| Rahul Dravid greets debutant Sreesanth after the dismissal of Muttiah Muralitharan at Nagpur on Tuesday. (AFP)
Nagpur, Oct. 25: It was one of those days when everything clicked.
Who said that' Rahul Dravid did. Ever so modest.
There was no modesty about the way he batted, though, which was at the end of the day truly the jack-in-the-box. On debut as captain for a length of time ' the earlier accidental occasions not counted ' Dravid did what he has rarely done. His 85 unbeaten runs came off only 64 balls. Dravid’s one-day career strike rate is 69.74 runs per 100 balls.
Captaincy sits easy on his crown' Well, “this was (just) one of those days when everything clicked”, the captain said.
True, it was just like the day at Taunton when India hit 373 for 6 in the 1999 World Cup against Sri Lanka. Only the captain was different. Sourav Ganguly might have said much the same thing, too, at the end of that match which India won by 157 runs. Guess what' Today’s victory was by 152, and the score of 350 (as in Taunton only six wickets were lost) the second highest against Lanka. Dravid had played well also at Taunton.
Sourav wasn’t there at Nagpur, at least in body because he was seen practising in Calcutta. It can’t be said for sure, however, if he was present otherwise.
| Sourav Ganguly at Eden Gardens on Tuesday. (PTI)
Had he been there he might have heard talk of the first steps having been taken towards Greg Chappell’s vision of a new-look side for the 2007 World Cup. A side flexible in approach, strong in determination and bubbling with enthusiasm.
Or call it luck, if you will, starting with winning the toss ' the team batting first has won seven out of 12 times here. Then Sachin Tendulkar returned from a six-month lay-off and smashed 93 runs off 96 balls. And it was at his suggestion Irfan Pathan was sent at No. 3 and in his glorious presence struck a breathless 83 in 70 balls.
“Sachin came up with the idea. We then discussed it with the coach and thought it would be a good move to surprise the Lankans,” Dravid said.
Chappell agreed. In a match in the recent Challenger Trophy, Pathan had opened ' with Sachin. That way, today’s move wasn’t so much of a surprise, what was a surprise was that he would put 164 runs on board with Sachin.
Dravid spoke of “luck” and of Sachin. “He didn’t show any inhibitions and it looked like he had been playing all this while.”
Sachin would only say: “It’s nice to be among runs... nice way to come back.”
For Dravid, too, it was an occasion of getting back among the runs. “I was a bit worried about my form, but the tempo set by Sachin and Irfan had to be maintained. It’s nice to hit the ball well.”
He has rarely hit better. And Murli Kartik, the left-arm spinner, has rarely turned it more. With Harbhajan Singh, he ran through the Lanka innings as the pitch almost degenerated into a dust bowl.
Perhaps, 350 was too much anyway, though Nagpur is a high-scoring ground with the average first innings score being 270 and New Zealand having once before hit 348.
“I knew the pitch would turn later on but didn’t expect it to happen so much. Harbhajan and Kartik bowled really well,” the captain said.
“It’s a good start to the series, but there’s still a long way to go... tougher battles lie ahead,” Chappell told The Telegraph before boarding the team bus.
Tougher battles lie ahead for the man in Calcutta, too.