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CEAT CRICKETER OF THE WEEK (FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 2 2017)

by Sunil Gavaskar

Australia’s crushing win over India has certainly upset the applecart and India have to go collecting all those apples and put them back in the cart and then ensure that it’s not turned over again. That will require tremendous strength of character and way more determination and application than was shown in Pune. Winning and losing are part of the game and there is no guarantee that the best player always wins. Even the best can have off days and India the number one Test team, definitely had three off days in Pune. 

 

However nothing can be taken away from the Australians who displayed far more gumption and desire to stick it out than the Indians did. Maybe the Indians were lulled into that by the clever statement made by Steve Smith on arrival in India that his team were the underdogs. The one thing that cricket history has shown is that no Australian team, however weak it may look on paper, gives up without a fight. Steve Smith led by example in scoring one of the great Test centuries and when he hangs his boots up and reflects on his career the century in Pune will be right up there in his mental rankings. His judgement of which ball to play and which to leave was uncanny and while luck was on his side, on a pitch like at Pune you do need a lot of luck. What about the Indian fielding effort? Time and again their close-in fielders have let them down and while the best of fielders do drop catches it is the stubbornness not to change their fielding stance which is the major reason why they keep dropping catches. Apart from Ajinkya Rahane every other close-in fielder stands with a stiff back so he is unable to get down in time to catch the balls coming towards and below the ankles. The fielding coach can give hundreds of catches before the day’s play begins but till the fielders start to crouch low they are going to drop more than they catch.

 

The other Steve, O’Keefe had a memorable game snaring a dozen wickets in the Pune Test and silencing all those who doubted his talent and place in the team. Sure the pitch turned a lot but it was also the same pitch where his more experienced and celebrated spin partner Nathan Lyon could get only 5 wickets in the Test match. Clearly he bowled better than all the spinners seen in the game and richly deserved his haul and man of the match award. He may not get such a rich bag of wickets again in the series but nobody can take away the fact that he bowled Australia to a comprehensive win in Pune.

 

In New Zealand the one-day series is going right down to the wire with both teams level and one game to play. The Kiwis stopped the South African one- day juggernaut with some terrific batting first from Ross Taylor and then from Martin Guptill who scored a magnificent 180 to take his team over the line. The fifth and final game should be a thriller indeed.

 

Steve O’Keefe for his magnificent bowling in the Pune Test match is the CEAT International Cricketer of the Week.