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Dravid reinvents as Kaif is redeemed

The skipper has shown the readiness to tread a path his predecessors didn't, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 11:14 IST

These are days of experiments in Indian cricket though the people concerned call it a 'process' the team has to go through in order to deliver the goods at next year's World Cup.

Going in with five specialist bowlers in the first ODI against the West Indies on Thursday was the latest in this series of unexpected sights.

This is in stark contrast to the approach of the team that finished second in cricket's quadrennial showpiece in 2003, when fielding seven specialist batsmen was the name of the game. But times have changed, as have the men at the helm, so is there any choice but to accept the new?

The one to have shown admirable adaptability even when things were different is the admiral now. And just as he had moulded himself into a wicketkeeper batsman in the Sourav Ganguly era, Rahul Dravid has shown he has what it takes to reinvent himself again, at a time of his career when nobody would take him to task if he did not.

Opening the batting is one thing and to score a century at more than a-run-a-ball while chasing is quite another. What Dravid did in the series-opener - mixing the on-drive with the whack over midwicket - showed the steel he plays his cricket with and his readiness to tread a path his predecessors didn't.

This effort from the captain and the win with a ball to spare - although it should never have been that nail-biting - also sent down a signal to the West Indian camp that this Indian team is prepared to do in the Caribbean islands things which Indian teams of the past seldom did.

The challenge those teams encountered was of course much different, but when it comes to instant cricket, doesn't quantity usually get the better of quality?

About quality, this West Indies team certainly has a fair amount of it in batting and it was in full flow in the initial stages of the first ODI with Chris Gayle renewing his love for the Indian attack.

A total in the region of 275 was on the cards before India came back, largely due to the efforts of Harbhajan Singh and Ajit Agarkar, and as Brian Lara admitted, his team lost a trick there, which proved decisive.

The Indians were still fortunate in the sense that the West Indian fielding was tardy and if individual brilliance doesn't stand out, this difference in discipline can eventually make the difference between the teams in this series.

The backbone of the Indian chase was the partnership between Dravid and Mohammad Kaif and the home team could have broken it much earlier had Jerome Taylor not spilled a simple chance offered by the latter.

It was a 'Redemption Song' of sorts for Kaif, who delivered for the first time since the tour of Zimbabwe in September.

It came at a crucial time and characteristically, the batsman better known for his fielding played the supporting role, displaying the virtues of application, determination and quick running between the wickets.

In a way, his effort also underlined the fact that one can succeed in these days of experiments, even if he doesn't give in to the demands of instant success.

The Indians have made a bold statement by fielding five bowlers - that too with four medium-pacers - in the first match. The coach insists this is a method, no madness and it would continue.

The merits or demerits of this line of thinking should become clear by the time these ODIs are over.

First Published: May 20, 2006 11:14 IST