After another bountiful of laughs watching Russell Peters deliver his lines, I decided to nap off the afternoon. And then my mind drifted to the match next day that is to be held at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. This drift of thoughts took me to the stunning victory of India the previous match, which took the Aussies breath away. Evidently there must have been a lot of thoughts out in the blog space here, but I just couldn’t resist jotting my points of view here. And the following paragraphs, I would discuss some genteel moments of the match. Sure it’s not going to be another view point, just jotting down of thoughts that flow through my mind.
This test match was played on Mohali which has grown to be the strongest bastion of Indian cricket. Since the Windies trumped the Indians in 1994, no one was able to break the superiority Indians had on this ground. The last time Aussies were here in 2008, they were handed one of the biggest defeats in their cricketing history, a defeat by more than 300 runs! 10 years ago people would hardly fathom the idea that Indians could inflict such defeat on the baggy greens! This time though, it’s not going to be the usual kind of pitch the Indians would have preferred. Heavy rains have dampened the pitch so much that even the curator was nervous that the pitch could sustain the 5 days of intense battle between the 2 teams. It reminded me of that forgettable test match at Mumbai between these two not so long ago.
Eventually though the pitch played a crucial role in culturing one of the best test matches in recent history! As one of the commentators put it aptly, it was a tug-of-war kind of game, with neither team holding the advantage outright. Everybody played a part in it to spoon in the spice. However, few players did matter the most in this test match, that would proceed now……
Shane Watson and Tim Paine and MS Dhoni:
He came out as the highest run getter of this test match. Sure he has 180 odd runs for the team, but his first innings effort was in need of some criticism. After Ponting’s dismissal, he shelled out his run scoring ability and aggravate the run rate which was a dismal ~2.5. It was very un-Australian like. There was no need for this slow scoring. Indians came out in the right spirit the next day (Sure you can’t ask Sehwag to score at 50% strike rate, he would rather retire than that!) and they showed that the pitch was not that bad after all. In the end, I feel that this contributed to the Aussies having less on the board handing India a chance to come back into the match.
Now M S Dhoni played a part by dropping the catch of Tim Paine, who then scored a vital 92 runs and lent Australia a good score to defend. Had that catch been taken, India could have marched on to an easy victory, similar to the last time they played here.
Zaheer Khan and Suresh Raina:
Zaheer sure got the MoM for his 8 wickets, but he also did something else. He fired the passions in the Aussie skipper when he was short of ground after a direct throw from Suresh Raina (I guess it was a lucky one, as the close in fielder just missed the hurling ball). Raina was also instrumental in the field with his superb fielding skills and uplifted the team spirits. His aggressive batting also gave India a chance to gain the lead, though Mitchell Johnson had other plans. Full marks to Zaheer in the end for his superb spell of reverse swing (he touched 140s! and what a peach of Yorker that was to get rid of the last man!) and also as a night watchman.
What to say about him, he has been instrumental in the victory of India’s last 2 test matches including this! Everyone knew that he plays well under pressure, everyone’s mind would reflect to the epic double ton against his favourite baggy greens! But to do that again and again, well that is some act of God! In Sri Lanka he was so well composed that the Lankans had already given up hope of clinching the series. And here, mind you that he was on the most part of the match in the dressing room with his chronic back ache, he came on the final day as cool and composed as though he was taking a walk to relax! The kind of shots he played, how he got the boundaries even though Ponting though he had it well covered, the determination and patience to wait for the bad balls to be put away, it was a treat to watch (I was biting my fingers, as I had cut my nails! J).
Yeah, I have a lot to write on Laxman, because he is a class act. His figures may not show so much. He hasn’t been consistent. Many a time I couldn’t fathom why the Indians were keeping him in the side when young tigers were waiting to unleash their jaws. Sometimes I never respected him much, treating him as arrogant and egoistic. I remember him telling to the press that the No.3 is his and his only, which is laughable when you got a Mr Wall who would be the ideal No.3 in any team! But then off late I began to admire him. He has sort of handled the team’s responsibility on his shoulders whenever situations demand of him. In both the matches, one against Lankans and the other against the Aussies, Laxman had all the time at the end of the 4th day to nurture his class act that was unleashed on the hapless opponents! Dhoni put it the best when asked during the presentation ceremony – “He was marvellous”.
Here’s the man whom I would have chosen as the man of the moment. He came into the match with his drooping shoulders, with everyone criticising his drop in venom as a fast lanky bowler. He also could not play more than half of the first day. He had injured his ankle. Inspite of all this, he comes and gets 3 wickets out of nowhere to hand India a great chance to get right back into the match. And then the next day he did the unthinkable, win the match for India! If it had not been for his heroics, India would have lost by 80runs with Laxman stranded. It was because of him that Laxman could play freely and the assurance, being able to rotate the strike when it was needed the most. In the end, he might have aggravated his injury to the point that he miss the next match, but he certainly gave India the 1-0 lead in the series.
The curator would have heaved a sigh of relief, smiling ear to ear with praises all around for having produced a stunner of a match. He even might have thanked the God for the rains. Food for thought – how often does India win the first test match of any series against the mighty Aussies?