NAYAN Mongia was supposed to go for it against the Australians in India's September 6 tie. He did. Saurav Ganguly was sup-posed to, in the words of Indian team manager Sandeep Patil, "graduate to a Roshan Mahanama kind of role" in the middle order. He did. Others, however, didn't quite get down to do what was expected of them. Before he went out to bat, Javagal Srinath was advised by all his team-mates to watch his running between the wickets. "Let Saurav Ganguly handle the pressure. He's on a half century," Indian team captain Sachin Tendulkar told him. Srinath went and got run out. Says Patil: "Some can handle the pressure, some can't. We can't play the game for the players in the middle. Your cricketing sense has to evolve."
Rahul Dravid, it was decided in the team meeting before the match, would be pushed up as he was a stroke player. Says Patil: "Both Dravid and Mongia were getting wasted lower down in the order—especially Mongia. We haven't been utilising him properly for the past four months. But when a team loses five wickets in a space of 30 runs, not much can be done."
But in spite of the setback, the century partnership between Ganguly and Sunil Joshi was a class salvage operation and augured well for the future of the team. Says captain Sachin Tendulkar: "They played the role we told them to play. They played exceptionally well." But just when it looked as if the team had dug itself out of the hole and could post runs in the 220-plus region, more wickets fell—the last of them, that of vice captain Anil Kumble, proving the costliest as it gave Australia an extra four overs to chase India's final tally of 201. Says Sri Lankan coach Dave What more:
"The way Kumble threw his wicket away was a very stupid...