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Munaf set to make debut in Mohali

At the moment, the Indian skipper is still undecided about what combine to play, reports Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 00:36 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali

Destiny. The word conjures up a mosaic of images in the mind's eye. It has shades of supplication, of the age-old Hindu philosophy of leaving everything to God; it has a hint of the shadows, of a future untold as yet and therefore, like all unknown and uncontrollable things, is somewhat intimidating, even dark.

It is a powerful word, at once compelling and repelling, with an enigmatic allure that brazenly beckons, a challenge, sometimes, even a call to arms.

From Thursday at the PCA stadium here, on the outskirts of a city that was envisaged as the city of dreams -- a modern-day marvel that would showcase India to the world but is also almost mind-numbing in its clinical sameness -- two men will be given the chance to try and shape their own destinies, when India meet England in the second Test.

One will have a chance to stake a claim for the future and the second, to stamp his authority on a young side that is beginning to take shape for the future -- Andrew Flintoff and Rahul Dravid.

Two very different characters, who were handed the task of leading their sides under startlingly similar circumstances. Unexpected, when their captains were laid low by injury.

Flintoff, who has moved from his days of seemingly casual caprice to being the cornerstone around which this new England has risen from the ashes of their own despair, took his bow as skipper last week at Nagpur. And by almost every yardstick, did very well.

Dravid, who has always been the foundation around which India is built over the past few years, first led the country in a Test right here, in Mohali in October 2003, when Sourav Ganguly could not play because of a cyst in his thigh. But unlike the flamboyant Englishman, Dravid did not have a very happy outing. The Kiwi openers, Mark Richardson and Lou Vincent put the Indian attack to the sword and India barely managed to save that Test.

Though Dravid went on to take charge, again and again in both forms of the game since that forgettable beginning because of Ganguly's unavailability, this now, is a different time. Now, Dravid is no longer the understudy. He is definitely the man in charge, on his own terms and probably, for as long as he wants in the foreseeable future.

Incidentally, it was also baptism by fire, quite literally, for a young man who made his debut in that same 2003 Test against New Zealand. It wasn't a memorable one but the rather edgy man who batted laboriously for his painstaking knock of 20, has got to be part of a long-forgotten past.

Yuvraj Singh, hugely talented and perhaps having finally exorcised the numerous ghosts that inhabited his head and prevented him from performing to potential, now looks like a man on a mission. One who is hell-bent on answering the call of destiny and taking India with him.

On Thursday, Dravid will almost certainly go in with five bowlers even though at the moment, he is confused with the array of options he has at his disposal. Given Yuvraj's majestic mesmerising form, he should be a certainty, which will mean Kaif and Laxman will probably have to sit out if five bowlers play.

At the moment, the Indian skipper is still undecided about what combine to play. While Sreesunth bowled at the nets, he was not seen at either the fielding practice and at the PCA dinner later in the night, probably meaning that he's not recovered from his viral bout.

Munaf Patel seems set to make his debut while Dravid's fifth bowling option would be between Piyush Chawla making his debut or RP Singh making a return.

What might be weighing on Dravid and Chappell's mind could be the fact that they have not wrapped up a side for four Tests in a row.

Also, there's still another Test and a one-day series to go after this and they wouldn't want their main bowlers exhausted under the unusually hot March sun.

The wicket is peppered with cracks but the curator says it will not break and become a rank turner. It is largely expected to be a slow wicket that will have some turn but like Nagpur, will give the batsmen enough time to watch and play the ball. And as Dravid said on Thursday, "you can't really predict the wicket."

Another thing you can't predict is fate. Flintoff said as much in Nagpur: "I can't control my own destiny, so it's not something I'm worried about… I'll just give it my best." An intriguing contest lies ahead. The future beckons.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 17:43 IST