Finally a pitch that was becoming of a Test match. The Kanpur Test was a perfect example of how to make Test cricket interesting. A result in three days, all of which was packed with exciting possibilities. The pitch was assisting the bowlers right from day one. At the same time there were runs to be picked up for the batsmen provided they were willing to take chances and play their shots.
Sourav Ganguly once again proved that he is still very much a force to reckon with in Test cricket. Laxman showed his class with a fine knock of 50. Rahul Dravid seems like the only “grafter” in the midst of all the stroke players. While it makes perfect sense to have one such batsmen in the line up, it might still make sense to promote Laxman permanently to the number three spot simply because of his ability to ease the pressure with his ability to score at a steady pace. The last wicket pair of Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma deserve special credit for managing to stretch the lead with some invaluable runs.
The Indian batsmen barring Dravid played their shots (much like the Aussies) right from the “get-go” and it paid rich dividends in the form of valuable runs on the board. The downside of this approach is that sometimes you have to bear to see irresponsible shots like the one that ended Dhoni’s innings (or that of Piyush Chawla). Unfortunately, this is just a direct by-product of the approach and aggressive mind-set of most present-day batsman. For example, the square drive over the slips cordon (unheard off in Test cricket in the past) in the very first over of a Test match has become fairly common place. It is all part of the package that makes present day cricket. Gone are the days when batsmen wore out the bowlers by playing long (and often boring when compared to present-day “wham-bam” style of cricket) and obdurate innings.
On the bowling front Virender Sehwag once again staked his claim as being more than a backup bowling option. He is probably the most under-bowled bowler that India has ever had despite, having delivered with precious wickets when most needed . Credit to MS Dhoni for trying Sehwag ahead of Piyush Chawla.
Last but not the least, a great break for MS Dhoni. The man with the magic touch had a great start in Test cricket in his role as captain. His decision to play Yuvraj turned out to be a good one. Also, his handling of the bowling (opening with Harbhajan) turned out to be perfect. But he once again showed that he was level-headed when he said, “Well we did well, but it doesn’t mean we are better off without Sachin or Anil. Who is there to replace Sachin? Who is there to replace Kumble? It is better to have them in the side than not, but the credit goes to the boys who stood up in their absence.””Everything he tried worked”.
It was good to see Graeme Smith not complain about the pitch like most visiting captains do when they lose a Test on a turning track.