Ganguly gives India options

Henry Blofeld watches a batsman make the most of a rare one-day opportunity
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The Independent Online
When rain stopped play after only 27 minutes in the morning it looked as if India were once again going to be on the receiving end of the pernicious weather, as they had been when England put India in at Headingley on Saturday, and would lose all too easily.

This prognosis did not allow for Saurav Ganguly, who is soon to be 30 and playing only his second limited over international. His first was against the West Indies in Brisbane in 1991/92.

He owes his place in this Indian side to the selectors decision to leave out Vinod Kambli - one gathers not only for cricketing reasons. Ganguly is a left handed batsman with a good record in Indian domestic cricket and an occasional seam bowler. In the past, his temperament has apparently let him down; at Old Trafford it could not be faulted.

He came in when India had suffered the body blow of losing Sachin Tendulkar and he had not scored a run when the rain began. He had to wait more than three hours before he had the chance to put that right and even then it was in extremely poor light. It was now that he displayed a surprising maturity for one with so little experience at this level.

With considerable composure he began to tuck the ball away off his legs. Then, when the seam bowlers over-pitched he produced some stirring drives past cover and had soon overtaken his partner, Vikram Rathore.

By going for his strokes as he did, Ganguly took some of the pressure off his partner and also made sure that the innings was not allowed to subside into a damp, short-sided defensive operation which would have allowed England's bowlers to keep the initiative.

In one respect the bowlers played into his hands. At the start of his innings they mostly bowled round the wicket to the left hander with the natural angle of delivery bringing the ball into the batsman's pads.

This was a reasonable enough tactic but they should have realised sooner than they did that this was not the best approach to Ganguly and have gone back over the wicket. By the time they did he was established and although he only made 47 before being brilliantly stumped, it was an innings which was worth more to India.

The likelihood is that the target of 237 will be within England's reach but even so India's more positive approach to their batting at Old Trafford has at least given England the chance of losing their way.

At the same time, Ganguly's innings has given the Indian tour selectors an option they may not have seriously considered and may in time be extremely grateful for.