It is said that the better part of valour is discretion. On Saturday, Gautam Gambhir showed why. The spiffy North Zone southpaw changed colours so dramatically against the East in the Duleep Trophy that a chameleon would’ve been proud.
From his usual belligerent self, Gambhir became a picture of equanimity and composure as North ended Day One at 252 for four. After the art of Jamshedpur, it was the application of Guwahati. Not quite the case of beauty and the beast but a demonstration nonetheless of Gambhir's resilience.
Batting on a track which was excruciatingly slow, unsuitable for strokeplay and on which the ball started turning even before lunch, Gambhir cocooned himself in his own world to score an invaluable 86, a knock that buttressed North's innings no end.
The other North batsman who stood up to be counted was the graceful Yashpal Singh, who seems to be growing in stature each passing day. As long as he was batting with Gambhir, he stole his more-illustrious partner's thunder and looked in majestic touch.
Off-spinner Sourashish Lahiri was the most successful of the East bowlers - he snared three wickets including the all-important one of Gambhir.
Earlier, North skipper Mitthun Manhas correctly gauged the flip of the coin and decided to bat first. And the way Aakash Chopra and Gambhir started their innings, Manhas would have felt relieved immediately.
Chopra started off in confident fashion and opened his account with an elegant cover drive off Ashok Dinda in the first over. Gambhir too opened his account with a four. He neatly guided Debashish Mohanty to the third-man boundary off the very first ball he faced.
Both the openers were looking assured and decisive until Chopra was adjudged lbw to Debasish Mohanty on 12. The decision by umpire S Dendapani of Kerala seemed dubious as the impact seemed to be outside the off-stump. Also, the Delhi opener seemed pretty forward, not to mention claiming a slight inside edge.
That brought Ravneet Ricky to the crease but yet again, the Punjab batsman chose intensity over longevity and threw his wicket away when he was looking set.
Manhas came in and looked elegant for his 21 before he was snapped brilliantly by Laxmi Ratan Shukla at forward short-leg off Lahiri. Manhas pulled a short delivery and Shukla, somehow, plucked a catch from thin air.
Yashpal then strode to the crease and the Services batsman's presence immediately upped the ante. He started confidently and slowly started decimating the East bowling.
No stroke in this match has been played with such minimum effort, maximum impact, as when Yashpal picked up a flighted delivery from Lahiri and deposited it over long-on for a six.
North 1st innings: Aakash Chopra lbw Mohanty 12, Gambhir c Dasgupta b Lahiri 86, Ricky c Mohanty b Lahiri 29, Manhas c Shukla (short-leg) b Lahiri 21, Yashpal Singh batting 65, Mahesh Rawat batting 12. Total 252 for 4 in 78.1 overs.
Extras: (b-8, lb-4, nb-15) 27
Fall of wkts: 1-29, 2-81, 3-116, 4-212.
Bowling: Dinda 21-3-63-0, Mohanty 13-3-23-1, Ganguly 5-0-8-0, Lahiri 29-4-97-3, SS Singh 9.1-1-44-0, Rohan 1-0-6-0.