Deep Dasgupta never knew till the morning of the Test that he was to open the innings once again. But he is not one to shirk responsibility.
It was baptism by fire when he made his debut in South Africa last month. Here, in only his third Test, he exhibited the maturity of a seasoned pro to reach his maiden hundred.
A century made even more pleasant by the presence of his parents who had come to watch their son �live.� Their hopes fulfilled, they basked in the accolades that came Deep�s way.
Sunil Gavaskar, working for BBC Radio here, was on the air when Deep reached the magical mark a little after tea. Once he was through for the session, the Little Master walked upto his parents, sitting in one of the adjoining corporate boxes, to offer his congratulations.
�It�s been wonderful, ask him to keep going,� was Sunny�s message to the overwhelmed parents.
�Attitude has been key to his success,� was Ashok Malhotra�s way of describing the Bengal wicketkeeper�s 254-ball innings.
Sourav Ganguly had praised his temperament after the South Africa series. Today he was bent on doing his job � keeping one end intact. He knew the runs would flow automatically.
His shot selection was perfect � except for two occasions, on 76 and 83, when he escaped being caught in the slip region. His balance was right and he was sure about the deliveries he let go during his 338-minute stay. Most of his 15 fours were neatly struck.
He reached the milestone with a steer to the thirdman fence. Though he didn�t admit later, the lapse in concentration on reaching his ton led to his dismissal in the very next ball. The moment was just too big to be not playing in his minds and will take some time to sink in.
Deep became the sixth Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test century and the first since Nayan Mongia reached the landmark against Australia at the Ferozeshah Kotla in 1996. Mongia, too, had opened in that Test.
The Indians are ahead by 24 runs on the second day and it will be a formidable task for England�s mediocre bowling to contain the scoring tomorrow. More than their own skills, the visitors will be at the mercy of the Indians to prompt a collapse.
The batsmen, however, were to share the bulk of the blame for showing too much respect to the bowlers. Of the 238 runs scored today, 112 came in the last session. The show was so boring that some journalists in the press box set their sights on Australia�s run chase in the Perth Test.
After nightwatchman Anil Kumble spent an agonising 110 minutes for his 37 runs, it was the turn of Rahul Dravid and Deep to play safe. They seemed not interested even in the singles and the odd boundary kept the scoreboard moving.
Deep�s wariness was understandable but the experienced Dravid�s failure to take the initiative defied logic. An off spinner of Richard Dawson�s abilities, who would even struggle to make it to some of the Ranji Trophy sides, was shown enormous respect. There was hardly any attempt to step out and hit him over the top. The 136-run third-wicket stand came off 279 balls.
Dravid (unbeaten 78 off 193 balls, 9x4) survived a chance and the drives and the flicks flowed only late in the second session. Sachin Tendulkar�s arrival also led to the increased run flow towards the close. As Dawson admitted later, the passionate reception Sachin received from the handsome turnout on walking upto the crease was intimidating for even the English bowlers.
Sachin looked in fine touch, though, he was beaten a couple of times by Craig White outside the off stump. Perhaps it had got more to do with adjusting to the bounce of the wickets in South Africa and here.
Sachin also completed his 1000 runs versus England during the course of his 53-ball stay, becoming the ninth Indian to achieve the feat.
It will be surprising if India don�t bat through the third day and pile up a target, which will ensure they don�t have to bat the second time in this Test. That doesn�t look too distant considering the present circumstances. It�s a home series after all.
More recently, when seniors declined to confront Shaun Pollock and Mornantau Hayward head-on, in Port Elizabeth, Deep put up his inexperienced hand. Many, of course, felt he was playing with fire. For his part, Deep accepted opening (with Shiv Sundar Das) a challenge.
And, so, just weeks after it was assumed he would only be accompanying the drinks trolley, Deep has been authoring exceptional discipline-oozing performances. This firm believer of destiny himself seems to be rewriting it.
Indeed, it�s generally believed the success rate for makeshift openers is around 25 per cent. Yet, with scores of 13, 63 and exactly 100 in his first three innings as India opener, Deep has surely forced a quick rethink.
At the PCA Stadium in nearby Mohali, Deep today posted his maiden hundred in his very third (official) Test. A fortnight ago, Deep�s 63 helped India save the Port Elizabeth game. Now, he may have scripted a match-winning innings.
�Oh, that will be great,� Deep quipped, adding his achievement �hadn�t really sunk in... It probably will, fully, once I read tomorrow�s headlines...� Incidentally, the unusually handsome turnout included overjoyed parents Biplab and Krishna.
Had Michael Atherton � somebody whom Deep admires greatly � not retired, he too would have been present in Mohali to applaud the 24-year-old�s effort.
Speaking to The Telegraph (after the Media conference), an emotional Deep dedicated the knock, first at home with India colours, to his �family... My parents and elder brother Jeet.�
Predictably, Deep spent around three hours with his proud parents, late in the evening, but returned to the team hotel after �just a few bites� at the family-dinner. Clearly, he has been overwhelmed.
Though Deep had two let-offs late in the innings, he was actually looking good for a score well beyond 100. As it turned out, Deep fell to Craig White immediately after becoming India�s latest centurion.
�No, it wasn�t a lapse in concentration... The ball came in rather sharply... Fortunately, it happened after I got to hundred,� Deep remarked, grinning, making it a point to �thank� vice-captain Rahul Dravid for �the many words of encouragement� when in the 90s. Deep confessed he was �a bit nervous.�
In Port Elizabeth, it was �surviving ball-by-ball.� Today, it was slightly different, but Deep opined he still was �merely doing a job.� Except the bounce, more pronounced there, the wicket in Mohali �wasn�t much different.� While many feel the England attack is pretty ordinary, Deep spoke of the bowlers being �good... That�s why they are playing at this level.�
While insisting it wouldn�t be �too demanding� to regularly open and �keep, Deep accepted he was striving to improve as a �keeper. �No one is perfect and, well, I�ll keep working at it...� It�s this attitude which keeps his list of well-wishers growing.
Former India captain Ravi Shastri, however, believes Deep should bat lower. �Standing-in is fine but, if you ask me, Deep is the perfect No.7... Six specialist batsmen and, then, Deep... What a line-up...�
In Port Elizabeth, the move for Deep to open was initiated by coach John Wright. Yesterday, it�s captain Sourav Ganguly who asked (towards the end of the England innings) whether he would again be comfortable in that role.
�I promptly said it was okay with me... In any case, Sanjay Bangar had a slight injury... As I acknowledged in South Africa itself, I�ve got to be prepared for whatever comes my way,� Deep observed.
Sourav, speaking exclusively, had the highest praise: �Deep has got so much character... Is determined not to throw anything away... More important, he has given us such a welcome option. As captain, I can only be delighted.�
So are the hugely passionate backers of Indian cricket, currently rooting for a performance of substance after a string of (official and unofficial) defeats.
He was dropped from the national side in the 1970-71 series (check with RKS) at home versus India after knocking Sunil Gavaskar off his feet as the latter went for
a quick run. He also made the headlines in that very series saying �Sunny is my bunny� after dismissing the Little Master cheaply on a couple of occasions.
One of the first to join the Kerry Packer series he has taken 202 wickets and scored 772 runs in 49 Tests.
He spoke to The Telegraph last evening.
The following are excerpts
Q Is it only cricket that has brought you here?
A Once I finished my cricket, I started a travel company. Wherever England plays we travel, like now we are in India. After Christmas we will go to New Zealand. Next winter we will be in Australia. Last winter we were in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Peshawar.
Q How do you keep yourself associated with the game?
A I did do a bit of coaching and I�m also in the cricket committee in Sussex. Basically, I don�t have much time left after my business. It�s not just tours, it�s also day-to-day planning.
Q How did you see the new brand of Indian fast bowlers yesterday?
A Tinu Yohannan bowled pretty well. I think there�s a bit of pace lacking in support for him. The same applies to Jawagal Srinath. Ever year you have some guys doing well but they haven�t been of the same stature.
Q How important is the support?
A It doesn�t necessarily affect your bowling, but makes it a bit easy. If someone is getting wickets at the other end, the batsman is never at ease. He can never say to himself, let�s see him off and take some chances against the others.
Q With the advent of Match Referees, hasn�t it become tougher for fast bowlers?
A I wouldn�t say Match Referees are not at all necessary. They are there to see that the rules and regulations which we play under are maintained. But obviously, what is taxing is the hectic itinerary every player is subjected to these days. The Indians have just finished a series in South Africa and are back home playing England. We return after Christmas for the one-dayers and proceed to New Zealand. The players are pretty active and don�t have a chance to get a mental break. It�s now both mentally and physically tiring.
Q Has the game changed technically over the years?
A I don�t think the game has changed technically. The technique has remained pretty constant. The way of doing things is like a craftsman doing his job and hasn�t changed much. There are some basic rules you follow to get the best results. And then after that you are an individual player � the way you play on top of it. Someone like Sachin Tendulkar who will play differently to Brian Lara.
Q How do you compare the present set of fast bowlers with the ones during your days?
A Glenn McGrath is a world-class bowler. He will take his place in the history of the game. It doesn�t matter in which era you played in. If you are competitive you can be successful in all eras. Somebody like Dennis Lillee would be as effective now as he was during his days. The same applies to Wes Hall, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts and a few others. They were all class acts and as I said class rules in all eras.
Q All fast bowlers have the quality of aggression. But with the ICC clamping down, isn�t it becoming difficult for the bowlers?
A No, no. Aggression is not appealing all the time. Shouting, swearing or whatever form � that is in a way forced aggression. As a batsman or a bowler you carry your aura with you. I mean, Viv Richards never shouted at his opponent. Aggression is the competitiveness between the batsman and the bowler and vice-versa. The atmosphere, the will to win should display aggression. It shouldn�t be always verbal.
Q During your playing days, was reverse swing an unknown commodity?
A It probably came on or they discovered they could do it later on. It probably happened. I remember bowling at The Oval, delivering mainly inswingers. I distinctly remember changing the ball around a bit, the wicket was pretty good, and I suddenly discovered I was getting to bowl away swingers. I got two-three wickets bowling in that fashion. Maybe, that was reverse swing and I discovered it. More credit to the guys who do it regularly and who gave a scientific explanation to it. They are the real discoverers.
Q Your quote �Sunny is my bunny� almost became a part of cricketing folklore
A That�s a press comment. It was a pretty brash statement. Sunny was a world class player and it was very difficult to get him out.
Q If you were bowling today, which are the batsmen you would have gone after?
A Well, I don�t know. Sunny and Geoff Boycott were very difficult to get out and had tremendous concentration. As a bowler, you have to believe you can get someone out. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don�t.
Q Who would be your top-five bowlers of all time?
A I don�t like picking players like that. Over a period everyone reaches a peak. People will always respect bowlers like Dennis Lillee, Richard Hadlee, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner. You couldn�t make much difference between them on their day. You always appreciate the nuances every bowler uses to get one out. Consistency is the basic factor that decides the mark of a great fast bowler.
�It�s been a brilliant experience bowling in front of the passionate crowd,� Dawson, who picked up his maiden wicket when he had Anil Kumble caught behind today, said.
He added it was a good experience watching Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in action. �They are great bowlers. The conditions are more suited to spinners here and it will be very helpful if I could pick up a trick or two before returning home.�
He felt every day on the tour has been a �learning experience� and that it was also great playing against Harbhajan yesterday.
SAIL drew first blood, in the 43rd minute, through Sandip Saha. Lawrence restored parity five minutes from time. Mohammedan Sporting could have got the goal earlier but Debnarayan Sarkar�s header came off the horizontal.
First division leagueWari emerged 2-0 victors over Salkia Friends in a relegation leg match in the 1st division group A league. Anirban Sengupta and Mohammed Hafeez scored. Bata beat Aryan 1-0 in the other match with Amit Pal doing the job.
Venue in doubtThe National Football League is scheduled to get underway December 12 but there is a question mark over two matches slated to be held here. The police have informed officials enough personnel cannot be deployed for the December 13 and December 16 matches in view of the Prime Minister�s trip to the state.
The first match pits Mohun Bagan against Tollygunge Agragami, while the second one is between East bengal and Mohun Bagan. IFA officials today said the AIFF officials would be informed of the latest after a meeting with the police officials.
Sanskriti soccerFootball has been made a part of the Banga Sanskriti Utsav organised by the Bhasha Shahid Smarak Samity. The show, scheduled for a December 16 kick-off, intends to host two matches involving a team from Bangladesh between a West Bengal XI and Calcutta XI on December 20 and 22.
Table tennis teamsNiloy Basak, Snehashish Bhattacharya, Soumyajit Sarkar and Subhodeep Das will represent Bengal in the national junior table tennis meet kin Panaji from Friday to December 12. The women;s team includes Susmita Roy, Mousumi Pal, Anusree Saha and Moonmoon Basak.
Irina in leadIrina Brar was leading the field with one-over 71 after the opening round of the East India ladies gold championship at Tollygunge Club. Mayali Talwar was following Irina at 75 with Parnita Grewal carding a 77.
Access All Areas, however, gets the first call purely on his impressive work outs. The Vijay Singh-trained filly by Razeen out of Alix seems to be back to her dazzling last winter form and may triumph in the hands of Cristopher Alford.
Read as: Horse number, last four runs, horse name, trainer, jockey, weight & draw:
1st Race at 12.35 p.m.
1. Flamebird (1) 2. Acklins (6) 3. Tequila Shot (4)
2nd Race at 1.10 p.m.
1. Abandoned (5) 2. Gul (6) 3. Victoria Rose (10)
3rd Race at 1.50 p.m.
1. Bul Bul (3) 2. Glass Slipper (6) 3. Heaven�s Blessing (10)
4th Race at 2.20 p.m.
1.Access All Areas (3) 2. Splendid King (5) 3. Colonial (2)
5th Race at 2.55 p.m.
1. Soviet Ride (1) 2. Alcalde (7) 3. Cup of Life (3)
6th Race at 3.25 p.m.
1. Gold Buck (1) 2. Merano (3) 3. Anokato (8)
7th Race at 4.00 p.m.
1. On The Bit (5) 2. Aherlow (4) 3. Countach (14)
Day�s Best: Soviet Ride