and now they were going crazy applauding their team, and especially the local boys Srinath and Kumble, the architect of victory. This win would go on to prove important for India later in the tournament, as South Africa was in superlative form and it was only a matter of who between India and Australia would reach the final.
That day was also the festival of Dussehra, also known as Vijay Dashmi, when Indians celebrate the victory of one of their God on making a triumphant return home. That is why 90’s was a special decade. I do not remember any match in last 20 years when a match has been held on the day of a major festival. This coincidence made this victory even more memorable, especially since after Sachin’s wicket, no one expected India to pull it through. The presence of Kumble’s family in the ground was an icing on the cake. All in all, it was a much-needed win for team India, which made them more confident for future matches.
As a 9-year-old, having recently got hooked to the game, and suffered to see the pain of the loss in world cup semi-final, this match made me even more die-hard fan of the game. Even today, while watching this match, I get goose bumps! You can relive the short match highlights here and feel the same for yourself.


By DHCF Nishant Raizaday

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