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The Verdict by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Jamaica
July 1, 2006
Somebody once famously said that the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. Drawing a parallel to cricket, one can probably replace toys with wickets. Sixteen wickets fell today - some to unplayable deliveries, others to lack of technique and still others to recklessness - but Rahul Dravid stood like a giant among pygmies.
In what was the most exciting day of the series, Dravid was a model of calm. This is a pitch where only one other batsman has crossed 40, where everyone else has been just an edge away from misery. Like yesterday, he showed he was technically peerless; unlike yesterday, he came out a lot more positive. Like yesterday, he had to manage with the rest of the top order falling by the wayside; unlike yesterday he showed his entire range. The last 13 times he's walked out to bat (in a Test) he's made 40 or more on 11 ocassions. Pitches, bowling and conditions have rarely mattered.
There was one, yes, one occasion when he looked troubled today. In the seventh over of the innings he edged a good away-swinger from Collymore, but even there softened his grip so that the ball didn't carry to slip. As a bowler, the rest must have been demoralising. He left with authority, exaggerated shouldering of arms and all, defended with expertise and attacked with precision. Yesterday he was the shock absorber; today he shocked with his control.
Now to the rest. Brian Lara had wanted his team to bat for two days, they didn't even manage two sessions. Surely there must be some explanation for coming out there and trying to match what Sri Lanka were doing at Headingley. It's a good idea to look for runs, especially on this pitch where the unplayable ball is just a few overs away, but surely that must be accompanied by some sort of discretion. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan gave the impression of wanting to catch live action of England v Portugal.
The rest were done in by some quality bowling. Harbhajan Singh has surely realised the truth in the phrase relating to cricket being a great leveller. He went through an entire series in Pakistan wicketless but has suddenly got 11 wickets in his last three innings. Today's was probably his easiest five-wicket haul, arguably taking less time than he would to make a roti.
As he himself admitted, the fast bowlers had paved the way. Munaf Patel and Sreesanth hit the right notes early on. Both ran in hard and kept a length that had profited Taylor yesterday. Both got lift and both came back well after taking some tap. After the hard initiation of bowling on lifeless pitches, they finally encountered a supportive one. They showed that they had it in them to utilise and make the spinners' task easier.
India's second innings followed a similar formula and 26 wickets in two days may suggest they're playing on a snakepit. That is not true. Bennett King picked out "technique" as the main reason why Dravid has succeeded where the rest have failed. Looking at Mahendra Singh Dhoni's dismissal in isolation, one would say he was unlucky. The ball was dead straight and kept a bit low as well. Dhoni couldn't get down in time and was bowled.
Two overs later, Dravid got a similar delivery, waited till the last moment, watched the ball all through and brought his bat down confidently. Taylor might as well have been bowling to the concrete structure behind Dravid; considering the effort he was putting in, he might have just been able to find a gap through it.
Three sprinklings of rain, accompanied by blustery winds that blew the covers off the ground, briefly threatened to ruin play. No amount of it, though, maybe able to prevent a result in this game. In the previous two Tests both teams have suffered because of rain stoppages but all may be made up with a grand three-day finish to this one. The result may go either way but one thing's sure: on this surface it's the men who will ultimately prevail over the boys.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
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