India in Pakistan, 1st Test, Lahore 2005-06

Sophisticated slogging

India scorched the cold turf to the tune of 258 runs in 47 overs

Dileep Premachandran in Lahore

January 16, 2006

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The Dravid-Sehwag combination is no long term solution © Getty Images
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At times during this curtailed day, you had to peer extra hard and make sure that it wasn't a net session that you were watching. Such was the nonchalance with which Virender Sehwag dismantled Pakistan's attack, while Rahul Dravid killed them softly with some fabulous drives and deflections. By stumps, one opener who has always called himself a middle-order bat and another forced by extenuating circumstances to do the job had moved to within 10 of a world record which has stood for 50 years and 10 days.

Even on a pitch that was crying out to the batsmen to pitch their tents and stay a week, this was sublime batsmanship, 403 runs bludgeoned, caressed and cut at a remarkable rate of 5.37 an over. In the 47 overs possible today, India scorched the cold turf to the tune of 258 runs, with Sehwag clattering an astonishing 151 from 151 balls. In a TV appearance during last year's series, Bob Woolmer spoke of him as a "sophisticated slogger". Some slogger then, with seven of his 11 centuries being in excess of 150.

Danish Kaneria's frankly ridiculous shy at the stumps, which went for four overthrows, and Mohammad Sami's little tirade towards the end revealed how there was no chance of Pakistan leaving this game with even a smidgen of psychological advantage. Dravid would tell you that such glib phrases matter more to the media than to the players themselves, but the manner in which Sehwag rubbed in Pakistan's failure to take even a wicket so far would certainly have reopened a few wounds from the last tour.

This stirring response to a mammoth Pakistani total has, however, left India with a real dilemma for the coming games. Sehwag was categorical when he said later that Dravid opening shouldn't become a regular thing, given his peerless record as a No.3. But with no result possible here, and the Sourav Ganguly conundrum far from resolved, it's hard to see how a specialist opener can be drafted in. Those with vested interests will now conveniently climb on to the Dravid-for-opener bandwagon, but for Indian cricket's sake, it's imperative that its tyres are slashed immediately.

As he showed again today while performing the supporting act to perfection, Dravid can make runs anywhere, and against anyone. But the team's most valuable player must play where he's most comfortable, and from where he has inspired Indian cricket's most celebrated wins. There's a reason why Donald Bradman and Viv Richards batted at No.3, and why Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara have spent the bulk of their careers at No. 4. All these men had the quality and temperament to bat where they wanted, but they settled on the slot that worked best for them and the team. You don't mess with such men. Not for anyone, not at any cost.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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