Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Indian batting blooms in Cape Town

By John Cheeran
Indian batsmen enjoyed a rare day of success yesterday at Newlands, Cape Town.
Wasim Jaffer struck a century and the makeshift opening duo of Jaffer and DineshKarthick put on a century stand against South Africa to dominate the bowling throughout the day.
The first day of the third Test only goes to show that how much cricketdepends on the context.
It was a wicket that offered even bounce and one that looks to be a great batting surface. Indian skipper Rahul Dravid has done his team mates a huge favour by winning the toss and electing to bat first.
It was a very crucial toss to have won at Cape Town.
Batting last on a wicket that should favour spinners will not be easy. By ensuring that South Africa will be chasing for victory in the fourth innings against Anil Kumble, Dravid has got the opening moves in this decider quite right.
And how much fortunes depend on chance!
The injury to young wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has come as a blessing in disguise for skipper Dravid. Dhoni's finger injury gave Dravid a perfect opportunity to put Virender Sehwag in his place. By drafting wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Karthick into the side, Dravid made room for Sehwag but showed the Delhi dazzler his place by pushing him lower down the order.
The move to ask Karthick to open with Jaffer has been one of the bold and brilliant moves by skipper Dravid in his captaincy.
And Dravid has been proved right by the gutsy but disciplined effort Karthick has put in at the crease. Had the batsman from Tamil Nadu fell early, knives would have been out to stab Dravid for daring to play footsie with the confidence of India's second most successful batsman in the last five years.
But few would have time and inclination to recall that it was almost five years ago in 2001 in South Africa in Bloemfontaine that Sehwag began his Test career not as an opener but batting as lows as No.6.
Dravid has regained India's batting rhythm by throwing Sehwag's wanton willow to the deep end of the batting order. By forging a new opening partnership Dravid has ensured that Indian innings will have some stability.
So far the move has paid rich dividends as India ended the first day at 254 for three having lost Karthick, Jaffer and Dravid.
Of course, Gautam Gambhir's wait will go on. He cannot complain because if you hope to succeed in today's world without multi-tasking, you will have to be born lucky.
I wish Sehwag realises how fortunate he has been to retain his place for the Cape Town Test. Sehwag has not given a single reason for the team management not to drop him and bring in a specialist opener. The bogey of experience has put Sehwag on ventilator but now he will have to reinvent himself as a finisher rather than as a builder.

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