Team India tightens noose around Pak
Not so long ago, many said that the saddest part about being Rahul Dravid is that he was born in the same era as Sachin Tendulkar. That if he had been born in any era in this country or any other country in this era, he would have been the greatest of them all.
Often, things got really bad; he would make a big century, someone else would make a bigger one in the same game --- it seemed that he would be forever stuck with the tag of always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
But Dravid obviously was having none of it. He just quietly went about his business of scoring and winning matches for India. At this moment, with Tendulkar erratic, and every now and then showing signs of a genius in the throes of some internal turmoil, it is not difficult to dub Dravid India's best batsman.
On Thursday, his final, tired reverse sweep off Imran Farhat that saw his off stump gone instead, came after almost twelve-and-a-half hours at the crease. He was out trying to hurry on to his 300 and he would probably have got there if he hadn't been told to hurry. But the 270 he got was an effort that could well see India win their first ever series on foreign soil in over 10 years along with being a historic first series win in Pakistan.
Interestingly, Dravid has been the only player to figure in India's last seven Test wins abroad in the Ganguly era. And interestingly, the only time he has not had any role in the win was at Multan, when Ganguly sat out and he himself led the side.
While it might be an exaggeration to say that Dravid will finish as the greatest batsman of our times, he is not far behind.
Dravid, though a man of literary tastes, is no dreamer. And nothing seems to faze him. On Thursday, as on Wednesday, and Tuesday evening (when he walked in to bat after Sehwag fell first ball) he looked completely focussed. He gave no quarter today other than at 230, a difficult chance that was squandered by Imran Nazir on the mid-wicket fence.
At no stage (till those last 10 minutes or so of the 740 he batted) did he show any hurry or try and force the pace. Yet, he had 34 hits to the fence and one six in his knock (just after Balaji came out and obviously told him to hurry up).
There were small signs of tension. When he missed a ball that he should have hit to the boundary, he would often kick the ground in irritation, in most un-Dravid like fashion. Post 200, he swatted at flies, imaginary or otherwise, adjusted his thigh pad every now and then, fiddled with his helmet strap.
But for the most, he was sublime. He was there to keep one end up when Ganguly was gung-ho at the other, looking like he was set for a blazing hundred. He watched as the Indian captain failed to ground his bat when the century was his for the taking. And then he was there when Yuvraj first sparked and then sputtered to a halt just before his 50. It was a tentative innings from Yuvraj, who looked his normal fluent self only in parts. Though he reached 40 in fairly quick time, something seemed to snap after that and he just got stuck.
Dravid though, went on. By the time he finished, he had made his highest ever score, beating the 233 at Adelaide. It was also the third-highest score ever by an Indian and in the process, he went past Sunil Gavaskar's four double centuries, a record he had equalled in Adelaide.
As for the Pakistanis, they would be a worried lot. In addition to the state of affairs of the game itself, someone seems to have put a hex on them. They're just being felled one by one and would be praying they're not literally stretchered away after this game.
Shoaib Akhtar did not bowl today --- his swollen thumb is actually a ruptured left muscle in his back. Asim Kamal did not field, the elbow is not broken but totally swollen. Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal was holding his left knee after being hit by a ball and Yasir Hameed hobbled around after a Balaji delivery bounced off his knee.
They finally ended the day at 49-2, and it would need a superlative, almost superhuman effort from their remaining batsmen to get them out of this hole they have dug for themselves. But at this stage, still 327 runs behind after India racked up 600, it looks impossible for them.
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.