India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 1st day November 24, 2009

India delight in Delhi double-act

Cricinfo staff
Sehwag and Gambhir out on a double act as good as anything in this generation of cricketers to give India the perfect start

It was just a brief chat but its importance increased as the day went on. Midway through the 21st over Virender Sehwag walked up to Gautam Gambhir and said a few words. Gambhir listened patiently and nodded in response.

The previous ball, Muttiah Muralitharan had drawn Gambhir out with a well-flighted off break. Gambhir, a few runs short of his half-century, stepped out and tried unsuccessfully to hit him over mid-on. The next delivery, after the chat, the sequence of events was the same but with one difference: Murali flighted the ball, Gambhir jumped out of his crease but this time he connected well and hit over mid-off for a four.

Sehwag's gesture was, in fact, complementary. Earlier in the morning, when he was struggling, his junior team-mate walked up to him frequently to help him relax. More importantly, Gambhir made sure that while Sehwag was still finding his feet the scoring tempo never slowed down. It was probably the most important act in the Indian innings - had Gambhir not kept the scoring rate at a healthy four-plus, Sri Lanka would have had a foot inside the Indian door.

It was yet another sign of how the two Delhi openers have forged a bond of complete trust and respect, how they feed off each other and how, in the process, they have moved to within 507 runs of becoming India's best opening pair, and have already featured in the most number of opening stands leading to Indian victories.

Within a couple of hours of that chat, Sehwag and Gambhir had posted their highest-ever partnership, the 233-run stand beating their previous best - recorded at Kanpur, against South Africa five years ago in their second Test together.

"I was not hitting the ball well to begin with and Gautam was in good form. He was getting boundaries and we were maintaining three runs an over and hence there was not much pressure on me," Sehwag said.

There's no better testament to Gambhir's growth than his ability to assess situations and then adapt to them almost instantly. Today, no length unsettled him, no bowler could lure him into a false shot; repeatedly, Chanaka Welegedara attacked his off stump with a fuller line, repeatedly Gambhir stood his ground to open the face of the bat at the last minute and glide it towards third man. Not only did he rotate the strike but he assumed the mantle when the Sri Lankans kept Sehwag in the check in the first hour.

Partnerships of any kind require understanding and having shared a dressing room - first with Delhi and now for India - for nearly a decade, each knows the other's pulse.

It was a double-act reminiscent of the best of this generation, Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden: neither Australian relented under pressure. If one partner was under the cosh, the other would assume the aggressor's role even if it meant taking some risks. The only thing that mattered was to construct a good, solid platform in the first session. So often was Australia's fate scripted in those first two hours of the morning. And more often than not, they ended up on the winning side.

Partnerships of any kind require understanding. And you can understand the other only when you communicate clearly. Having shared a dressing room - first with Delhi and now for India - for nearly a decade, each knows the other's pulse.

And so, like a pair of screen cops, they cover for each other, they pick separate targets and double the mayhem. Last year in Galle, India were in a desperate situation after being dumbfounded by Ajantha Mendis in the first Test in Colombo. Sehwag and Gambhir read him best and they capitalised on that in Galle with the game's most vital partnership; their 167-run stand put India on top and the openers returned for the second dig with a 90-run partnership to keep India in the clear. In both innings Sehwag neutered the menace of Mendis by attacking him while Gambhir took charge of Murali.

The Indian pair applied the same strategy even today as Sehwag assaulted Mendis straightaway while Gambhir made Murali change his lines frequently by stepping out and placing the ball into the gaps. The Lankans were under the pump from both ends and could do little. "I was telling myself just play first 8-10 overs so I was concentrating hard and trying to leave the ball outside off. I worked hard in the first hour and after that I played my shots" Sehwag said.

He then revealed what he said to Gambhir in the 21st over: "I was just telling him to think big because this wicket is very good … and if he stayed there for three hours he would get his hundred."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kalyan on November 25, 2009, 17:11 GMT

    Greg_Ka_Guru , Alexk400 : If sachin is thinking me me me how come he has STRIKE RATE of 99.27 when scoring centuries. How many other "Greats" have strike of 99.27 while scoring centuries(45).

    girikula: I agree that we all should appreciate what Dravid has done to his country but that doesn't mean you have to lower your self by questioning sachins commitment and contibutions. Why don't you provide the so called ample proofs that sachin has used the situation to his advantage.

  • Md on November 25, 2009, 5:54 GMT

    Sehwag and Gambhir were just the opening pair india were looking for in test matches.

  • Satheesh on November 25, 2009, 3:54 GMT

    To Shafted : Nice Comments, you want to take the average of indian batsmen to their half average, is it?.. if we take like that, sachin's average is 27, Dravid's average is 26, Gambir 27, Shewag 25, Yuvi 18, Dhoni 20, Laxman 22... Great thinking dude. you want Indian top order batsmen average to be lesser than Aussies tail enders. wow.... pls think before writing something.. If we consider Indian tracks are batting paradise as mentioned by you, why Ponting's average is very poor in India?.. is he struggling in batting conditions?.. if you want to blame, blame everything... we care a damn. Actually Indian batsmen played really to their potential yesterday,Surely pitch will turn on 3rd day... lets wait & see, all the three results are possible from here.. Anyways my wish for Indian team to win this one....

  • Nani on November 25, 2009, 3:07 GMT

    I do not understand why some people think Sachin, Dravid and co. cannot face Mendis. I agree that Sehwag and Gambhir were very aggressive to unsettle the Srilankan spinners, but that doesn't mean that the 'famous trio' cannot handle him. These are the same people who thwarted many great spinners including the legendary Warne for several years. Regarding the batting position of Sachin in one-dayers, it's the coach and captain who decides the batting order. Sachin never interfered in this, as is evident by his so many number of innings at no. 4 in the previous days when he was not a captain and still pretty famous. Also we have Gambhir at no.3 who can hold the innings and Yuvraj at no. 4 who can really accelerate even in the middle overs. Sachin is some one who provides assurance at the top and against the moving ball in the early overs. He can really lay a platform for the stroke makers in the team. Finally, the centuries are not silly but are for the team.

  • Krishnan on November 25, 2009, 2:17 GMT

    To Shafted.. It's a bit of harsh comment by you. While some of the sub-continent pitches are batting friendly. batsmen like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS have good average in all conditions. and if pitches in India are so batting friendly why does Ponting not have especially a good average here on these wickets...

  • KISH on November 25, 2009, 2:11 GMT

    To whoever commenting that Indians average should be halved because of the placid wickets, it is same in Australia and other places too. Australian pitches are so good. Only thing is that the teams from the subcontinent don't like the condition. Maybe there is some bounce as well. This bounce is a thing you get used to, if they are even bounce. So, Australian batsmen can score easily in those pitches because they play domestic cricket there all the time. Only problem is for the visitors. Even the visitors have started playing them alright now - Remember 700+ score India made in Sydney? Got it? Wickets needs to be tampered to get the modern batsmen out. If they make under prepared pitches, the test matches will not be decided by the toss. Given that the public are paying for each days of the test match separately, what's wrong in a match ending in 2 or 3 days? If the batsmen are talented, they can play a gripping draw, even in those pitches.

  • Rajeev on November 25, 2009, 1:52 GMT

    these kind of indian cricket pitches must be change in future because it will help to lose Test crickets interesting to the fans, did u see how dull these 6 days from first test all batsmens are playing very well but bowlers are tired to gettting wickets thats not good for a good test cricket it must be change to support both of them otherwise test cricket may be disapper in future because whos gonna watch all the five days to this batting powered cricket games?

  • Anand on November 25, 2009, 1:43 GMT

    @Shafted: how about doubling the strike rates and averages of bowlers in Aus/NZ/Eng!! Think before you blabber anything. This Kanpur wicket was not the flattest track in the world, but it was made to look so by the brilliant indian pair. One look at the pitch and you would know that there certainly was something for the bowlers if they were allowed to bowl well, which Viru and Gauti didn allow them to do.

  • Jose on November 25, 2009, 0:51 GMT

    To shafted, I dont think sub-continent pitches should alone be blamed, all the pitches around the world are being turned into flat pitches to provide entertainment to fans. Kanpur pitch is supposed to assist spinners, but Sehwag-Gambhir duo negotiated very well. Appreciate them.

  • Anand on November 25, 2009, 0:44 GMT

    To answer Greg_Ka_Guru... are there any complaints against Sachin as a performer?? He has the ability to get centuries... and he gets ' one stops any one else from getting them.. they just cannot calculate as well as this man does... even at 1-down Gambhir could get tons of centuries with the kind of temperament he has... when someone hasn't ever let you down why would you want to demote just because there's a youngster who can do the job for you?? It's ridiculous how some people can think of Sachin like that... there are people who get centuries at a much slower rate than Sachin (while Sachin's is not slow in any manner) ... in what way is a century going to harm India's a captain all he would want for his team is for the opener's to click and score big... and when he has done that more than anyone else in world Cricket... how can one say he is selfish ??? your score counts for the team as well.. so it absolutely makes no sense when fingers raise against Sachin

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