Calcutta: If captain Rahul Dravid’s decision to open in the first innings (at the Kotla) had two objectives ' making a statement and scoring with the element of surprise ' the move to promote Irfan Pathan on Monday was wholly tactical.
It wasn’t an experiment.
“We wanted Sri Lanka to deviate from their game plan' Wanted them to do things they hadn’t anticipated' We were confident positives would emerge and the decision worked,” coach Greg Chappell told The Telegraph.
Speaking from the Taj Palace in New Delhi, at the end of a hugely satisfying day, he added: “While the move was decided upon after stumps on the second day itself, it was conveyed to Irfan this morning. Both Rahul and I were sure he would take the challenge. Actually, he jumped at it.”
Earlier this season, Pathan opened in the Challenger and, then, smashed a superb 83 at No.3 in the first ODI versus Lanka.
Opening in Tests is an entirely different proposition ' or, should be ' but Pathan never gave the impression that he batted at No.10 on debut (Adelaide, exactly two years ago) and scored only one.
While Dravid has had reservations about acknowledging Pathan as an allrounder (“he’s a bowler who can bat”), Chappell’s take is different.
“Look, I’ve always regarded Irfan as an allrounder and I’ve been impressed at the pace at which he’s getting mentally tougher' He keeps giving us options,” he said in a tone which suggested plenty of affection for the Vadodara ka sher.
Asked whether Pathan was advised to bat in a particular manner, Chappell replied: “Not really' However, I reminded he must keep out the good balls and hit the bad ones' In any case, that comes pretty naturally to him and that’s how he’d batted in the recent ODIs.”
According to Chappell, Pathan wasn’t exactly devastated after missing out on what would have been a fantastic hundred.
“Back in the dressing room, he coped with it rather well' A Test hundred is a Test hundred, but a 93 is terrific, too' I told Irfan that he’d done the team proud and, if he continued to develop in the same way, there would be plenty of opportunities for a Test hundred,” he informed.
Incidentally, Chappell praised Dravid for “making such a strong statement” in innings No.1 and, then, dropping to No.5 in the second innings.
“We could have looked at another partner for Gautam Gambhir, but Rahul decided he would do the job himself' As for this afternoon, he could have gone in at No.3, but allowed (V.V.S.) Laxman to bat there one more time,” he said.
Chappell’s respect for Dravid ' the fastest Indian into the 8,000 Test runs’ club ' has obviously risen a few notches in the past couple of days.
Perhaps, the entire Team India dressing room now sees the captain somewhat differently.