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Sight Screen

Monday, December 12, 2005

Day 3 musings

A strait-jacket is damnably easy to get into (after all, you have so many people ready and willing to strap you into the contraption) and incredibly hard to get out of.
And that, for me, is why the events of day three of the second India-SL Test were worth particular notice, and mention. This is a team management walking a very thin tightrope, without much of a safety net; every mistake is not just scrutinized in the media, but is immediately followed by criticism -- and calls for the heads -- not of the mistake alone, but of the captain and the coach.
Such pressure forces the not-so-brave to go the conventional route -- because that way, failure can be explained by 'We didn't bat well' or 'The pitch was doing things' or whatever. Experimenting/innovating is harder -- because if you fail, the stock phrases won't do; criticism on the lines of 'It was stupid to send XYZ out, they should have played it on conventional lines' is harder to counter.
The management's experiment -- of sending Irfan Pathan out to take on and neutralize Muralitharan early -- is therefore worth applause, not merely because Pathan pulled it off with a beauty of an innings, but because the management had the nous to think outside the box, and the courage to take the risk.
It's opened the game up quite nicely for India -- with Ganguly and Yuvraj at the crease and reportedly stroking nicely, and with MS Dhoni still in the hut, the team is in position, on the morning of day four, to spend some time taking care of the early demons in the mind and on the deck, and then accelerating away to an impregnable position.
Siddharth Vaidhyanathan's match report, and Dileep Premachandran's verdict, here. From the latter, this:
The decision to send in Pathan caught Sri Lanka so cold that by the time they warmed up, the game was already disappearing from view. And those who asked what sort of message it would send to the opposition were answered with two towering sixes off Muttiah Muralitharan, who bowled 25 overs without making a dent in the wickets column.

And -- considering that Rahul Dravid was universally slammed for his batting in the truncated Chennai encounter, also that there is much focus on how Sourav Ganguly performs -- this:
This, though, was teamwork at its best, and not some one-man show. Despite the first innings heroes, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, contributing little, the batsmen who followed batted refreshingly positively without ever crossing the line into foolhardiness. Rahul Dravid combined with Pathan to run the Lankans ragged - 92 runs added in 93 minutes - and but for taking on Mahela Jayawardene's arm, a superb 53 could have been so much more.
There was plenty of application and class from Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh too, as India pressed ahead relentlessly towards a target in excess of 350. A couple of the drives that Ganguly stroked were just sublime, and Yuvraj - despite being ungainly at times against the spinners - did his part by ruthlessly putting away the four-balls.

PS: The India Abroad Person of the Year Awards ceremony last Friday went off well; thanks much to all those who emailed with good wishes ahead of the event. I'll prolly be off blog for today as well, since my colleagues who flew in from India for the event leave later today and I have some catching up to do, but regular updates will resume from tomorrow.

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