It’s been several months since I last blogged. Nothing else would have brought me back – apart from Dravid. Sadly, it is his retirement announcement that has. While I will reserve my tribute for a little later, I must say that this brings a huge void to Indian cricket. Watching India in Tests will not be the same. I will be switching the TV on only for Laxman!
India’s tour of England 2011 – Dravid’s first Test century at Lords
Dravid’s journey began at this very ground. One could almost call it his home away from home (by his own high standards, Dravid has never done well at home). That summer day in 1996, a young lad with a lot of expectation in those eyes, set out, maybe not specifically in search of a hundred, but nevertheless burst onto the scene. That day, he fell short by a few days. This day, 15 years from then, he made it! A century at Lords, – the home of cricket. A man on wrong side of 30s, having almost nothing to prove to anyone- for many a great deeds he has done in the years that have passed- but always something to prove to himself, Dravid will find his name in the famed hall where it belongs, with other mighty warriors. The war is always the same, only the manner different.
Many fans and ardent followers will have a deep sense of satisfaction – for a gentleman of the game. God bless the man who has brought much happiness to India!
I’ve almost always had a rush of nostalgia when India is about to tour England. The green grass, blue skies, the contrast between the “Surf-excel-white” clouds and the tourquise blue of the sky, the picturesque grounds, the lovely breeze and the occasional sweater worn by the spectator adds an element of other worldly magic to the drama that is about to enfold. India’s tours of England have brought back some lovely memories that run back to the summer of’96. There are several such occasions – the World Cup 99, the tour of 2002 and the Nat West final to name a few. The tour of 2007 seems so fresh, I can recall many of details – Zaheer Khan and the jelly gate, Dravid’s tired captaincy, his struggle with runs, Wasin Jaffer’s lazy elegance, Dinesh Karthik’s rise to consistent 45-50 opener, Kumble’s century, Micheal Vaughn’s batting, Tendulkar’s struggles in the 90s, and what not.
Part of what makes this special is a rather mundane aspect – the time of play for the Indian viewer. You can come back from work, either on a high, or tired and drained of energy, and let your mind take on something completely different and to be engrossed in it. There are days when the cricket energizes you and days when it lets you lament.
Another tour is upon us. And this tour, as in 2007, is touted to be last of the greats of India’s batting – Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman. Thus the need to savor it is greater than ever before. One hopes that there is, somewhere in India, a kid who yearns to emulate their techniques and deeds!
Could have been a more convincing series victory, had the pitches been more conducive. Credit to NZ for a good batting display in the first two matches of the series. Pity that they got a few bad decisions in the Nagpur Test from umpire Nigel Long. Despite, that I still believe the URDS referral system in its present form won’t help. What will help is the way umpires like Taufel refer when they aren’t sure. There’s an element of self-respect/ego from the umpires that takes a beating while doing that, but when they do let that go a little bit, it buys them back a lot respect.
Positives for India from this series:
1. Gambhir showing signs of returning to form from a temporary slump. The ODI series and added responsibility as captain might help that further.
2. Man of the Match Dravid finds his lost touch and gets runs! There cannot be better news before the SA tour starts. Yes, the conditions will be different there, but one know what to expect from a veteran.
3. Pace battery charged up – Ishant seems in great form. If Zaheer returns, both of them on SA pitches can be a handful. Sreeshant has had a good comeback too.
Can’t wait for South Africa!
With a mammoth 191, which could have been a memorable double ton, Dravid stole the show today in a charecterestic fashion. On a day when people waited for Tendulkar’s 50th century and many other bizzarre statistics, Dravid played a watchful hand to take this game out of New Zealand’s reach.
Because I missed the first century of the series, I made sure I watched this one. Got a bit excited after the 50, and more so after the runs started to flow. Once the straight drive from circa 2003 showed up in the innings today, I started to feel that this might be a big one. The late-cut was played to perfection. The signature patience was there. Apart from a few moments of indiscretion which Dravid visibly chided himself over, the innings was one of perseverance. What is very heartening to see is that this wasn’t a scratchy ton like the one from 2008 against SA. It was one played with much deliberation, thoughtfulness and caution perpered with some of the most beautiful late-cuts. The high price he sets over his own wicket has returned; maybe it never disappeared, but the results he got made it seem so. Apparently, the NCA and Kirsten had a lot of do with the preparation, esp against the left armers, (McKay for the day). What was also nice to see was some shots from T20 which one seems him play so well in the IPL. Pity to have missed out the double ton, though.
Despite all of what’s been said about how Dravid has played this series, and in the last year, I think a lot also has to do with this day when Pujara was sent in at #3. Even that very day, when Dravid came in to bat at 5 after Tendulkar, there was a little less of the visible desperation and a bit of determination rising.
Maybe it is second wind for Dravid! May Bhogle’s prophecy come true.
Congratulations Dravid. Wish you many many more such innings!
Limitations sometimes propel people to greatness. Sometimes, when something is missing, you focus more on how to compensate for that missing something. This time, there were two batsmen with limitations – VVS with his back spasm and Ishant with a knee issue – that fought with sterling grit to snatch victory from near definite defeat!
VVS Laxman proved yet again that he’s not only special, he’s Spectacular. Having played perhaps the most innings (for a solid Indian bastman) with the tail, he knew how it had to be done. It’s just that the luck and grit was needed from the other side. The kind of calmness and poise he brought with the bat was invaluable, not to mention juggling a runner and a tail ender. Even today, year after the Laxman-ODI debate, many fans of Indian cricket will rue why he never made it to the Indian ODI team.
I started watching today’s proceedings on after Ishant came to the crease. I was expecting a bit more from Harbhajan, for all his improved batting and the like. I must say, equal credit in the win must go to Ishant. What he couldn’t do in Sydney in 2008 to draw a match, he did to win this one. And what a time to choose to display such grit! Kudos to the young fellow. With temperment like this, he’s bound to go a long way! And that must only auger well for India.
The Aussies deserve special mention for their efforts, for without that, today’s match would not have been the nail biting advertisement for Test cricket that it was. They peppered the top order with bouncers, chin music, rib rackers and the like, causing them in turn to crumble, although not without some semblance of a fight. Hilfenhaus was perhaps at his best (from my memory of him in recent games). But they perhaps missed Bollinger in the later half of today. Despite that, the fielding from an Aussie side was a bit below par. They don’t generally drop this many catches, and miss this many run outs. Ponting’s lack of the gambler’s instinct didn’t help either. I don’t understand why he didn’t try Clarke’s off spin.
Mediocre umpiring on also played its hand in the game. But fortunately, the errors went in favor of both sides equally. If Hussey missed out, so did Gambhir. If Ishant was given out lbw off a clear edge, Ohja was given a reprieve. What iis strange is that even the third umpire got at least one controversial decision wrong. This is what keeps me still against the controversial Umpire Refferal system. What needs to be done, is the quality of umpiring improved. If the on-field umpire isnt sure what to do, he must ego-lessly refer to the third umpire, and not merely give in to vociferous shouts from in-fielders.
Having said all that, it was still a thrilling day of Test cricket. It’s unfortunate that one team had to lose. While I’m not complaining too much about that, I think in the end, the battle was more in the mind, as it turns out with many such thrilling games.
Long live Test Cricket.
Looking forward to Bangalore!
What a day of Test cricket it’s been. From Ishant’s bouncer’s and Zaheer’s yorkers to Hilfenhaus’s chin music, it’s a been a whirlwind of a day!
India ended the day at 55/4 needing another 161 runs to win the match. Gambhir got a shocker (some decisions have been seriously bizzare), Dravid threw his wicket away after taking 16 balls to get off the mark, and Sehwag soon followed suit. With VVS Laxman’s condition unknown, Australia may need only 5 more lower order wickets. I must say it’s odd that Dhoni sent Raina in when as a wicketkeeper batsman and captain Dhoni should have come out himself. Dhoni’s not been in great form. In fact, I can’t remember the last time he’s scored a decent 50. But this could have been an occasion.
On a day when India bagged a silver and bronze at the CWG, the cricket team’s fortunes at teetering by a thread. But that isn’t unusual, or is it? The accolades in other sport often comes when the cricket is floundering. Or are we just playing too much cricket? 😉