Tall and loose-limbed, Munaf Patel stood there in the sun, legs apart, floppy hat in place, craggy features set like the cowboys in old westerns, oblivious to the intense scrutiny around him.
He fiddled with his nails, stared into space, smiled at some private joke and bent down and touched his ankles every now and then.
He was asked to man the cover region and he did that in his usual languid manner. In any case, it was so very hot (the heat was coming off everything in waves) that any effort seemed too much for all the Indian fielders — given the number of times they idly watched the ball race to the fence.
Plus, Munaf was probably watching his ankle, so it was difficult to say whether he actually was feeling the heat (literally and figuratively) or whether he was just being his usual casual self.
Finally, about 45 minutes into the day, the moment came. Dravid tossed him the ball, chatted with him, VRV offered a bit of he only knows what advice and Munaf did a mock run-up. He seemed to be running a bit gingerly but then, we had to wait for a real delivery.
That came soon enough, a shorter run up, a slowish run-in and a strange, almost stop and bowl kind of delivery with no follow-through — the ankle was obviously being catered to. And, in the funny way that first balls (generally a loosener) sometimes behave, this one kept straight and full and the batsman was gone.
A laughing Munaf seemed as surprised as everyone else as he accepted congratulations from his mates. For a moment, he was surrounded and then, it was back to business as he walked back alone to the start of his run-up.
“He bowled reasonably well; he didn’t go all out and he will settle down,” said chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar “He seems to be getting fitter, so this was a good opportunity for him and his name will be up for selection (for the second Test playing XI).”
But will it really? Not if the Indian think-tank is serious about having someone a 100 per cent match-fit and in the groove. Munaf didn’t look close to either as he sent down that first spell of 4-1-8-1 and a second one of 4-1-17-1.
Still, he might still have a chance of playing, if not in this Test, then definitely in Cape Town, if he is all right by then. Irfan Pathan will have none, not as a bowler at least. It was a day when the Indians, even making allowance for the intense heat and the lack of seriousness in the game (even trainer Greg King fielded for half an hour in whites), were taken to the cleaners by a side made up of bit players no one had heard of.
Despite that, Pathan cut a sorry figure, his 11 wicketless overs going for 74. He looked completely out of sorts and so low on self-belief while bowling that you could almost imagine every gully batsman waiting eagerly to take on a man who was once the most exciting prospect in world cricket.
India 1st innings: 270 for 6 decl (Sehwag 40, Gambhir 79, Ganguly 41 not out; KwaZulu-Natal Invitation XI 1st innings: 243 for 8 in 53.5 overs (Gobind 88, van Vuuren 50, Patel 2 for 25, Ganguly 2 for 23).