If you want to do well, play with a straight bat
India needed to bat to a big total in the first knock, and I'm sure they can't blame the pitch for the lost opportunity, writes Ravi Shastri.
India needed to bat to a big total in the first knock, and I'm sure they can't blame the pitch for the lost opportunity. India's carefree, even irresponsible, batting in six overs in the afternoon helped Pakistan storm back into the Test, and the game is on and the game is on an even keel.
Those six overs saw all but one specialist Indian batsman back in the hut. Wasim Jaffer once again missed out on a big score after doing all the hard work. Before a tardy Mohammad Yousuf, Sachin Tendulkar sensed a second run; a dive could have helped but I think Tendulkar had given. Sourav Ganguly let one through the gap and Sohail Tanvir built on this success with Rahul Dravid's scalp.
Dravid went to flick a delivery which moved late in the air. Before that, the stylish batsman had looked in complete control.
It was a critical moment and fortunately for India, was effectively seized by VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Laxman was a joy to behold for his wristy brilliance, poise or farming of strike. He took a backseat when Dhoni tried to break free and shifted gears once Anil Kumble joined him.
Laxman's stand with Dhoni allowed India to live for another day. The best thing about this partnership was the fact that both batsmen were on the lookout for runs even when under pressure. It's a kind of surface where you must mix caution with aggression.
Pakistan has shown character. They didn't allow an average score to get to them. Shoaib Akhtar bowled with responsibility and fire and had hunger in his eye, though his body language could have been better in the final session of play. Tanvir came good in a short burst but was otherwise pedestrian. Danish Kaneria struggled to get the zip off the wicket and Mohammad Sami promised much, delivered little.
This pitch can still favour batsmen who are prepared to play with the full face of the bat. It's only when they flick or cut that the batsmen seem to invite trouble. The track is unlikely to get any better from now on.
With the ball keeping low, there is all the more reason to attack the stumps. India thus have a trump card in Kumble. The fate of this Test could depend on how Pakistan tackle the Indian captain.
Hopefully, India would delay Pakistan's second innings by a few hours. Laxman has for company a man who got a century in his previous Test. Now that Kumble is also the captain, he sure would like to keep his affair with Kotla going — as a batsman as well.
Tactically, there is plenty to learn for Shoaib Malik as well. He did not attack early on and allowed India to get away with a flurry of boundaries. Also, he must not be reluctant to bowl for I believe that he could have a role to play as a bowler as the game progresses.