Ferozshah Kotla, the venue of the first test between India and West Indies, has been widely ridiculed over the last few years for an unpredictable pitch, poor ground conditions and variable weather. In the longer scheme of things, this is the only pitch in the country that forces Team India to go for a result- and I’m not sure the bigwigs at BCCI appreciate that. Better safe than sorry?
True to its nature, the pitch acted up- not entirely negatively- for the first two days, and things were expected to get out of hand on day 4 and 5. In short, team India was facing an embarrassing defeat once again, and this time it was against a team that posed no threat to anybody but Bangladesh in World Cricket. Hence, if team India is looking down the barrel at home and refusing to reach that elusive score of 300 repeatedly, there has to be something wrong with the venue, right? It cannot possibly be that our famed batting line-up may have collapsed for the 8th time in as many innings. What are the odds, most of us may wonder.
Well, believe it or not, after conceding a 95 run first-innings lead and being pushed to the wall in Delhi, Team India did what it has learnt to do well over the past few years. They fought back with sincerity, and they played honest hard cricket for a full one and a half days. That assured them a win, alright, against probably the only team in the world that could let slip such a handy lead. Dhoni must be thanking his lucky stars that it wasn’t an Australian or South African team that they collapsed against, because rest assured, those teams would have prevented even the slightest ray of light from entering the Indian dressing room after a disgraceful, disastrous first-innings batting performance.
Nevertheless, Team India won its first test in 6 attempts. The last time they won a test match was against…the same team. What matters is that the ‘Tigers at home’ tag has been maintained, if only just, so that we head to the continent down under with an over-inflated ego and a false sense of security- much like we did after we faced the Windies in June.
There were, of course, positive performances and decent trends worth mentioning. Rather than wind on about how we won with a young, inexperienced bowling attack, let’s look at some basic stats:
-India’s first victory after 6 test matches. 4 losses and a draw later, to be precise.
-India’s second test victory in 2011. This, after a highly successful couple of years that saw India rise to Number One in the rankings. 2 wins out of 8 this year, though.
-MSD’s 16th Test win as captain. Not sure it means as much anymore, though.
-Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as wondrous as he is our ODI Captain and finisher, was dimissed after scoring 340 ODI runs against England. It took them 8 games. The same MSD has been dismissed 15 times for 338 runs in Test Matches over the same period of time.
-Sachin Tendulkar has not scored a century in all forms of the game since the ODI game against England in March. Two Test Series have passed, and the wait continues for that magic number- for which the entire country has been held hostage.
-The fourth innings 76 was Sachin Tendulkar’s 300th test innings. Also, he is now the only batsman to have more than 15000 Test Runs in Test Cricket- a milestone he crossed in the same innings.
-This is Rahul Dravid’s first century-less test match in the last 4 games India have played. A good sign that, because it is the first game India have won out of those 4 matches.
-R. Ashwin debuted with the Second best figures (9/130) for an Indian bowler in Test Cricket, after Narendra Hirwani more than 25 years ago. We hope he doesn’t follow the same career chart.
-Pragyan Ojha finished with 7 wickets from the Match marking a successful comeback to the squad after more than a year in the wild. Harbhajan Singh must be a broken man. But we can’t say he didn’t entirely see this coming.
-Yuvraj Singh, at age 30, continues to struggle to cement that middle-order place in the Test Side, inspite of Dhoni’s ordinary performances over the last year. The difference? MSD is captain.
-Raina has been shunted out of the Test Squad finally, making way for Kohli to have a showdown with Yuvraj for that one shaky spot in our line-up.
-India’s Openers Gambhir and Sehwag are back together after more than 8 months, duly putting on two much needed half century partnerships (89 and 55) in the match. There was no looking back, except once.
-India’s spinners took a total of 16 out of the 20 West Indian wickets to fall. Enough said.
-Young Umesh Yadav bowled the fastest ball in both innings, inspite of Ishant Sharma bowling at the other end.
-Shivnarine Chanderpaul continued his love-affair with India, scoring the ONLY century in the low-scoring match. He averages 79 against his favorite nation now, and shows no signs of letting up.
-VVS Laxman scored yet another half-century in the fourth Innings, extending his reputation further as the only Australian player in the line-up.
So India go 1-0 up in the series, and we’re headed to Eden Gardens (Kolkata) now, and then to the Wankhede (Mumbai). We will not talking about the ‘that milestone we cannot speak of’, so that the monkey is finally off our shoulders and rests on the back of some other greats.
Will we see any changes? I doubt it, unless Yuvraj finally gives in to his destiny.