There cannot be too many positives for any team from a match that lasts all of 18.2 overs, but India probably had one in Thursday’s rain-affected first ODI at Eden Gardens.
Coming from an ankle injury and a fair amount of controversy it caused, Munaf Patel showed distinct signs of regaining fitness along with strong indications of being in form.
Figures of 7-1-25-2 were by far the best in whatever little play was possible on Thursday though they were mere figures.
Concealed in them were the facts that Patel charged in straight, showing no signs of ankle trouble, moved slightly away from the stumps before delivering and landed the ball in the right channel on most occasions without conceding a wide.
Being one who relies more on hitting the seam hard than swinging the ball, the fast bowler got it to deviate appreciably at times and was the only one who posed a few serious questions before the Sri Lankan batsmen. He did pay the price of offering width to Sanath Jayasuriya initially, but was quick to correct the line.
Patel could not have chosen a more appropriate time to come good because he was one of the two players along with Virender Sehwag for whom the first two matches of this series are going to be of utmost importance. That Zaheer Khan or S. Sreesanth struggled to swing the ball made Patel’s effort look better, but in essence, it was a fine spell, which should bring back the smile on the faces of those who back him.
Coming days before the World Cup squad is picked, he has reason to hope he would board the flight to the Caribbean for the second time in 11 months. This match might be remembered by other players for being a waste of time, but for Patel it was time well spent. Poor Sehwag has no choice but to wait.