Rahul Dravid hit his 36th Test hundred to steal the limelight on a stage set for Sachin Tendulkar’s century-of-centuries show at Eden Gardens on Monday.
Dravid’s 119 and an unbeaten 73 from VVS Laxman put India on course for a big first innings total, just what captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have banked on when he elected to bat. At stumps on Day 1, India were 346 for five.
Facing a non-threatening West Indies attack on a flat Eden wicket, the battle for every Indian batsman was with himself. Most lost the fight, including Tendulkar, who was out for 38 after limply pulling a long-hop from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo to Marlon Samuels at mid-wicket.
Until Laxman joined him and started marching towards another big score at the Eden, Dravid was the only batsman to underline the importance of not throwing away a good start. When he finally got out, dragging one from part-timer Kraigg Brathwaite to his stumps late in the day, he walked away cursing himself."I’m just a little disappointed to get out after having batted for so long. It would have been nice to come back fresh the next day with a hundred under my name and play against the new ball," Dravid said at the end of the day’s play.
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson put up a brave face and said getting five wickets in the day was “a little bit of reward” for all the hard work his bowlers had put in. The visitors also had more than a bit of luck.
Like Tendulkar, India’s openers brought about their own downfall after looking set for big ones. Virender Sehwag played across the line and was caught low at short mid-wicket. Gautam Gambhir drove loosely at a wide delivery.
Only nightwatchman Ishant Sharma could say he got out to a good ball as Kemar Roach bounced him out with the new ball taken after Dravid’s dismissal. India will hope Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni can take a leaf out of Dravid and Laxman’s book on Day 2.
Tendulkar missing the milestone would have been the biggest disappointment of the day, but there were others as well.
The famous Eden Gardens crowd was missing and curator Prabir Mukherjee laid out a pitch that had little pace.
“At 80, (Mukherjee has) got more life in him that this pitch,” said a West Indies commentator on air.
The West Indies bowling appeared flatter than the pitch, except for Roach who came in for the indisposed Ravi Rampaul and did well.
Fast bowler Fidel Edwards appeared deflated by the pitch and strayed down the leg too often. Bishoo created opportunities when he brought the batsmen forward — two edges from Dravid did not carry to slip. Tendulkar was beaten outside off-stump and later rapped on the pad but survived a strong leg-before shout. But Bishoo did that rarely.