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Ramesh, Aakash open up new possibilities

Both are in serious contention for an Indian opening slot. Both obviously went into this tour game against the Kiwis knowing it could well be a make-or-break knock.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2003 00:36 IST

Both are in serious contention for an Indian opening slot. Both obviously went into this tour game against the Kiwis knowing it could well be a make-or-break knock. Both walked out in similar fashion --- with quick, hurried movements, no looking back, no attempts at conversation.

But on Friday, Sadagopan Ramesh and Aakash Chopra were a study in contrast, as they went about handling this tension in vastly different fashion. Different from each other perhaps, otherwise they played like they are wont to do.

One, the unconventional opener --- an elegant stroke-maker looking to get on with the game. And the other, completely traditional --- a patient player, waiting, watching and slowly building his innings. By the time the duo ended their partnership with Chopra falling for a sedate 66 while attempting an uncharacteristic pull off a short-pitched delivery an hour after tea (he had already survived one lbw decision), India A had 164 on the board.

By the time the day's play ended, Ramesh too had fallen. He had survived four chances (two were easy catches) and ended with a 110 off 198 balls. India were 216 for four, with Connor Williams and Mohammad Kaif doing nothing much to further their chances for Test selection with four each.

Williams gave the slip fielders some catching practice (and made people wonder why he had been picked in this side in the first place) and Kaif went in exactly the same manner as the bowler who got him out, Scott Styris, had fallen during the Kiwi batting. Kaif unnecessarily chased a ball down the leg and Robbie Hart comfortably took a low catch.

The story of the day and this game really, from an Indian point of view, is the opening pair. And this hot day at the Municipal Corporation ground here, Chopra and Ramesh did their chances no harm as they kept the New Zealand attack at bay from half an hour before lunch --- when New Zealand declared at 375 for seven --- to an hour after tea.

Comparisons between the two might be inevitable, given the nature of India's hunt for a specialist opener and the intense competition involved, but will probably be unfortunate. How do you really compare two players built in such vastly different moulds and with vastly differing experience?

Ramesh did very well for India (he has a Test average of nearly 38 over 19 Tests), then suffered a back injury, was involved in some controversy thereafter over whether he was faking an injury or not, survived that controversy and has been looking to make a comeback ever since. This was a situation he has been in, and successfully handled in the past.

For Chopra, on the other hand, it was all new, so the pressure was probably more. He played his first game against an international side at Vizag last week against the Kiwis, where he hit that patient century. This 66, coming soon after, is definitely an indication of his tremendous temperament as an opener.

He seems to have no problem with the ball outside the off-stump. The only possible area of concern could be the ball aimed at the rib cage. In fact, even as he began to open up after tea and was scoring faster than Ramesh in that period --- the latter may have slowed down with his century in sight --- the Kiwis seemed to have decided a different plan for him.

They were bowling both short and into the body and he finally fell to an indiscreet pull against an Oram delivery shortly after being hit on the shoulder by a Tuffey delivery.

Ramesh and Aakash have probably given the watching selectors a headache in the bargain --- the selection committee meets over lunch here on Saturday to decide the squad that will take on New Zealand in the Test series.

Scorecard

First Published: Oct 03, 2003 12:16 IST