India win very cold warm-up
Monday 06 May 1996
Arundel castle is a landmark of English heritage, which is presumably why Virginia Bottomley, the Minister for such things, was there. What India were doing there in sub-arctic conditions was less clear, unless trying to field for 50 overs without getting hypothermia, represents a useful warm-up.
In the end, a break for rain reduced the match to 48 overs a side, India hardly pausing for thought or breath chasing a modest total of 168, as Sachin Tendulkar, acting captain for the day, hit an unbeaten century, finishing the game off with a straight six.
Tendulkar showed that a strenuous one-day programme has not dulled his appetite for runs, nor his touch for securing them at a startling rate. When the ball was new, his watchfulness betrayed his desire to use his time at the crease wisely. When it softened he hit the ball where he wanted.
When he tired of that game, he simply lifted it over the ropes, John Childs being dispatched for 23 in an over that included two towering sixes over long-off. In contrast, his opening partner, Navjot Sidhu, seemed more thrilled by the effectiveness of his long johns, than his partner's application of the long handle. Despite that the pair put on 139 for the first wicket, before Sidhu fell three short of his half-century getting in tangle over a straight one from Cardigan Connor.
Curiously, given that the game is more an exhibition rather than a contest, Tendulkar opted to field first, when conditions were at their coldest, despite an early breakthrough by Javagal Srinath, when he bowled the Hampshire opener, Jason Laney, in the third over.
However, one man set on warming the tourists frozen digits, particularly those pairs being pocketed in the covers, was Robin Smith. With Paras Mhambrey obligingly feeding his square cut, Smith quickly gorged himself until Tendulkar was forced to posted two fielders on the cover fence.
That avenue blocked, he then chose to drive down the ground, striking the slow left-armer Sunil Joshi for a straight six, which quite apart from the powerful shape of its arc, also served to raise the spirits of the shivering spectators.
Joshi gained swift revenge soon after when he had him caught an bowled, as perhaps the other left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju should have done earlier, when Smith again got too close a ball he was trying to drive over the top.
Those errors aside, his 60 off 84 balls, was an assured knock from a batsmen who admits he is often a poor starter of seasons as well as innings.
Most puzzling though, is that Smith now stands at the crease with his feet so wide apart in his stance, that his not insubstantial backside appears to almost rest on the ground. It suggests he is baffled at times by his own footwork, though only Anil Kumble caused him to hesitate yesterday.
However, what puzzles Smith most, is that he feels he is constantly having to prove himself, particularly to Ray Illingworth, who he feels would be better off boosting confidences than delivering ultimatum's.
"After 130 international matches, I'm still not that confident. It would be good to have your confidence boosted instead of knocked," he said yesterday, referring to comments Ray Illingworth has made over which players can safely themselves in for the first Test: a short-list which did not include either Smith or the in-form Alec Stewart.
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