At stumps on Day-II, one could be excused for wondering whether a fresh series had begun. Fortyseven wickets fell in the first four days (three in Mumbai included) but, at the Chinnaswamy today, 94 overs produced just two.
A distinctly below-par batting performance from both India and South Africa allowed the first Pepsi Test to end so prematurely. But while the Indians did an encore yesterday, the South Africans have learnt from Mumbai.
Already 1-0 up in this two-match affair, South Africa have announced intentions of batting India out of the series. Perhaps, Anil Kumble can still produce a spell out of the ordinary but, at the moment, South Africa�s date with history seems assured.
A lead of 96 with seven wickets intact is handsome. More so, as the top is beginning to come off and the wicket may behave drastically differently from tomorrow afternoon.
By then, if all goes along the South African script, there won�t be any escape for India. Even the very optimistic will stop talking of the law of averages (with regard to batting) working in India�s favour.
India�s far-from-inspiring scores in the series are: 225, 113 and 158.
Resuming at 11 for one, South Africa didn�t lose a wicket till shortly before tea. Incidentally, not for the first time, a nightwatchman proved the biggest irritant. John Binks, Steve Rixon, Tony Mann, Wasim Bari, Raphick Jumadeen, Dave Richardson... And, now, Nicky Boje.
All creamed off at least fifty, causing the Indians one big embarrassment but certainly raising the status of nightwatchmen worldwide.
Actually, it�s remarkable South Africa have thrice been exceptionally served by nightwatchmen this season alone: Twice by Mark Boucher, who cracked hundreds on each occasion, and by Boje who just missed his.
The day�s proceedings weren�t a smashing advertisement for Indian bowlers and exposed, in particular, stood debutant Nikhil Chopra. He has never been a big turner still, his effort lacked josh. The ODI-only label appears appropriate.
Chopra should have known the Kirstens and Bojes would go after him � it�s only the Indians who don�t �target� debutants � and ought to himself have devised a counter. We saw nothing.
Boje, preferred to Clive Eksteen for his batting � and what a move it turned out to be � was stopped 15 short of becoming nightwatchman No. 2 (after Mann�s 105 in Perth, 1977-78) to score a hundred against India.
It was an innings (85 in 221 minutes, 198 balls, 9x4) that would do top-order batsmen proud. In fact, Boje adapted beautifully: No daylight between bat and pad while defending; no half-measures when the width was gifted.
Boje survived on 35 (73 for one) when Kumble couldn�t hold on to a return catch but, then, luck does favour the determined. And determined, too, was Gary Kirsten, Boje�s partner in a massive 161-run partnership for the second-wicket.
Kirsten, too, fell before completing a richly-deserved hundred � he scored 79 (264 minutes, 209 deliveries, 7x4). Drives, pulls, tidy placements.. Even natty footwork to combat spinners. Kirsten�s was a mature performance.
Grafting is pretty much his second nature and Kirsten is absolutely comfortable allowing a partner to attract more cheers. At the Wankhede, it was Herschelle Gibbs; Boje today.
If we are scouting for a team man, we probably shouldn�t look beyond Kirsten. That quality was evident a couple of years ago itself when he stepped down from the vice-captaincy, thereby also pulling out of the �succession� race which can cause bad blood.
Both Boje and Kirsten fell to Kumble, who again took on a heavy workload but wasn�t able to consistently gain purchase that would leave batsmen nonplussed.
Boje, playing for the break played inside the line and was bowled. Then, Kirsten was taken off pad-bat when one turned and jumped.
While Boje�s stellar knock ended just before tea (185 for two, advancing from the lunch score of 103 for one), Kirsten was snapped up minutes after resumption. But if their dismissals suggested a procession towards the dressing room, Daryll Cullinan and Jacques Kallis squashed such thoughts.
Though Cullinan required a runner towards the close, the pair has already added 68 and, with the second new ball only 3.3 overs old, their showing in tomorrow�s first hour should set the tone for Day-III.
Cullinan, who missed the first Test owing to a groin injury, resumes on 46 while Kallis, showing excellent temperament for the second innings in succession, will be looking to add to 21.
A soaring six off one from Kumble that was tossed up, by Cullinan, and four byes (making it 16 for the day) off Srinath, towards the end, put in perspective India�s hold on the Test and series.
Nayan Mongia had an awful day, in sync with many of his teammates. At times, even Sachin Tendulkar was clueless as his many bowling changes just didn�t work. And, for quite some time, he forgot Murali Karthik�s presence.
It�s always tough on a captain when a mere 158 has to be defended. It becomes tougher when ideas run out quicker than steaming idlis or richly topped pizzas at the newest joint on MG Road.
Sachin himself bowled (off-spin as two southpaws were around), but without success. Even partnership-breaker Sourav Ganguly was ineffective. As for spearhead Srinath, he looked threatening only after tea when the old ball reverse-swung.
Yet, tomorrow, it�s Srinath who could do the much needed early damage.
It�s unlikely Srinath (and Kumble) will sleep well, though they are on home turf, but it should be different with Boje.
Clearly South Africa�s Man of the Day, Boje (with four first-class hundreds back home) remarked the longer one batted �the easier it became to score�. But Boje, playing just his second Test, added India shouldn�t entirely be written off.
�Three days remain,� he gently reminded.
Well, three days is a long time. But is that alone enough to comfort bruised Indian egos?
From their 18 outings so far, they have notched up 38 points, and enjoy a three-point lead over second-placed Churchill Brothers.
With only four more matches to play in the League, including one against arch-rivals East Bengal, Mohun Bagan will naturally look to garner full points to breathe easy in the last lap.
�We have to win now. Our lead is very slender and if we lose points now, there will be no time for recovery,� coach Subrata Bhattacharya said.
But the city giants, though confident, are not taking it easy tomorrow. �With only Indian boys, JCT have come this far (they are in fourth place with 30 points from 18 matches). We have to give them due respect,� the coach added.
Mohun Bagan will miss Satyajit Chatterjee tomorrow, who is out with two yellow cards. But more than that, Bhattacharya is concerned with the injured James Singh. James, with an injured right knee, did not practise today, but may play tomorrow.
Mohun Bagan�s thrust will be in the attack, where Igor Shkvirin, Jose Barreto Ramirez and Stephen Abarowei are the trump cards. The trio have combined magnificently to take their team ahead in the League.
JCT had won when the two had met in the first leg in Ludhiana, beating Mohun Bagan 2-1. �But that was before we had settled down well as a team, and Igor and Ramirez were not there,� Bhattacharya said.
That was echoed by Sukhwinder Singh, the JCT coach. �The present Mohun Bagan team is a lot different from the one we beat earlier in the League,� he said.
But he is not overawed by his opponents recent good run. �We will play our best game. That is what my boys are used to do and tomorrow�s match should be an entertaining one.�
Daljit Singh will be out with two yellow cards, and Prabhjot Singh and Hardeep Sangha may miss the match due to injuries.
Today, the 32-year-old psychologist from Chennai is doing the next best thing: Rubbing shoulders with the country�s elite cricketers.
It remains to be seen just how long an innings Kumar will have, and what the results will be, but the Board has finally realised the players need to work with a psychologist.
Of course, quite a few teams took the psychologist-route some years ago but, then, better late than never.
The soft-spoken Kumar, who will probably be with the team during the up-coming one-dayers as well, spoke to The Telegraph this afternoon.
Following are excerpts
On his background
I�m a practising psychologist, dealing with both clinical and sports psychology. I�ve worked with quite a few sportspersons, including members of the Tamil Nadu cricket team and Vishwanathan Anand. Now, of course, I�m here.
On interacting with Anand
I�m also associated with a couple of physiotherapy clinics, in Chennai itself, and it�s at one clinic that I met him. We got talking and I then had a couple of sessions... I�m afraid I can�t go into details as dealings with clients should remain confidential.
On interacting with the Indian cricketers
My relationship with them is still in the stage of infancy... Today, I�m only observing them. I must first know them, individually and as a team, before I speak. Time alone will answer how long I�ll take to know and understand them. Unless I know them, I�ll not be able to speak their �language�.
On whether he was pleasantly surprised when Board president A.C.Mutthiah asked him to join the Indian team
Let�s say I�ve worked hard to reach where I have. Moreover, it�s like a dream come true. Psychologists have something to contribute and I�m excited about this challenge.
On whether he has signed a contract with the Board
I haven�t, but any arrangement has to be long-term. Indeed, don�t expect results overnight. After all, I�m not in the business of magic.
On what he generally tells clients
(Smiles) We don�t talk much, rather we keep listening... Interacting only begins after we�ve understood the client and his/her problem.
On whatever little he told the Indian team when he met players for the first time (on Test-eve)
Be confident and wear a positive attitude.
On what�s wrong with the Indian team
(Pauses) I wouldn�t say there�s anything wrong... What is missing, probably, is synchronisation between mind and body, the physical and mental side.
On what makes a successful sportsperson
Mental toughness, it complements talent.
On the problems sportspersons come to him with
At the root, more often than not, is the absence of proper co-ordination between mind and body. As a result, there�s stress and a lack of motivation. There�s no substitute to doing the right thing at the right time.
On his one common message to all clients
Don�t be ruled by emotions, instead rule over the emotions.
On how he himself handles stress
(Laughs) By finding out what�s causing it.
Finally, on his favourite cricketers
Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, when I was in school (YMCA, Chennai). Now, of course, it�s Sachin Tendulkar. At the school-level, incidentally, I was a decent leg-spinner.
Those regarded as certainties, besides captain Sourav Ganguly himself, are: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Ajay Jadeja, Mohammed Azharuddin, Robin Singh, Samir Dighe, Anil Kumble, Sunil Joshi, Nikhil Chopra, Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar and Thiru Kumaran.
There is talk of a batsman-spinner taking the XIVth and last berth and it could well go to a rookie: Punjab�s Yuvaraj Singh, a member of the U-19 World Cup-winning squad.
Apparently, there has also been some discussion on (again) �resting� Srinath. However, it�s unlikely that the new captain will agree to such an arrangement.
Former India player Yashpal Sharma, a member of the star-studded 1983 World Cup-winning team, will have his benefit game in Mohali on April 26. The day-night affair is likely to pit an Indian XI versus Rest of World XI.
With two wins from as many matches, Mumbai have all but ensured passage from what can appropriately be called the Super League�s �Group of Death�. The result of the match at the Eden is likely to decide who joins them in the knockout stage.
With Delhi also around, Rajasthan were being looked upon as the weak link, if not the whipping boys, of the group. And now Rajasthan are providing the benchmark. �Well, we�ve beaten Rajasthan outright while Bengal didn�t even manage the first-innings lead, so I�ll have to say we�re going in as favourites,� India mediumpacer Venkatesh Prasad said when drawn into a comparison.
Others in the Karnataka camp are talking of �eight points�.
With Prasad, Dodda Ganesh and Sunil Joshi in the line-up, Karnataka�s attack looks sharper than that of the hosts�, and the bald track is as much a reflection of where Bengal perceives the threat to come from.
While the �think-tank� and the groundsmen have joined forces to blunt Karnataka�s new-ball duo, Bengal will have to justify their billing as a good batting side.
There are at least four batsmen in their ranks who have either turned out for the country or are considered �India material�, yet the hosts looked so out of depth against Rajasthan�s mediocre attack. The failure to clinch the lead has led to their problems since.
There were problems this morning for Bengal when Nikhil Haldipur reported allergic eruptions that have left him with a swollen face. He couldn�t turn up for nets.
The team management said he had to take steroid injections, and will take the field tomorrow. Ironically, Nilambar Saha, who would have had to fill the opener�s slot had Haldipur been ruled out, is down with high fever.
There is the scent of a battle within the battle as both teams are being led by left-arm spinners who have turned out for the country. While Sunil Joshi will want to press home his claims for a more permanent berth in the national team, Utpal Chatterjee has embarrassed selectors time and again with performances that made mockery of the theory that he is now �too old� to be considered for India duty.
He goes into the match with ten wickets in the last match and seven against Delhi, but will be hoping their is more support from the other end.
Vishal Yadav, who last played his Ranji Trophy for UP some eight years ago, is almost certain to be in the playing eleven. That the selectors have had to fall back on the �experience� of the left-arm spinner is a reflection on the state of Bengal�s bowling resources.
On a track that almost everyone agrees will be a �slow turner�, Karnataka may just be short on another experienced spinner. Vijay Bharadwaj, who hurt his back in Australia, hasn�t played a match since his return.
2 pm: Desert Gold 1. Tina�s Turn 2. Furia Rossa 3.
2.30 pm: Divisional 1. Grandson 2. Solo Spirit 3.
3 pm: Star Blitz 1. Code Word 2. Sun Gold 3.
3.30 pm: Obsession 1. Cyclades 2. Tattoo 3.
4 pm: Earl Grey 1. Tareek 2. Machrie Bay 3.
4.30 pm: Musselburgh 1. Princelene 2. King�s Star 3.
5 pm: Anguilla 1. La Unique 2. Golden Goal 3.
5.30 pm: Polish Power 1. Rare Jewel 2. Our Paradise 3.
6 pm: Sinister Minister 1. Squeeze 2. Daiimio3.
Day�s Best: Earl Grey Double: Anguilla & Sinister Minister
Bangalore Friday�s results
(With inter-state dividends)
1. Savadatti Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (3-8-1) Volcano (Shakti) 1; Supreme Glory 2; Concur 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 1-3/4; (1-15.6). Tote: Win Rs 122; Place: 18; 24; 12; Quinella: 504; Tanala: 5,458. Fav: Concur (1).
2. Lalithmahal Plate, Div-II 1,100m: (5-6-1) The King And I (Warren) 1; Hilary 2; River Dale 3. Won by: 1; 2-1/4; (1-11.8). Tote: Win Rs 33; Place: 17; 35; 14; Quinella: 190; Tanala: 840. Fav: The King And I (5).
3. Savadatti Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (8-3-5) Sans Egale (Shroff) 1; Carnival Craze 2; Decorated Star 3. Won by: 3/4; 1/2; (1-16.5). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 11; 22; 138; Quinella: 60; Tanala: 1,894. Fav: Sans Egale (8).
4. Lalithmahal Plate, Div-I 1,100m: (2-3-4) Decision Maker (Shoban) 1; Al Bashir 2; Cormac 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 1-3/4; (1-11.8). Tote: Win Rs 75; Place: 26; 32; 22; Quinella: 374; Tanala: 6,197. Fav: Pleasant Ville (1).
5. Saptharishi Cup 1,400m: (6-7-4) Bounty Bay (Eddery) 1; Stariano 2; Extnor 3. Won by: 3/4; 1/2; (1-27.4). Tote: Win Rs 32; Place: 12; 11; 29; Quinella: 25; Tanala: 235. Fav: Stariano (7).
6. Pancha Shila Trophy, Div-I 1,200m: (8-3-13) Financer (Rakesh) 1; Chity Bang 2; Cranberry 3. Won by: 3/4; 1-1/2; (1-16.8). Tote: Win Rs 32; Place: 17; 15; 92; Quinella: 55; Tanala: 2,459. Fav: Financer (8).
7. B. A. R. I. Plate 1,200m: (5-4-3) Admiral (Shafiq) 1; Arnica 2; Cruising Away 3. Not run: Certain Ace (11). Won by: 2-1/4; 3/4; (1-15.4). Tote: Win Rs 64; Place: 20; 13; 64; Quinella: 52; Tanala: 1,908. Fav: Arnica (4).
8. N. E. Raymond Memorial Plate 1,400m: (6-10-3) What A Pleasure (Eddery) 1; Tajik 2; Loudest 3. Won by: Hd; 1-1/2; (1-29.9). Tote: Win Rs 31; Place: 14; 17; 35; Quinella: 53; Tanala: 518. Fav: What A Pleasure (6).
9. Pancha Shila Trophy, Div-II 1,200m: (14-10-1) High Zoom (I. Chisty) 1; Silver Touch 2; Super Premium 3. Not run: Whatt A Girl (8). Won by: 1/2; SH; (1-17.5). Tote: Win Rs 785; Place: 90; 22; 15; Quinella: 3,050; Tanala: 18,186. Fav: Super Premium (1).
Jackpot: Rs 99,463 (Carried over); (C) Rs 413.
Treble: (i) Rs 346; (ii) Rs 694; (iii) Rs 31,019.
Outer sand track
1,200m: High Life (Islam) and Soviet Port (Rabani) in 1-26s; (400m) 29s. Both were level.
1,000m: Alsadena (Rabani) and Starry Flag (Islam) in 1-8; (400m) 27 2/5s. Former was a head better. Track no. 11 (Rabani) and Armed Alram (Islam) in 1-11s; (400m) 29 3/5s. Both were easy. Alocina (Rabani) and Lockers Park (Islam) in 1-12 2/5s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Former a head better.
800m: Consolidate (Islam) and Queen�s Theatre (Dalpat) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Both were level and moved well. Clarice Cliff (Rabani) in 56s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Easy. Machine Gun Kelly (Khalendar) in 59 4/5s; (400m) 29s. Good. Jayaashva (Razzak) in 1-1 2/5s; (400m) 27 2/5s.
600m: Friendly Knight (Bird) in 44s; (400m) 28 4/5s. Easy.
800m: Exclusive Girl (Rb) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Royal Ruler (Rb) and Time Of Times (Rb) in 58s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Arroway (Rb) and Adeline (Rb) in 59s; (400m) 29s. Sharp Sensation (Rb) in 1-1s; (400m) 30s.