Derby (England): India's search for a genuine all-rounder may be far from over but at least the team has found a player with the right credentials with Sanjay Bangar coming good and giving a good account of himself on the current tour.
Bangar, who was picked ahead opener of Shiv Sunder Das in the third Test against England at Headingley, justified his selection by contributing both with the bat and the ball and shaping India's historic innings and 46 runs victory. The modest Railways opener played the innings of his life in the Headingley Test in hostile batting conditions and provided the launch pad for India's highest overseas total of 628 for 8 declared.
His 68 in over four hours was a remarkable innings, which as one critic commented, "even Sunil Gavaskar would have been proud to play". He also chipped in with two valuable wickets in the second innings to make a strong claim for a regular berth in the Indian squad. Bangar is also a bit of a lucky mascot for captain Saurav Ganguly as five of the six Tests he has played resulted in wins for India - two against Zimbabwe at home, one against the West Indies and two against England - one each at home and away.
Bangar now has six Tests under his belt at a healthy average of 39.33 with a hundred and a fifty besides three wickets. Bangar's success with the bat can be attributed to an impeccable judgement of his off-stump, which he puts it down to his ability to play the moving ball very late. "I make it a point to play a delivery very, very late," said Bangar. "It allows me not to commit at deliveries which I don't need to."
Bangar felt he was lucky to play in the third Test ahead of Das who had struck the second highest score by any Indian batsman in England by smashing a brilliant 250 against Essex in the lead-up game to Headingley. "I played in the third Test because I was seen as a handy bowler," said Bangar. "I came good with the bat but probably, from there on, I should have gone for my hundred." Bangar said he learnt the lesson when he came back to the dressing room as he started rueing a good opportunity wasted in the middle.
"Having negotiated the difficult part, I think I should have gone for a bigger score. But John (coach John Wright) was quick to remind me there is only difficult and difficult period in Test cricket and never an easy moment." Bangar, whose biggest batting credential is his ability to bat for long hours, said Test cricket, unlike some lower levels of game, forces you to concentrate hard at all times. "Unlike in domestic competition, any ball in Test cricket could cost you your wicket, every ball could be your last ball."