A casual onlooker longing for some breathtaking entertainment would not have enjoyed the third day's proceedings of the first Test match between India and New Zealand in Mohali on Tuesday. India played the whole day to make 187 runs in 90 overs losing two wickets in the process. That would certainly speak for a dull day's cricket. But then considering the home team's predicament, the defensive approach could be justified.
The score at the end of the day read: India 83 and 303 for 2. New Zealand :215. India's miserable show in the first essay on Sunday must be haunting the team members. The 132-run lead taken by New Zealand increased the pressure on the India batsmen who have more than a point to prove. First they had to ensure that the first innings debacle would not happen again.
Then they had to build a huge total on the foundation laid by speedster Javagal Srinath (6 for 45) that really brought India back in the fray. Openers Sadagopan Ramesh and Debang Gandhi helped India begin the second knock on a confident note by putting on 115 runs in 50 overs by the close on the second day (Monday). Today, the diligent pair went on gamely. Though they maintained a very slow run-rate it suited India's cause.
"Should not lose early wickets"-seemed to have been the instruction and the two were reluctant to come out of their respective shells. However, Ramesh was the first one to lose his concentration with the score at 137 in 61.5 overs. He put up a simple return catch to left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. Ramesh made 73 in 213 balls with seven fours. The Rahul Dravid joined Gandhi but there was hardly any change in India's approach-work.
The New Zealand bowlers, though did not indulge in any experiment, were competent enough to maintain a nagging line and length to keep the batsmen quiet for most of the time. Dravid once again proved that he possesses a high degree of temperament and technique that had given him a "world class" rating. He lived up to that reputation and was there when the stumps were drawn for the day.
Gandhi succumbed to the pressure with the score at 181. Sachin Tendulkar joined Dravid and the two underlined their superior craft in no uncertain terms to deny New Zealand further success for the day. Gandhi, who appeared well set to record a hundred on debut, made 75 off 242 balls with four fours. He and Ramesh had done their job efficiently and left the major work to greater batsmen like Dravid and Tendulkar.
The aspect that has given Tendulkar and Dravid a superior rating in international cricket has been their amazing ability to come out of the shell at will. The fashion in which these two mix defense and aggression would be telling lessons for talent aspiring to become international cricketers.