| Ajit Agarkar celebrates after Justin Langer’s dismissal in Adelaide on Monday. (AFP)
Adelaide, Dec. 15: Five consecutive ducks on the last tour made Ajit Agarkar an object of ridicule. Nobody, it seemed, could stop laughing in Australia. Four years on, the Mumbaikar has had the last laugh: his career-best six for 41 in the second Test has given Team India the chance to chisel history at the beautiful Oval.
Actually, after an extraordinary (almost unbelievable) fourth day, India was 193 runs from taking a 1-0 lead in this four-match series. The theatrics matched Saddam Hussein’s capture in Tikrit and, now, Sourav Ganguly’s team has all of six hours and 90 overs to hit the 230 target. That too with every wicket in hand. Not since 1993-1994, against South Africa, has Australia fallen behind at home.
“Don’t do anything silly.... Time isn’t a factor and, so, get the boys to play their natural game.... It’s a big opportunity,” was former England captain and a self-confessed India admirer Geoffrey Boycott’s advice to Sourav, when they met at the team hotel in the evening.
The Indians don’t need to do anything beyond that. Not after having rallied from 85 for four while responding to Australia’s 556. Incredibly, despite both teams posting 500-plus in the first innings, one will still be defeated.
Really, India can only emerge second best if they lose it in the mind. Of course, being on edge somewhat is understandable and the fire alarm at the hotel (around 9.30 pm) couldn’t have helped, but...
Significantly, in almost half-a-century of touring Australia, India has won just three Tests — twice under Bishan Singh Bedi and once with Sunil Gavaskar as captain. The last victory was almost 23 years ago, at the MCG.
A good many runs remain to be collected, but everybody agrees the odds more than favour India. Even Australian coach John Buchanan acknowledged that and added: “Our batting was immature, with the shot-selection leaving much to be desired.”
After forcing a 33-run lead by restricting India to 523, Australia crashed to 196 in under 57 overs. Justin Langer became an Agarkar victim in the third over itself and, thereafter, the wickets didn’t stop. There were some good deliveries, great catches and awful shots. Moreover, Sourav’s field placements were smart.
However, the captain isn’t getting carried away. “Our job isn’t complete.... The target isn’t going to be easy, but we aren’t lacking in self-belief…. What will I be telling the players' Nothing. After all, it’s time to deliver,” Sourav told The Telegraph.
The wicket has played a “few tricks”, as Buchanan put it, but batting is unlikely to be the most demanding task of the season. That two double centuries have already been scored suggests the batsmen shouldn’t imagine Les Burdett-planted demons will surface.
Incidentally, the second double centurion, Rahul Dravid (233), has emerged India’s highest single innings scorer overseas. His career-best effort took him past Gavaskar’s 221 at The Oval, in the summer of 1979.