How do you fit all the excitement of three Indian Premier League seasons into five days? India and Australia answered that question in emphatic fashion in Mohali.
The doomsday prophets who predicted the end of Test cricket, first beaten down by the advent of ODIs, and now endangered by T20 cricket, may now have to find a new vocation. At least temporarily.
In a World Cup year, the focus is usually on the white ball and coloured clothes. Each team reaches the final lap of a four-year cycle of preparation about six months before the event. Now, with barely four months to go for the World Cup in the subcontinent, Test cricket has shown that it can not merely hold its own, it effortlessly remains the No. 1 priority.
Cricketers have always paid lip-service to the primacy of the five-day game, but India's ascendancy to the top of the ICC's rankings has had a rather unexpected and pleasant fall out. While previously, the BCCI regarded the Test match as a necessary evil, that gave legitimacy to ODIs, they're now figuring ways of fitting more Tests into a packed schedule.
After the Mohali miracle, it's going to be difficult for either team to come up with something that can keep the tempo going when play gets under way in the second Test in Bangalore.
India have lost two key players in Ishant Sharma and Gautam Gambhir, who should be replaced by S. Sreesanth and Murali Vijay.
For Australia, Doug Bollinger, who sustained an abdominal strain, has been ruled out, and Peter George will make the playing eleven. However the Bangalore Test pans out, the stage has been set for a compelling season.
As India travel to South Africa in search of their first series win in the country, England will square off against Australia for the Ashes. At the same time, the top four ranked nations will be playing each other. Small wonder, then, that Mahendra Singh Dhoni believed that the five-day game was in the pink of health.
"I think Tests are here to stay, whatever said and done. All captains are trying to make sure Test cricket is interesting,” said Dhoni. "In most games you get a result these days, sometimes in four-and-a-half days. The more exciting Test cricket gets, the better it is. With the upcoming important set of series, and the rivalry between teams, we're hoping it will just get more exciting.”
Laxman at ease in special net session
Soon after the Australians left the ground upon finishing their practice session, VVS Laxman strode out for a net session. Taking throw-downs from Gary Kirsten, Laxman looked in minimal discomfort.
Since the exercise was a fitness test of sorts, team doctor Nitin Patel was at hand. While batting in the nets Laxman ran ones and twos and later took slip catches. "I'm feeling much better,” said Laxman. Kirsten also said that Laxman was "looking good.” No relief then, for the Aussies.