It was nice to see the first Test in Ahmedabad pan out along expected lines. After MS won the toss, Viru and Gauti got India off to a good start, Pujara made a superb double and Yuvi marked his return to Test cricket with a well-made half century.
Team members Pragyan Ojha, Virendra Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara during the fourth day of first Test match at Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmadabad. HT/Mohd Zakir
The advantage of runs on the
board is that you can attack the opposition with men close-in, and Ashwin and Ojha did brilliantly to cash in on the pressure of a big total behind them and were well supported in the second innings by Zak and Umesh. England looked completely out of sorts in the first innings, though if they are looking for positives going into the second Test, they can learn a lot from the way their captain, Alastair Cook, batted.
I thought Cook was fabulous throughout the Test. He was batting nicely in the first innings before being sucked into a fatal drive by Ashwin, but in the second innings, he was in a different zone. One of his greatest virtues is patience. A lot of people have what it takes to be successful against the turning ball, but it is not enough just to have the ingredients. You must have loads of patience, precise footwork, the discipline not to try to manufacture strokes and the gift of putting the loose balls away. Cook displayed all these attributes, and more, while leading from the front, and if he had had a little more support, England might have pushed India harder.
The big gains
For me, the big gains from this win were the performances of Pujara and Ojha, two young men still very new to Test cricket and who have forced their way into the Test side on the basis of excellent performances in domestic cricket. Pujara has been a prolific scorer at the first-class and age-group level, with a penchant for making big scores. He has made three triple-hundreds for Saurashtra, including one in Ranji Trophy, and his game is steeped in the basics that are so essential if one is to make a successful transition from first-class cricket to international cricket.
Once Rahul retired from Test cricket, Pujara was given the responsibility of occupying the crucial No 3 position, and how well he has responded! He made a very good hundred against New Zealand, but this double will rank higher because England are ranked No 2, and because it set up a comfortable victory.
I am sure Pujara will go a long way. Some people have already started comparing him with Rahul, but I can't honestly understand this fascination for comparisons. Rahul became what he is after a decade and a half of international cricket. Let us allow Pujara to carve a niche for himself and become his own man, because from whatever I have seen of him, he is a very, very impressive young man.
As is my good friend, Ojha. I have obviously been involved with his progress, and I am delighted for Ojha that he is reaping the rewards for hard work and never-say-die attitude. Despite having performed creditably in his limited chances, Ojha hasn't got a long run in limited-overs international cricket, but he hasn't allowed that to weigh him down.
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The writer is a former India batsman