Sehwag thanks bowlers for 'good start to year'
It's tempting to say that India didn't play like the No. 1 Test team in the world, but have they already acquired the aura that dominant teams like West Indies and Australia possessed in their heydays? India are at the top because they have won more than then the rest of the competition. It says as much about the competitors as it does of India; it doesn't take away anything from them.
They might have beaten Bangladesh despite an imperfect game, but Ishant Sharma's comeback was heartening. It's their bowling that has made the critics like Ian Chappell doubt about their ability to hold on to the top spot and Ishant's performance would have given them a big boost. It wasn't a performance that would have really troubled a better batting unit, but there were signs of a revival that has pleased Virender Sehwag. "Ishant bowled really well," Sehwag said. "It's good for him and good for Indian cricket."
Eric Simons, the new bowling consultant, had hinted at the problem previously. "One of the things that happens we sometimes ask bowlers to do something that he is not comfortable. For example, it's not easy for a bowler who bowls big incoming deliveries to bowl the one that goes other way. You have to see what he is naturally good at and work on the other stuff."
Zaheer Khan was his usual self and though Sreesanth had a forgettable Test, there was no reason to panic yet. Sreesanth had no-ball problems in the first innings and lost rhythm completely. He returned later to pick up two wickets in the end and in the second innings he ran into Mushfiqur Rahim, who was almost swinging at everything at that moment. "Sreesanth struggled for rhythm initially but came back really well by the end of the first innings," Zaheer said.
It's the batting that didn't allow India to boss the hosts as they should have. They collapsed cheaply in the first innings and if it were not for Sachin Tendulkar, they might well have been shot out for 150. However, Sehwag wasn't unduly worried. "It happens with every team. Australia got out for around 120 in that [Sydney] Test against Pakistan but they won. We managed to score 250 because of Sachin, but we did bat well in the second innings and our bowling did the job for us."
The only jarring note was that Australia collapsed against a good-quality Pakistan attack on a helpful track, while India went down against Bangladesh. However, it would take a brave man to say the Indian batting line-up would collapse so cheaply again on a good batting surface, with enough quality in the arsenal.
It's the first Test of the New Year and Sehwag was understandably happy to get off on a right footing. "It has been a good start to the year," he said. "It's important to start well I guess. Everybody chipped in to make it happen. We didn't bat well first time but the bowlers have helped us win this game."
The second Test in Dhaka will present an opportunity to the batsmen to leave their imprint on a series which has, already, turned more interesting than it initially promised.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo