Lively Indian skipper on dead Lahore track

Written by: Javagal Srinath
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006, 13:47 [IST]
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Once again, an animated conversation between Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly shown live by a TV channel before the first Test at Lahore kept the media busy speculating for a couple of days.

In cricket, such discussions are plenty in the dressing room. Just that it was captured on TV, the clipping made some ugly rounds in the electronic media, giving rise to ungainly discussions. In the eyes of millions of cricket fans, who follow every bit and byte on all mediums, this meaningless debate was yet another attempt to show Indian cricket in poor light.

We had a classic case of crowd's response to some of the media spiced-up reactions during Team India's initial loss to Australia in World Cup 2003 in South Africa. The end result was Rahul Dravid's car being stoned in Bangalore and Mohammad Kaif's house painted black in Allahabad.

We are already witnessing a new dangerous trend among a section of the supporters, who go to the extent of burning the effigies of the players and coaches to vent their disappointments. The exaggerated media projection about so called differences between the players and coaches could play spoilsport.

If such a trend continues, I won't be surprised if any cricket fan takes a detrimental step towards a player. Sensational journalism can not only harm cricket in general but also the players. It is time for the irresponsible sections of the media to behave and show restraint.

Back to cricket, the Lahore Test was surely a tame beginning for such an important cricket series. We did see and hear a lot about how dead the pitch was. To be honest, the chorus of dead wicket gained momentum only after a befitting reply came from the newly-formed Indian opening pair.

Sehwag showing scant respect towards the Pakistani attack was commendable. One could easily make out that the current Pakistani bowling attack was far more effective and penetrative than what it was on the previous tour. On a few spells, the Pakistani speedsters made even the unresponsive wicket talk. They were fast and furious. But it was the combination of the sword of Sehwag and the impenetrable wall presented by Dravid that denied any advantage to the hosts.

The bad light and rain came to the rescue of the bowlers in general. It is true that in India we produce some slow tracks but even those slow tracks offer some assistance to the spinners. The idea of the Pakistan think-tank was right to provide slow tracks where their speedsters can still make them count. But Indian openers were determined to keep the hosts' attack at bay.

After all the debate and discussions about the batting order, it was yet again a masterstroke by the Indian skipper.

Dravid's average as an opener is not the best in the world. But on many occasions, Dravid playing at number three became as good as an opener because of one of the actual openers falling early. As a captain, he could have opted for a slot where he was comfortable. But yet again he put the team's interest ahead of his own.

This move by Rahul would certainly inspire the others in the side to be flexible when the team needs them to be. It was another wonderful example of a captain leading from the front.

Virender Sehwag's brutality continued from where he had left during his last visit to Pakistan. The Pakistani bowlers may console themselves that the wicket was too slow for their liking, but Sehwag's demolition act would surely have dented their confidence to a great degree.

At the other end, what was more demoralising for the bowlers was the defence of the Indian skipper. Dravid's rock solid defence and his deftness in handling the short pitch balls can be a slow poison for the bowlers. His philosophy of batting is not to give any hope whatsoever to the bowlers by draining their energy levels.

In a drawn Test match, India's new opening pair complemented contrastingly to gain the psychological edge, which was held by Pakistan at the beginning of the series.

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