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Time to fire

cricket Updated: Aug 06, 2008 23:13 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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Sachin tendulkar does not have a set pattern of just what to do at the nets ahead of a match. Some days he has a long hit, going from the pace net to spin and then on to throw-downs. On others he just hits a few balls. On occasions, he practises extensively against a particular kind of bowler who is troubling him.

Two days ahead of the final Test, Tendulkar was doing a bit of everything. Fans are waiting anxiously to see when he makes a big score. In years past, it was taken for granted that there would be a century by the end of a series, whether home or away.

When Tendulkar has not got big scores, you generally find that others struggle too. In this case that is so, with only VVS Laxman in the middle-order managing a half-century. It’s no coincidence that the two batsmen in the line-up who are batting fluently are the ones who have quickly worked out some method to counter the spinners. Virender Sehwag says he’s reading them off the pitch, Gautam Gambhir is picking them off the hand.

Whatever it is, it’s clear that there isn’t going to be one kind of formula that will work for different batsmen. Because of the differences in their builds, the variations in technique, the dissimilar mindsets, there is never going to be one solution that will work for Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Laxman.

Going into the final Test, though, the manner in which the batting has come along since the first ball of the first Test, there is genuine reason to believe that a big one is due. While the first Test drubbing served as a wake-up call, the second gave these four experienced campaigners a chance to implement the plans they formulated in the nets.

The prime difference that was discernible was that the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid were looking to be positive against the spinners. Laxman is the kind of batsman who is not in a hurry in the best of times and we haven’t yet seen enough of Ganguly out in the middle to make a judgment one way or another.

Tendulkar, even in falling for 27 and 12 in the first Test, did not look especially disturbed. He was batting well, and on both occasions got tangled into freak dismissals. In the second Test, where he made five and 31, especially in the second innings, Tendulkar looked ominously good before giving his wicket away. What this points to is that there isn’t a particular chink in technique or blind spot that the bowlers are exploiting. Usually this means that it’s only a matter of time before a batsman comes good.

Dravid’s case has been different because he was not in the greatest of form coming into the series. Not part of the one-day set up, Dravid had spent the lead-up to the series training at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, and appeared to be primed for action. But the manner in which Ajantha Mendis blindsided the team, left Dravid struggling. At most times he is the cerebral type, and he would have tried to pick Mendis out of the hand. But he has not succeeded, especially against the finger-flicked delivery that deviates away from the right-hander after pitching.

In the first Test Dravid was completely out of sorts, almost resigned to failing a few times against Mendis before working out a way to counter the mystery spinner. The second Test, where Dravid made 44 in the second innings, showed a refreshingly different approach. After a shaky start where the odd ball speared off the edges, Dravid exploited the attacking fields set, forcing the ball through the off side off front and back foot. Just when he looked to be emerging from his shell — something that has been a long time coming — he was given out lbw, trying to sweep.

That India won the second Test handsomely without a major contribution from one of the Fab Four is noteworthy, but such things don’t happen all the time. Come final Test, the stage is set for India’s batting giants to reinforce the considerable reputations they arrived on these shores with.