The game of cricket is enchanting for those who like it because there is nothing universal about it. The players use the same equipment more or less, the conditions are equal for all and yet, they have their own methods of going about their job, which results in a show rich in variety.
The first day of the first Test was largely about this aspect of the game.
The pitch wasn't the best for stroke-making, the bowling inept and Virender Sehwag made it look sub-standard in his inimitable way, hitting the ball all over with complete disdain. The slaughter of the innocent brought up his 22nd Test century before the heat, tiredness and cramps contrived to stop him 27 short of a sixth double hundred.
It seemed as if the pitch was treacherous and the bowling formidableduring the first half of Rahul Dravid's innings. He had to work hard to middle the ball and when he got it right, the ball invariably found the fielders.
Dravid opened up in the middle of the second session and dominated the last period of his partnership with Sehwag to post his 30th century. It took him past Don Bradman and made him the eighth man in history with 30 or more Test hundreds.
Even though Gautam Gambhir struggled to time the ball, first signs of what was on offer for the 5000-odd in the stands came in the third over. After offering no stroke outside off to Chris Martin in the first over, Sehwag thumped him for three fours through the off side.
The floodgates were opened and the deluge of boundaries ensured that the scoring rate was healthy despite Dravid going slow.
Martin and debutant Hamish Bennett — who was inconsistent in direction despite generating good pace and extracting bounce at times — made little impact with the new ball and Daniel Vettori brought himself on in the ninth over itself.
Jesse Ryder's part-time medium-pace claimed Gambhir but the overall quality of the attack was way below the standard required to trouble Indian batsmen at home.
There was no support for Vettori who was tireless and economical from one end. Specialist off-spinner Jeetan Patel looked clueless and was repeatedly hit square on the off side, which showed that the length he was bowling was sacrilegious for a bowler of his kind. Kane Williamson, the other debutant, was far better with his occasional off-spin. To add to their own woes, New Zealand dropped Dravid when he was on 23 and gave reprieves to Sehwag when he was on 144 and 155.
With Sehwag feeling uncomfortable after lunch and slowing down, it was important for India not to loosen their grip on proceedings and Dravid started dominating the attack at the right time.
How he shifted gears was evident in numbers — after contributing 16 in his 100-run partnership with Sehwag, Dravid's eventual share in the 237-run stand was 92.
Ideally, India would have liked either of Sehwag or Dravid to stay till the end. However, with Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman — both of whom have been phenomenally consistent of late — at the crease and more to follow, MS Dhoni's boys can't be blamed for hoping to reach a position from where they won't have to bat a second time.