Quite like the advertisement of the potato chip brand "No confusion, great combination", there would have hardly been any doubts in Anil Kumble's mind while stepping out for the toss on Friday morning. Though he has emphasised that the spin of the coin is out of his equation, by calling correctly on an Eden Gardens pitch that turned out to be loaded heavily in the batsmen's favour, the decision acted as a catalyst in implementing the game plan.
The strategy was to carry forward the momentum and tighten the screws early on. The early dismissal of Dinesh Karthik by Sohail Tanvir may have lifted the Pakistanis, but Wasim Jaffer (192 not out) made the most of the conditions and set up an almost watertight case by involving himself in century partnerships with Rahul Dravid (50) and Sachin Tendulkar (82) to leave India at an imposing 352-3 at the end of the opening day.
After the slip-ups at Ferozeshah Kotla, the endeavour was on building partnerships and Jaffer could not have chosen a better setting to build on his crucial knock of 53 in Delhi.
Once again, the Eden lived up to its reputation of bringing the best out of the contestants as Jaffer notched up his maiden century here and against Pakistan and eyeing a second double ton.
From a hiccup, Dinesh Karthik's form is fast turning out to be a major cause of concern. Kumble had firmly backed his man despite the twin failures in Delhi. But the opener's mode of dismissal - playing away from his body - in early morning conditions are likely to bring the thinking caps on, given that the squad for Australia is due in a few days.
Standing in for the injured Shoaib Malik - replaced by Faisal Iqbal - Younis Khan pressed ahead with a hands-on approach. Stationing himself at mid-off, he egged on his bowlers. But once the early movement died down, it was going to be tough in the absence of Shoaib Akhtar, who came in almost directly from the sick bay. The spearhead who spent a major part of the day fidgeting and recuperating and sending down just nine of the day's 84.3 overs at sub-140 kmph, would have done little to the team's cause.
Though chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed revealed that Akhtar "had insisted on being included", the visitors are in a spot. If he breaks down again, Pakistan would effectively be left with three bowlers. The desperation is already showing as Tanvir sent down a few overs of left-arm spin and Younis pressed opener Yasir Hameed into the attack with his off-breaks.
Eden matched the slow nature of Kotla, though frequent twists to the plot were missing. After a tentative start against Tanvir, Dravid opened up as the seamer fluctuated from bowling on the pads to pitching outside off to allow a shift of fortune. Starting sedately, Jaffer broke away from the 19th over, striking Mohammad Sami for two consecutive fours. Thereafter, it was Tanvir and Danish Kaneria's turn to be ridden roughshod. The bowlers's ineptness rubbed on to the fielders who developed butter fingers. Completing his 50 off just 64 balls, Jaffer added 136 for the second wicket before Dravid, soon after reaching his half-century and looking good for a longer stay, was undone by a bad decision from umpire Billy Doctrove. Tendulkar and Jaffer motored on while reaching personal landmarks. By the time Tendulkar fell to a Kaneria googly, the force was well and truly with India following the 175-run stand.