The Test is just a day old but already the press conferences have been mighty interesting and generated quite a bit of heat. Yesterday, Virender Sehwag shot from the hip and today Sachin Tendulkar used the weight of his reputation to deflect hard questions on Sehwag's statement.
Even before the day's play ended, the talk, among the reporters, was who would field questions from India. Would it be Sehwag or would they send coach Gary Kirsten to diffuse the situation. The intensity was crackling, but it progressively lessened even before Tendulkar neared the end.
After a few minutes of gentle questions about the day's play, the first salvo was fired. What do you have to say about Sehwag's statement about Bangladesh having an "ordinary" bowling attack? Tendulkar's face muscles tightened as he peered out at the questioner and said, "He [Sehwag] said it. You have to go and ask him. I won't be answering questions of that kind." Silence, murmurs and more gentle questions followed.
As you would expect, someone returned to the topic of Sehwag. Do you think he was wrong in what he said? A grim Tendulkar looked annoyed, or at least feigned annoyance, and said, "Let's move on to the next one".
Had it not been a big player like Tendulkar, one suspects that the press would have grilled or asked more questions. Tendulkar didn't want to talk about it and, for the lack of a better phrase, knew exactly when and how to throw his weight.
There was to be one last attempt on the issue. This time, the name of Sehwag was averted, but the essence was retained. Do you think Bangladesh can take 20 wickets? Tendulkar simply offered, "That we have to wait; it's too early to say now."
Tendulkar, though, did give credit to Bangladesh, when he perceived the questions weren't loaded. "Bangladesh exploited the conditions quite well. It took a long while [for the pitch] to dry and it's still slightly damp. They bowled well. No one tries to play a shot to get out. The game is not over yet, there is a long way to go."
Enter Shakib Al Hasan. So far he has maintained a dignified silence on Sehwag's statements. All that he offered yesterday was, "That's his comments. I can't say anything."
Today, he also refused to paint the performance as revenge. "I don't really think we discussed it [Sehwag's statements] at any point. Our main target was to bowl the correct lines and lengths, and we did it. The fielders supported us and though we missed two chances, we bowled well against a good batting side. As I said earlier, they can always mistakes. If we bowl at the right areas, they are bound to make mistakes."
There was no false praise about Shahadat Hossain's bowling, but there was due acknowledgment of the context in which the fast bowler performed and what this meant for his confidence. "It's good that he got wickets. This is his comeback game and it's very crucial that he got some wickets. Yes, he didn't bowl that well and the other two [Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain] were better but he [Shahadat] can bowl much better than this. Good luck to him for getting wickets on his comeback. He deserved a five-for but we dropped a catch."
Shakib also marshalled his resources well today; he shuffled his bowlers, never gave Shahadat a long spell and, interestingly, kept himself on unchanged for a long time. "There was some moisture and the ball was gripping. So I kept myself continuing at the one end. As for Shahadat, we [the bowling coach, coach Jamie Siddons and Shakib] decided to use him in short bursts. As for changing him after the first over, I just felt that Rubel will be better on the wicket as he was quicker."
Shakib was the one who took out Sehwag and let out a scream of joy, but all he said on that reaction was: "I was just excited. When you bowl big players from bigger teams and get a wicket, you will be always more happy." Perhaps, the fact that he didn't say much on Sehwag, said everything.