Ravi Rampaul has taken 32 wickets in 13 Tests so far — hardly the figures to make people sit up and take note. He is not even a certainty in the playing XI. But the Mumbai crowd will not forget the fast bowler in a hurry. He’s the dream-slayer who denied local hero, Sachin Tendulkar, from achieving his 100th hundred on his home turf.
To the disappointment of his fans, Tendulkar suffered from the nervous 90s syndrome again to fall six runs short on the fourth morning of the third Test at the Wankhede Stadium. Fans looked in disbelief when Tendulkar tried to cut Rampaul and edged it to the slips. Darren Sammy took a sharp catch and lived up to his promise that he would break a few hearts on Friday morning. Rampaul rubbed it in with his football-style celebration, sprinting towards the Tendulkar Stand, arms raised in triumph.It was the 10th time Tendulkar had fallen in the 90s in Tests, the second time in four Tests after being out for 91 at The Oval against England in August.
Suddenly, from celebrating Tendulkar’s feat, India were left to save the follow-on. VVS Laxman was dismissed off the first ball he faced in the morning and MS Dhoni was out after scoring just eight. With four wickets in hand and 60 needed to save the follow-on, the pressure was on the home team.
It is then that India had their most fruitful period of the game. Young Turks Virat Kohli and R Ashwin put on such an impressive show that the gains are being looked at with the future in mind. Kohli scored 52 and the two took India out of the woods, helping the team finish at 482. Leading by 108, the West Indies were 81 for two in their second essay.
Fidel Edwards and Co had troubled Kohli with the short ball in the West Indies but here the Delhi batsman moved out of the line of the bouncers well, and cut and pulled with confidence. After the failure of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, if Kohli can keep his focus, India can claim to have a compact No. 6.
Ashwin played beyond expectations. He’s having a dream debut series with the ball and as an icing on the cake he smashed a hundred in his third Test. His 103 off 118 balls proved that he has the potential to be groomed into an all-rounder, someone who can be an asset to the team at the No. 8 position, thus lending balance to the line-up. The good thing was he looked a proper batsman, displaying sound defence and driving elegantly with the left elbow leading the way.
Ashwin’s ability with the bat is yet to be tested at the international level but it didn’t come as a surprise to those who have been following his domestic career. He averages 34-plus in first-class cricket and has two centuries to his name.