| Dravid after his century. (AFP)
Rawalpindi, April 14: Whatever is being touched by Sourav Ganguly is turning gold: Promoting Parthiv Patel, vacating the No. 5 slot in V.V.S. Laxman’s favour and, of course, inserting Pakistan in the decider here.
Now, what remains is to bat the hosts out of this Golden Jubilee Test and series.
With three days in hand, India have taken a 118-run lead with six wickets intact (342 for four). At the crease are Rahul ‘Mr Dependable’ Dravid, on 134, and the captain himself. Playing his only Test of the series, he is on 53.
“I’ll be very happy if we get to 500.... From then on, all the running will have to be done by Pakistan.... We’ve had two good days and, now, it's a hat-trick we are aiming at,” Sourav told The Telegraph on returning to the glitzy Marriott in Islamabad.
For the umpteenth time in recent memory, though, much of the day belonged to vice-captain Dravid. Resuming on 10, he batted around six-and-half hours in trying conditions — for example, the oppressive Punjab heat and Shoaib Akhtar's hostility — to carry India towards a terms-imposing position.
In doing so, he authored his first century against Pakistan and 17th overall.
“It’s pleasing as I wanted to last the day.... I’d got out to a couple of poor shots in Multan and Lahore, plus that run out (second Test).... And, so, was determined to set it right.... I pride myself in not playing such shots and it’s hugely disappointing when I let the team and myself down,” Dravid pointed out.
He was dropped by Yasir Hameed on 71 (off Mohammed Sami), but deserved every bit of luck that landed his way — it included the benefit of doubt, early on, when Sami and teammates were convinced about an appeal for leg-before.
Like his captain, Dravid feels “another 150 runs” should make it difficult for Pakistan. “The wicket is playing quite well, but Anil Kumble’s shadow is going to loom large on the fourth and fifth day.... Our idea is to bat once and bat big....”
Actually, that is coach John Wright's philosophy.
Predictably, Dravid was asked whether his failures each time he has captained (standing in for Sourav) had something to do with pressure. Again, predictably, he gave a sensible answer: “One shouldn’t form a judgement after three Tests.... Time, more than anything else, will tell...”
His scores as captain have been 13 and five (Mohali), six (Multan), 33 and zero (Lahore).
That, however, is something of Dravid’s past. Today, everybody is raising the equivalent of a toast. Indeed, former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja paid a gilt-edged compliment: “Others are flamboyant, they are the stylists.... They often play to the gallery. Dravid, in my opinion, plays for the team. That's why his wicket is most prized.”
Dravid featured in three substantial partnerships, beginning with 129 for the second wicket, an association which ended with stop-gap opener Parthiv’s departure for a career-best 69. Then came 131 for the fourth with Laxman (71) and the unbroken 81 for the fifth wicket.
Given that Shoaib got Sachin Tendulkar and Laxman with memorable deliveries — the
latter, in fact, with a swinging full toss — it helped that a left wrist injury forced the spearhead off when the second new ball was just a few overs old.
Shoaib didn’t return despite a frantic call to the dressing room from a senior Pakistan Cricket Board functionary. That gave some breathing space and the Dravid-Sourav twosome made the most.
According to manager Haroon Rashid, an X-ray hasn't shown a fracture and, if the swelling subsides, Shoaib is going to be available from the first delivery of Day III. Umpire David Shepherd clarified that as the injury is “external”, he won’t be placed under a time-bar.
Footnote: Today being the Bengali New Year, one asked Sourav whether there was a bigger yearning for home. Grinning, he replied: “I’ll be in Calcutta on Sunday morning.... It’s not far off, is it'”