| Andrew Flintoff at the Wankhede on Sunday
Mumbai: Whoever the cricketer, a 100th Test appearance definitely calls for a celebration. Rahul Dravid, however, hasn’t had even a moment of joy on the first two days at the Wankhede here.
Unless he produces another priceless innings, there won’t be cause for celebration on Monday either. The glamour and handsome perks notwithstanding, cricket essentially remains a cruel game.
Dravid has got one more reminder.
After being inserted, England couldn’t be stopped from reaching the confidence-boosting 400 mark. If that confirmed just how badly the (toss) gamble had gone, the Indian batsmen then did enough to give Andrew Flintoff hope of winning and drawing the series 1-1.
He has already said England “don’t deserve” to finish losers.
“Sure, India recovered from 28 for three (to 89 for three), but you’re carrying a long tail... Two quick wickets and it will be difficult stopping England,” former captain Mike Gatting told The Telegraph.
The first session went India’s way (three wickets and only 73 conceded), but the next two belonged to England ' their innings continued till 30 minutes before tea and, later, two short-pitched deliveries and a near wide ripped apart an awesome (on paper, at least) batting line-up.
Dravid and Yuvraj Singh were unbeaten at stumps, but the pressure is enormous. Arguably the biggest test ' of character and more ' in recent times (at home) has begun. Openers Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer as also Sachin Tendulkar must wait till innings No. 2 to make amends.
Sachin took 22 minutes and 13 balls to get off the mark, but didn’t add to that single. Despite the stature he enjoys, not just in Mumbai but across the world of cricket, a section in the pavilion booed when he became a James Anderson victim.
Not batting first obviously didn’t help, but the dropped catches made it worse. More were put down on Sunday, with the fiery Munaf Patel having the mortification of seeing Flintoff dropped off successive deliveries.
Eventually, Flintoff fell to a somewhat reckless shot (off Anil Kumble), but should have been a Munaf victim. The latter, incidentally, was superb: He fired yorkers and made the Paul Collingwoods pray once the bouncer was hurled. Was on a split hattrick as well.
Perhaps, the talent-spotters need to visit villages like Ikhar. Another Munaf may well be ‘hidden’ somewhere.
If Munaf (and Sreesanth) made waves for India, Karachi-born debutant Owais Shah resumed his innings ' he’d gone off on Saturday afternoon with cramps ' and scored 88. Talking to the Media, he placed on record his appreciation of what Mohammed Azharuddin did two years ago.
The former India captain (currently serving a life ban for match-fixing) coached Shah for “ten days” in Hyderabad and the “slight changes” suggested proved “very beneficial.”
Australian Mike Hussey, by the way, has been an inspiration for the 27-year-old: “Like him, I knew my time would come... I had to keep performing, that’s it... I keep tinkering with my batting, but never commit myself too early...”
Shah wasn’t in the original tour party, but got called-up once Michael Vaughan became doubtful. He arrived (in Nagpur) the day the regular captain left for home.
The Sreesanth-Shah face-off
Sreesanth: It was a good conversation and I enjoyed it... It pumped me up... It was a cricket talk...
Shah: Oh, it was light banter... I’m friends with him (Sreesanth) and Munaf Patel... It was all in good fun...