The Mercy Killers
A tweet (by @sidvee) I came across after the first test in Kotla seems to precisely capture the insatiable craze surrounding the satirical world of Indian Cricket:
‘Indian victory in vain as Tendulkar falls short’.
While it’s tough to keep a straight face on realizing the relevance and wit of the deliciously-wicked take on the current situation, it is also a bit scary to note that an entire country has been taken hostage. The famous Indian thirst for glory and statistics seems to be towering over the vastly-improved home-conditioned Test squad, and every Test match played after April has been subject to wild mood-swings and broken destinies. Even the England debacle seems to have had little effect over most mentalities, with the obsession now reaching comical proportions. What’s more, even Sachin Tendulkar has started to look ordinary now.
The wait, of course, continues.
But it is foolhardy to overlook a few observations on the eve of the Third Test at the home of ‘that man’. Enough has been said about the never-ending ‘weight’, and nobody more than SRT himself must be feeling the desperation, and the rapid evaporation of pleasant butterflies and nervous excitement that surrounds the coming of a new milestone.
The second Test at Eden Gardens seemed to have makings of a Blockbuster written all over it, not because it was another opportunity for the mortal legend to have a crack at en elusive record, but because the record remained just that- elusive. In the process, the Indian team has recorded its most dominant victory under the new reign of Duncan Fletcher, and a LOT of problems have been addressed- atleast for now.
-Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored his first test century after more than 15 months, ending the probability of him being labeled ‘the new-age Dada’. It couldn’t have come at a better time (or a more hapless attack on a pitch that would put Nargis Fakhri’s acting skills to shame), with a series clinched and false hope restored once again against the Windies before the ‘mother of all tours’.
-Yuvraj Singh, who scored only 13 runs lesser than Sachin Tendulkar in this test match, will play the most important Test of his career at Wankhede starting Tuesday. He failed to cash in on a friendly wicket, and the manner in which he was ruffled and bounced out will worry most selectors before the Australian tour. Kohli is breathing down his neck, and Rohit Sharma seems to be using Ranji matches as net-practice sessions.
-The best bowler of the match, a discovery that may have warmed many Indian hearts and disappointed any state that lies in South India, was the very impressive Umesh Yadav. Consistently touching the 90 mile barrier didn’t seem like much of a problem, and the reverse swing that he generated late in both innings (along with wiping up an annoying West Indian tail) will pose a happy problem for the selectors. With Zaheer and Praveen sure to make the squad Down Under, it will be between Ishant and Umesh for the third spot. A direct contest will be brewing between them in Mumbai, with Umesh current favorite because of his searing pace. That said, Ishant Sharma is rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of having to bowl to old nemesis Ponting again- with a career on the line.
-Ojha and Ashwin continue to impress, and even though they struggled in the second innings (with WI following on), they did show immense desire to excel and bowled upto 73 overs between them. Darren Bravo began to read them well, as did Samuels, but two beauties by Ojha had the second innings all wrapped up with more than a day to go. RIP, Harbhajan Singh.
-Rahul Dravid has quietly scored his 5th century in Tendulkar’s barren period (from April to now), and looks like a prime contender for Test Cricketer of the year. He is already top-scorer, and will be the key against an all-pace fiery Australian attack.
-VVS Laxman renewed his love affair with Eden, and scored his 5th Test century at the same venue. To top things off, he will now face the country that may already be looking for ways to extradite him as soon as he lands there. It is good to see him back in form, almost as good as it is to see Dhoni score some valuable confidence-boosting (and useless) runs.
-Darren Bravo showed that there is much more to him than mere reincarnation, and averages EXACTLY the same after playing his first 18 tests as Brian Lara- 47.10. His second innings score of 136 will go down as one of the finest innings played by a West Indian batsman on Indian soil in the last decade or so, with Chanderpaul finally getting some much-needed support. The prodigal son Samuels too seems to be showing signs of life, which can only mean good things for an ailing Gayle-less side.
My son just took 8 wickets. There’s your record.
We move onto Mumbai to play the infamous ‘dead rubber’ (one wonders why it’s always Mumbai- remember 2004 Australia?), though the Indian team will be very happy to be on the other side of the fence after a long time.
The milestone will come sooner or later, and it is inevitable. Having said that, I would also prefer him to get it on a bouncy Perth Pitch against-all-odds, much like Ganguly did in Brisbane years ago- the number will still be 100, but oh, it will be ever-so-valuable.