Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar did what champions do quite often. Slamming a century each, these two super craftsmen led India to a stage from where its bowlers could perform to a plan and prevail over a determined set of New Zealand batsmen in the Mohali Test, the first of the three-Test Series.
Those two three-figure knocks apart, there was also a breezy 64 not out from the silken blade of Sourav Ganguly that saw India racing to a total of 505 for three declared, leaving the visiting side to make 374 runs to win this Test. New Zealand finished the fourth day of this five-day match at 80 for one in 45 over. Thus the final day (Thursday) is bound to provide an absorbing fare.
On Tuesday, the third day, Dravid and Tendulkar joined together at 181 for two and progressed through methodical efficiency to a closing score of 303 for two by the close. Today, they continued to lend the same degree of professional touch to expose the limitations of the rival attack. The two men helped themselves to a century each and the fourth wicket association worth 229 runs as Dravid fell at 410 having made 144 (327 balls, 18x4).
This marathon partnership was highlighted by the two classy batsmen's high quality batsmanship. Their approach could be described as "controlled aggression". "Quiet for a while and amazingly active the next moment" was the rare variety with which they harassed the bowlers.
After Dravid's exit, Ganguly, the stylist joined Tendulkar and treated the crowd to some exhilarating stroke-play that could be expected only from batsmen with silken touch like him. He and Tendulkar added 95 runs before the declaration. Of this Ganguly's contribution was 64 not out (75 balls, 11x4, 1x6).
That should tell who was the dominant partner of the unbroken fourth wicket stand. That was Dravid's sixth Test hundred and first on home soil. Tendulkar recorded his 20th Test century (126 not out, 248 balls, 14x4). Dravid exhibited his extraordinary ability to display all the strokes in the Book. Tendulkar, known for his adventurous attitude, revealed his capacity to play a waiting game. He excelled at that during this innings.
That responsibility of captaincy can never overwhelm Tendulkar the batsman was proved beyond doubt in this Test match. Thus Tendulkar has won a valuable point. And he has to drive home yet another point. That is: winning this Test. His bowlers and fielders might as well do their job to present the skipper the first Test victory of the new season.