Heated exchanges as Test hots up
It's been a series crying out for a genuine combat between bat and ball, rather than the batsmen having it all their way
It's been a series crying out for a genuine combat between bat and ball, rather than the batsmen having it all their way, and, barring a brief spell between lunch and tea, the third day of the Faisalabad Test took a similar course. However, two separate sets of incidents provoked some debate, serving as an interesting sidelight on an eventful day.
Shahid Afridi was told to calm things down during the third day
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Firstly Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar walked. Dravid's case was the simpler of the two, beaten by a direct hit from square leg and heading back to the pavilion even though the third umpire was asked to make a decision. He waited for a minute or so just before he headed upstairs to the dressing-room, made sure he was indeed out and left. "A batsman knows when he's out and that's why I walked but waited on the line for the decision. It was disappointing," he said while speaking to the media at the end of the day.
Tendulkar's case, though, was a bit more complex. Faced with a short ball down the leg side from Shoaib Akhtar, he tried to tickle it fine, saw the wicketkeeper collect it and immediately walked. The fact that television replays were inconclusive made his action a bit baffling: one angle showed that the ball had brushed his glove when the bottom hand was off the handle - in which case he couldn't be out - while another suggested that it might have been a correct decision. Dravid said later: "What happened to Sachin happened so fast that even he did not know. It was known only after seeing a lot of replays. We asked him but even he did not know what exactly happened and he walked. It all happens so fast, you react instinctively."
Pakistan sniffed a serious chance once Tendulkar was out and, with two relatively inexperienced batsmen at the crease, tried their hand at a bit of gamesmanship. Shahid Afridi, having served a disciplinary ban as recently as two Tests back, appeared to take the lead role and, having already tried to roughen up Dravid and VVS Laxman earlier this morning, he was doubly geed up at the sight of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan. Fielding at gully, he regularly made forays close to the striker, especially when Shoaib was steaming in, and indulged in regular chattering.
Even when he got a chance to bowl, he continued the banter to such an extent that Pathan had to have a word with Rudi Koertzen, standing at the bowler's end. Afridi was subsequently asked to tone it down by the umpire. At around the same time, Danish Kaneria, presumably as an aggressive gesture, threw the ball, at head height, back to the wicketkeeper, causing Dhoni to take evasive action. He too was spoken to by the umpires and Ranjan Madugalle, the match referee, summoned the two captains and let them off with a warning, telling them to maintain the spirit of the game.
Dravid didn't appear too impressed with the goings on and hoped that the authorities would ensure that "the game doesn't result in a shambles". Now, what Afridi was saying to Pathan even Koertzen might not have understood and whether it was serious enough for Pathan to complain, one will never know. Kaneria's case too nestles in a grey area and whether a bowler should be allowed to throw the ball back is a debate that can go on and on. But to be severe on the bowlers and fielders in this particular series, when they have had little to cheer, is being a bit too harsh on an already battered species.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo