Javagal Srinath was in his characteristic mood on Monday in Mohali. The 30-year-old speedster, like most champion bowlers, always enjoyed a Test match atmosphere. Not that he loves playing One-Day cricket less but he loves the longer version of the game more.
During his nine years of international career Srinath has led many a spirited Indian rally. But today's effort was something special as it lifted India from the depths of despair. Srinanth's superb exhibition of seam and swing variety today put India on par with New Zealand on the second day of the first Test match in this three-Test Series.
After Srinath's crafty display, India openers Sadagopan Ramesh and Debang Gandhi batted with high degree of confidence and style to take their side's second innings total to 115 for no loss in 50 overs. At stumps today, Ramesh was on 58 (166 balls) and Gandhi on 52 (138 balls).
India, with three more days left in this match, needed another 18 runs to wipe off the first innings deficit. Precisely India had reached a platform from where it could create a challenging task for New Zealand. India was driven to a humiliating situation on Sunday the opening day. A pathetic first innings total of 83 brought Indian cricket more enemies and as New Zealand went on to finish the opening day at 119 for three India's chances of bouncing back into the game appeared very bleak.
Srinath who had taken two of the three wickets that had fallen on Sunday, came up with two extraordinary spells of bowling today to help India regain some of its lost pride. Srinath came on to bowl the 10th over of the morning and succeeded in separating New Zealand's fourth wicket pair that was threatening to take its side to a glorious spot. Off the third ball of his first over this morning, Srinath trapped Stephen Fleming leg before with a beauty to make the score 156 for four.
Thereafter there was hardly a New Zealand batsman who revealed the needed temperament and technique to deal with an Srinath-inspired Indian attack.
Left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi and off-break bowler Vijay Bharadwaj lent able support to Srinath who bowled in two spells today. New Zealand limped its way to a lunch score of 207 for 7 and was all out for 215 within 10 overs of the resumption. Srinath's first day's spell read 11-4-27-2. And today, after the New Zealand innings, his figures were 22-9-45-6. That should speak eloquently of Srinath's handsome contribution to India's challenge.
The grand fashion in which Srinath made the old ball wobble much to the discomfort of the rival batsmen underlined his class and his sense of commitment. Srinath had been rested from international assignments for a little over one month. He skipped a series of ODIs and played just one first class match before this Test match. That was for his home state Karnataka against the Rest of India. His team lost that game.
But Srinath collected six wickets to live up to his reputation. Today, Srinath made the News Zealand batsmen dance to his tune. Fleming (43 in 147 balls) and Nathan Astle (45 in 75 balls) had added 57 runs for the fourth wicket before Srinath arrived at the scene for the first time this morning.
Thereafter, the New Zealand batting line up, known for its plucky tail, was in all sorts of trouble against an intelligent attack that was defending a paltry first innings total of 83. The credit should go to Srinath who did what responsible seniors would generally do to stir their respective sides into action.