| Brett Lee exults after scalping Sachin Tendulkar at the MCG on Friday. (AFP)
Melbourne: For whatever reason, Virender Sehwag smiled perfunctorily despite the best innings of his 25-month Test career. The more broader smile actually came from Team India captain Sourav Ganguly: For the umpteenth time, after all, he stood vindicated.
“Today (Friday), I’ve been proved right... Isn’t it' Didn’t I consistently say Veeru would get runs in Australia' I’m as happy as he is,” Sourav told The Telegraph, suggesting that the debate over whether Sehwag should open ought not to have been triggered at all.
Barring his century on debut, the other four have come in the opener’s role. Absolutely remarkable, considering Sehwag “prefers” batting down the order.
For now, his 195 has enabled India have a better hold on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, wrested in 2000-2001. Of course, four days remain in the third Test, at the MCG, but the pressure has doubled on Australia. Being 0-1 behind, they must win both here and at the SCG, in the new year, to prevent an upset.
Believe it or not, India smashed 134 between lunch and tea (racing from 85 without loss to 219 for the loss of gritty Akash Chopra), reducing Steve Waugh to a near wreck. Lucky that three soft dismissals allowed Australia make a comeback of sorts in the final session, or else Steve and his men would have had to quickly head for the nearest oxygen parlour.
Clearly, the bottomline would have been different had either Sehwag or Chopra been run out, as early as the fifth over. Or, had Sehwag been caught by Simon Katich or Justin Langer when in his 60s and 70s. But, then, it’s the reality which bites and hurts.
Inexplicably, Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken (included at Andy Bichel’s expense) got carried away by the real and imagined bounce and did little except unsettling the openers. In the long run, even that didn’t have any effect. Rather, by Sehwag’s own admission, both he and Chopra concentrated “better” after being struck on the helmet!
Granted that Lee was spitting fire, but he should have mixed the short-pitched stuff with the rest. He finished the opening day with Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket but, frankly, that was a bonus. When the going is bad, nothing seems to go right. Sachin, at least, will agree as he nicked one from the tearaway which was going down leg.
While Chopra was the first to go (48 in 182 minutes, off 138 balls, 6x4), sweeping Stuart MacGill, vice-captain Rahul Dravid went next — 49 in 105 minutes, from 89 deliveries (5x4). He chipped Steve to Damien Martyn and the fielder didn’t err.
Sachin’s was wicket No.3, with Sehwag being the last to depart. The latter had a maiden double century (and more) for the asking, but couldn’t control his “normal game.” Sehwag moved from 189 to 195 with a six (his fifth) off Katich and, then, headed for the dressing room after falling to a full toss.
Later, Sehwag insisted he had “no regrets” but, in time, is bound to view the dismissal somewhat differently. While he was there, he drove beautifully and cut powerfully. The footwork was natty as well. Indeed, Sehwag scored on both sides and the timing-aided ease with which he found gaps was a lesson for anybody wanting to learn a thing or two.
Sourav would have been the fifth to go but, fortunately, Lee couldn’t hold a return catch. Asked whether, mentally, he had begun the walk back to the dressing room, the captain quipped: “Well, even before I realised what happened, the chance had been put down....”
The innings has already seen two century-plus partnerships — 141 between the openers and, then, 137 credited to the Sehwag-Dravid association. Another big one, between the overnighters (Sourav and V.V.S.Laxman), and we will probably be closer to the realisation of a dream: Winning a Test series in Australia.
Significantly, but for that early Sehwag-Chopra mix-up, the running between wickets was excellent. The obvious benefit apart, such aggressive shuttling put the fielders under pressure. Predictably, mistakes occurred.
The second new ball, by the way, is a mere eight overs old. Therefore, it remains Australia’s best bet on the second morning.
Dean Jones’ mission
Meanwhile, one-time Australian star Dean Jones completed his fund-raising walk for leukaemia research during lunch. “I’ve exceeded my target ($ one million) and I wish to thank all those who joined the walk at some stage or the other,” he announced.