Patel plan pays off; Dravid leads run charge
Sourav Ganguly is a very lucky man or maybe he makes his own luck. And whoever's up there, watching over Ganguly's rising star, obviously has a sense of humour. The Indian captain did something that rationally he shouldn't have done, when he sent Parthiv Patel out to open the batting with Sehwag on Tuesday evening.
He announced that he or Yuvraj Singh would open but the Patel decision was taken simply because Ganguly had no choice in this Test after dropping Aakash Chopra. Not on this green wicket. He didn't want to risk himself or Yuvraj getting out early.
Eventually, after an edgy start on Tuesday, the 19-year-old wicketkeeper made a fluent, career-best 69 and Ganguly's guardian angels would be laughing with him at all the flummoxed faces out there.
It was a very focussed knock by the teenager, who dominated his 129-run partnership with Rahul Dravid. The Indian vice-captain watched almost with indulgence as Patel went after the bowling, frequently walking across to calm him down, point out something in the field or just pat his back in appreciation. Dravid seemed content to let Patel take charge right through their stand, concentrating on rotating the strike and holding up one end.
The two put on nearly a 100 runs in the pre-lunch session and by the time Patel fell, edging Fazl-e-Akbar to wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, he had more than done his job. Sixty-nine invaluable runs that were more or less unexpected.
Despite the loss of Sachin Tendulkar one run later Dravid just continued in his normal unperturbed fashion. He's been due for a big innings after having a rare three consecutive failures in the previous two games (where he was also leading the side). It's too early to say that the intense Dravid is bogged down by the responsibility but his century today (with Ganguly back at the helm) would obviously give rise to the thought.
Anyway, he came into this day with a one-point agenda --- to make sure he kept his wicket the whole day. Late on Tuesday evening, he remarked casually that he needed to bat the whole day on Wednesday. And the marvellous thing about this man is that he did exactly that.
True there were a couple of close calls, both in the Sleepy Seventies but he survived. Once on 71, when Yasir Hameed at backward point dropped a slash and then, at 77, when the third umpire gave him the benefit of doubt as it was unclear whether a diving catch by Akmal off Danish Kaneria hit the ground before or after hitting his bat.
For the most, Dravid played as only he knows how, with patience and application, even as people at the other end blazed away. After Patel, he was involved in a 131-run stand with VVS Laxman (71), who seemed to have rediscovered his form on the kind of wicket he revels in.
Someone held up a sign in the stands when the duo put on a 100 runs, "Made for each other". It had nothing to do with the moment but it was rather apt. Seeing Laxman and Dravid at the crease together for any length of time normally soothes any hibby-jibbies that Indian fans feel. This was no different as they batted India to a position of strength.
By the time Laxman fell, an hour after tea, and Ganguly strode in, the Indian skipper could afford to play with his natural lack of restraint. By the way, mention must be made of the ball from Shoaib that castled Laxman --- a beautiful full toss, straight as an arrow that suddenly swung that tiny bit to leave Laxman completely zapped.
Shoaib, who bowled superbly, was thrilled. The face all flushed and red, the veins standing out in his forehead, index finger pointing, legs pumping furiously as he celebrated. Unfortunately for Pakistan, he injured his thumb when he put his weight on his hands to avoid falling in his follow through a little later. He went off soon after. Pakistan's problem has also been that Inzamam's captaincy has been non-existent. He himself has appeared out of sorts --- very unlike Ganguly, who kept rotating his around and made sure the batsmen had to keep making adjustments. Inzamam had nothing to lose by trying something different like bringing on a part-timer like Imran Farhat. It worked in Multan when Farhat got rid off Yuvraj.
It was a very sporting decision by the hosts to opt for a green track instead of a safe flat wicket that would level the series. But that decision needed to be backed up by efforts in the field and innovative leadership. Pakistan displayed neither.
Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Taufeeq Umar, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Fazle Akbar.
India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra, Laxmipathy Balaji.
Umpires: David Shepherd, England, Rudi Koertzen, South Africa
TV umpire: Zamir Haider, Pakistan
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.