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The king’s here, long live the kings!

The three former captains had different roles to play at the Kotla on Thursday, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Nov 23, 2007 12:41 IST
Rohit Mahajan

Once you’ve got what you’ve really wanted, you’re finished. Three former captains, two of whom had decided that the aforementioned aphorism has painful, real implications, had different roles to play at the Kotla on Thursday.

While Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were mostly anonymous on the day, Sourav Ganguly, the third of the Big Three, managed to get some action, by the virtue of his skills as a seam bowler. He was a threat from the start, hitting the batsmen’s pads with dangerous regularity.

Tendulkar too got to squeeze in a couple of overs, was spectacularly wayward but largely unpunished; Dravid was a lonesome figure at long-off or midwicket, encouraging the bowlers usually Munaf Patel with gesture and word.

Actually, Big Three could be a myth it surely has to be ‘Big Four’, for the bigness of Anil Kumble’s feats can never be in doubt; he is second to none when it comes to winning matches for India in India.

Thus, on Kumble’s first day in office as captain, at the dusk rather than dawn of his career, the keen observer of the game sought to detect signs of his striking aggression, much in evidence when he bowls, in his captaincy.

But a day is not enough to form a judgement he did thrust his jaw forward, purse his lips and point emphatically at the shattered wicket after taking out Yasir Hameed and the jury would still be out on the verdict on his role as leader.

The big stand between Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Sami would have disconcerted him, and he sought to stem the flow of runs by defending when Misbah was on strike. Misbah managed to stall India by taking a big step and dead-batting everything, and rarely displayed his remarkable impetuosity. He dared to reverse-sweep to reach his first Test 50, and with a powerful flick of his wrists hit a big six over long-on, and then there was that fierce pull that Harbhajan failed to latch on to.

But Kumble, knowing Misbah well, defended against him, but would have hated doing so after India were on top. As bowler, he was the regular customer we’ve got used to on the right length and line the moment he began, troubling the batsmen with the rapid one that tends to bend the stumps.

Another man whose role was dissected keenly is Mahendra Singh Dhoni he kept wickets tidily, dived right and left with felicity, the absence of swing clearly a boon. The catch he took to dismiss Shoaib Malik was regulation, but all in all, it was a good day for the man who will be king.

There were others who actually could have felt the concentrated gaze of those gathered at the Kotla burning the back of their heads Munaf and Harbhajan made comebacks to the Test team while Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer rejoined it. Munaf was good, Harbhajan was fair; the other two will get their chance.