When Nayan Mongia and Manoj Prabhakar showed their middle fingers  to the cricket establishment  by playing much too slowly in the final overs of the Kanpur ODI in 1994, the match referee Subba Rao penalized India by subtracting two points from their tri-series tally (decision later reversed by ICC on technical grounds). Unhappy BCCI also dropped them from the next match, the tri-series final. That evening, India were chasing 258 against the West Indies, and required 63 runs to win off the last 9 overs with five wickets in hand, when Mongia came in to bat. India had already qualified for the tri-series final, but West Indies needed to win that match to edge out the Kiwis in the race. Against the run of play, Manoj and Mongia suddenly dropped anchor, and decided to go to sleep. Between the 42nd and 45th overs, 5 runs were scored. In the last 5 overs, just 11 runs were added. This was beyond shocking – 16 runs in the final 9 overs without a loss of wicket, when there was no NRR consideration either- this was rather inexplicable. Manoj Prabhakar had crawled to 50 off 92 balls, then scored some quick runs, and finally managed to score 102 not out off 154 balls. Nayan Mongia crawled to 4 runs off the 21 balls he had faced. The duo had made a mockery of the game. Viewers were horrified. Since this was pre-Cronje revelations, the match was not investigated from the angle of fixing, but in 1997, Prabhakar did make certain absurd, holier-than-thou claims, and Chandrachur Commission held an inquiry into it which predictably yielded no results.

But Ravindra Jadeja’s and Navdeep Saini’s approach in the first ODI against Australia played at Sydney calls for deeper inquest. Chasing 375, India were 5 down for 229 in 34.3 overs when Jadu walked in. Hardik Pandya was going great guns, batting on 81 runs off 67 balls. The required equation of 146 runs off 93 balls was quite gettable. But Jadeja had already decided to shut shop. In the next 26 balls, India scored 18 runs- Jadu wasted  17 balls for 8 runs, while Pandya could manage 9 off 9. Starved for strike and frustrated by Jadu’s approach, Hardik got out trying to hit Zampa. India then stood at 6/247 off 38.5 overs, requiring 128 more runs off 67 balls.

The new batsman, Saini, is no muck with the bat, and can hit big ones. Sir Jadu is a much mentioned triple triple-centurion. One expected fireworks, surely the match situation promised a shootout. But what we saw instead was a tame surrender. Between the 40th and 44th over, India scored 17 runs and scored precisely zero boundaries. Saini hit a six in the 45th, and Jadeja cleared the fence in the next, but finally got out in the 46th over.  The two had added 34 runs in 41 balls, 14 of those 34 coming in the last 6 balls! They had deliberately slowed the game down, even when there was no pressure of NRR. This was an all or nothing situation- it did not matter if you lost by 50 runs, or 100. Jadeja’s 25 off 37 with just one boundary (a six ) was not just off-putting and soporific, but stank as well because he did not even show the intent to go for big ones. Both him and Saini seemed content with stealing singles against Maxwell and Zampa, as if the spinners were unplayable. Saini eventually remained not out on 29 ( 35 balls, one six, one four). India somehow reached 8/308, and lost by 66 runs.

This effort by Jadeja reminded one of India’s aborted chase against England in the 2019 World Cup. Chasing 338, India were on course with 4/226 in 39.1 overs, requiring 112 runs more off 65 balls when MSD joined Hardik in the middle. The equation became 104 runs off 60 balls, which were very achievable. Pandya and Dhoni added 41runs before the former got out with team score at 267 in 44.5 overs- still needing 71 runs off 31 balls. While everyone had tightened their seat-belts in the anticipation of a tight finale, MSD and Jadhav completely upended the script and ended up scoring  9, 5, 6 and 7 runs in the next four overs, with just two boundaries coming off MSD’s bat (one of them a misfield). They did score 12 off the last over, but by then it was too late. India had scored just 39 runs off the last 31 balls, and finished at 5/306. MS scored 42 runs off 31 balls, while Jadhav managed 12 off 13. India’s capitulation and Dhoni’s lack of intent came as a shock to not just the viewers, but Ben Stokes later admitted that even the English team was astounded by India’s throwing in of the towel. This unheroic, no-show might be explained (by stretching logic and common sense)  by Dhoni’s habit of taking the game to the final overs, and the team’s need to maintain NRR.  

Such inexplicable, slow batting invariably reminds one of the most unheroic passive resistance ever committed on the cricketing field – Sunil Gavaskar’s 36 off 174 balls in the first World Cup, which even the Great Master finds difficult to explain. But times have changed. India was not a cricketing powerhouse then, but is one now. Sunny was a purist, whereas Jadu, MS and Jadhav are power-hitters.

Even the great Steve Waugh (19* off 73) and Michael Bevan (20* off 69 balls) once dropped anchor in a World Cup match in 1999 versus the West Indies. Chasing 110 in their last league match, Australia needed to win in under 47 overs to enter the Super Six stage, and were 4/62 in 19.3 overs. Waugh and Bevan cautiously added 28 runs in the next 7.3 overs, but when win was all but certain, began a long crawl instead of attempting to fly. From 4/90 in 27 overs, they batted on and on for 13.4 overs to add the remaining 21 runs. It was boring as hell, but there was a logical explanation to this slow movement. Since Australia were about to qualify for the Super Six with this win, they preferred West Indies to join them instead of New Zealand,  because they were about to beat the former, but had lost to the latter in the league. Since the league points were being carried forward(of only those teams qualifying for the Super Six), it made strategic sense to help the Caribbeans edge out the Kiwis (a ploy which ultimately failed). Was it unsportsmanlike? Probably. It certainly pushed at the boundaries of fair play. Was there anything immoral about it? Not exactly.

ICC, BCCI and ACU should clarify their stands on yesterday’s non-exhibition of intent to win. ATP views tanking of matches very seriously and hands out bans to guilty players. If Kanpur 1994 was crying shame, the doings of Dhoni-Jadhav in Birmingham 2019, and Jadu-Saini in Sydney 2020 should alert the authorities to possible foul play , or in the very least, violation of the spirit of Cricket. If anyone cares, that is.

#jadu #sirjadeja #ravindrajadeja #navdeepsaini #indiavsaustralia

#sydneyODI #adamzampa #glenmaxwell #hardikpandya #MSD #kedarjadhav #kanpur #greenpark #prabhakar #nayanmongia #SteveWaugh #worldcup2019 #sunilgavaskar

#michealbevan #WorldCup1999 #icc #bcci #acu

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