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Even as wickets tumbled today it felt that something was missing, which would have made it a really satisfying day of watching for a cricket tragic. It wasn't Bangladesh who pulled the trigger, yet India went down like they were shot
Sriram Veera in Chittagong
January 17, 2010
It's the perfect revenge for the underdogs - an Indian star insults them, they plot their vengeance, and by the end of the day they have "shown him". It's one of the reasons we watch sport, waiting for a day where the sporting clichés ring true and can be said without them sounding like one.
Legends will grow from this day's cricket. Anecdotes will be told, a few will be no doubt created, and "I was there" stories will be shared by the players and the crowd. Shahadat Hossain provided the image of the day after taking the wicket of Dinesh Kartik. He pressed his index finger against his lips as if he were silencing the Indians in the dressing room and kicked the ground in anger. Someone in the press box almost voiced Shahadat's thoughts: "Guess who is ordinary now."
Grown-up men enjoying the spectacle like kids, television reporters thrilled that they didn't need to create any sensational event out of nothing; it was leaping out at them. One of them was seen furiously scribbling a line to mouth later: "Cricket bat sey kheli jaati hai, baat sey nahi." (Cricket is played with bat, not mouth, an obvious reference to Virender Sehwag). The emotions ran high. It was that kind of a day.
Last evening, in the hotel room, a relaxed Shakib Al Hasan refused to speak about Sehwag but told a story that perhaps was more revealing. It was from the eve of the game against India in the 2007 World Cup. Mashrafe Mortaza was chatting with a few Indian players, who apparently told him that the tournament schedule was very tight and they don't have many days to rest as they have to immediately travel to Bangladesh for a series.
The inherent assumption that India would reach the final stages of the tournament and they would knock out Bangladesh in that game stunned Mortaza, who went and narrated the incident to the team. "Mortaza steamed in and told us what happened and we were all charged up," Shakib remembered. "It felt special when we defeated them. There may be couple of Indian players who are arrogant but I definitely won't say everyone is. In fact, on that day, Rahul Dravid took two of our players for dinner and even gifted Tamim Iqbal a bat."
Yet, at the risk of sounding churlish, it has to be said that even as wickets tumbled today it felt that something was missing, which would have made it a really satisfying day of watching for a cricket tragic. It wasn't Bangladesh who pulled the trigger, yet India went down like they were shot.
|The wicket was damp and there was some moisture in it. The ball stopped in the morning and because of moisture, there was always going to be some turn. But there was nothing vicious about the track to warrant such a collapse. Perhaps, it was just meant to be a day for the underdogs|
What was missing and what would have made it a really memorable revenge story was the quality of cricket from the Indians. There weren't any unplayable balls, there wasn't any hostile or even intelligent spells of pace bowling, there wasn't any tantalizing spell of spin, and there weren't any intricate battles between bat and ball. Barring Sachin Tendulkar, who was dropped on 16, no one put up a fight. In fact, not many got out to good deliveries even. Sehwag fell to his aggression, Gambhir chased a wide one, Dravid played all around a full delivery, not quite a yorker, Laxman's dismissal, as Tendulkar said was a touch unlucky, Yuvraj Singh's was so soft that not many in the ground realised he was out, hitting a full toss to mid-on.
Even Shakib said as much, while talking about Shahadat, who picked four wickets. "Yes, he didn't bowl all that well; he can bowl much better than this," Shakib said. "But it's good for his confidence that he got wickets, as he is on a comeback. As I said earlier, they [India's batsmen] can always mistakes. If we bowl at the right areas, they are bound to make mistakes." And so they did.
The wicket was damp and there was some moisture in it. The ball stopped in the morning and because of moisture, there was always going to be some turn. But there was nothing vicious about the track to warrant such a collapse. Perhaps, it was just meant to be a day for the underdogs.
Both teams know that the Test is not over yet. Far from it. Sachin Tendulkar reminded the reporters about it ("Long way to go in this game") and Shakib said they were just focused on taking the last two wickets and then try to bat as long as possible. But that's for later. In the here and now, and one suspects even when one will look back at this Test at some point in the future, no one who watched the play today will forget it. It might not have been high-quality cricket but for the context and the sheer drama of it all, it certainly warmed the hearts.
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