A one-off note or a melody, a passing cloud or a gathering storm?
India's young batsmen batted beautifully when it mattered at Pune to ensure that the series was over
with three more games to go. In case you do hear a *chomp chomp* sound followed by a belch, it is the sound of me eating my own words
Three months after being named captain against Sri Lanka and two months after Ganguly replaced him in Zimbabwe, Rahul Dravid will have the honour of leading an Indian side to defeat in two one-day series against Sri Lanka and South Africa.Venugopal Rao
, Suresh Raina
and Mahendra Singh Dhoni
batted with utmost calm and maturity to take India to victory even though they came in at various points in time during the chase when the side was faltering.
Rao walked in at 112/3 in the 20th over needing to score 5 an over for thirty overs. Dhoni came in at 176/4 with 86 required from 19 and saw Dravid and Pathan get out with the scoreboard barely moving in that duration. In walked Raina at 180/6 with 82 to get in 15.3 overs. At just about each of those situations, perhaps even ten days earlier, the side would have folded up for perhaps 200. Earlier, Ajit Agarkar, who now heads the wickets tally for the series
snapped up 5/44 to ensure that Sri Lanka ended up with 261 rather than the 280 or 290 they should have got, having reached 230/4 in 43 overs at one stage.
Full inswingers from him accounted for Sangakkara and Jayasuriya while Sree Santh, bowling upwards of 135 kmph consistently, sorted out Tharanga after a few bold blows by the batsman. Atapattu, who moved down the order after being woefully out of form, along with Dilshan and Arnold took Sri Lanka to a comfortable position. While the middle overs would be remembered for his and Dilshan's batting display, it would be uncharitable to ignore Harbhajan's contribution for the fourth game in a row. He completely choked the flow of runs and ultimately picked up Dilshan's wicket. The lower order failed to add any runs thanks to their incompetence, Sehwag's magical catch to dismiss Atapattu and Agarkar's reverse swing.
India's start was disastrous, Tendulkar's premeditated charge leaving his stumps pegged back. Yuvraj came in at #3 and at this point in time, it is perhaps fair to suggest that the #3 slot is being decided on the basis of a saner version of Russian Roulette. Perhaps it is just good old "In pin safety pin" or "Shaa boo three", elimination routines frequently used in sports and games played among children in India. I know, I have argued for a more flexible batting order
, but this is getting hilarious. I predict Agarkar to bat at #3 in the next game with Tendulkar nominated as the substitute, in a bid to protect his elbow.
Yuvraj failed too but Sri Lanka dropped Sehwag twice before he was past 25. Dravid and he ran superbly and kept the run-flow going. But while Sehwag did smack the bowling around, the big scores still elude him
Venugopal Rao then came in, under quite a lot of pressure, especially after his unconvincing batting display at Nagpur. He played Murali very well, reading the wily chap's variations very well. He targetted Maharoof, hitting him for three boundaries and a six. But he fell to Murali's doosra and there was further drama when Dravid and Pathan got out in rapid succession.
Raina, batting for the first time this series, and Dhoni kept taking 4-5 runs every over. They then attacked Dilshan and Fernando and Dhoni ended the game in the 46th over with two huge sixes off Arnold.
Has the leadership change, permanent or temporary
, affected the outlook of the side? Does the captain know the reasons
? Is it the absence of Ganguly