Lahore: Usually, umpires offer the light for batsmen to come off. At the Gaddafi, on Tuesday afternoon, Darrell Hair and Rudi Koertzen did so for them to come on. As they were 11 shy of a world record, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag accepted the offer.
In the anti-climax of the season, though, MoM Sehwag got out (aiming to despatch a short one from Rana Naved-ul Hasan past third man) with Team India on 410. So, Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad remain in the record books. Neither is alive, but they wouldn’t have mourned had another Indian opening pair done better.
Sehwag departed for 254 (328 minutes, 247 balls, 47x4, 1x6) inside two overs and, predictably, the Allianz Cup-launching Test didn’t continue for much longer. Captain Dravid remained unbeaten on 128 (332 minutes, 233 balls, 19x4), an innings which enhanced his already high stature.
If Day-III saw 73 minutes of cricket, sadly, the concluding day didn’t go beyond 12.
The flat wicket has been criticised across the board, but the elements were equally big culprits. Even if the surface was sporting, it’s debatable whether the weather-induced interruptions would have allowed a decisive result.
With this draw, the three-Test series has effectively been reduced to a two-match battle. Dravid said he didn’t believe in moral victories and psychological points, but the momentum is definitely with India now.
Pakistan declared at 679 for seven; India reached 410 for one. That says quite a bit.
Till somebody lights up Faisalabad’s Iqbal Stadium (venue of the second Test from Saturday), the mammoth partnership will remain the talking point. While Dravid informed Sehwag was “disappointed,” the vice-captain himself told The Telegraph “bahut kharab nahin laga...”
Anybody else would have resisted having a go at one more short delivery from Rana, but Sehwag flourishes and perishes by the sword. In any case, he isn’t driven by records and won’t curb his natural instincts.
That’s why he’s Sehwag. That’s why Inzamam-ul Haq and Bob Woolmer need to scheme differently. For the record, the captain remarked unconvincingly: “Hamne koshish ki, but Sehwag couldn’t be controlled on this wicket... Is pe khali batsmen nazar aye, bowler to koi dikha nahin...”
However, he accepted that irrespective of the wicket, his bowlers shouldn’t have conceded 410 runs before the solitary success. “I’m in favour of sporting wickets... This one wasn’t so bad that the opposition could cross 400 without loss...”
Clearly irritated with the thrust of the questions, at an interaction with the Media, Inzamam snapped: “Main captain hoon, groundsman nahin!”
Back to the partnership, Dravid indicated he wasn’t too disappointed at how it ended: “With delays and interruptions, it (Sehwag’s dismissal) was probably bound to happen... Having got to 410 is special and I would rather enjoy what we did, not what we didn’t... The best part was our ability to stay focused and Veeru’s pace... It’s hard to match him and I stuck to what I know best.”
He chose character-oozing partnerships with V.V.S. Laxman against Australia, at the Eden and at the Adelaide Oval, as the “highpoint” of his career. They put on 376 at the Eden and 303 in Adelaide. Under Sourav Ganguly, both Tests were won by India.
Dravid, by the way, didn’t commit himself to opening in Faisalabad. “I’ve got to see... Look at the best combination... Opening isn’t a long-term solution... It was the night before this Test that I decided to do the job... It wasn’t an act of false bravado or making a statement... It had to do with strategy, getting the right combination...”
About the wicket, Dravid commented: “It was very batsman dominated and some of us had good batting practice... Our effort has definitely given the dressing room confidence... I would like to believe the groundsman and his staff tried their best and I’m not going to criticise anybody.... Preparing wickets isn’t like science...”
He agreed that the authorities needed to look at six-day Tests in Pakistan at this time of the year, wholly on account of what’s lost. Instead of at least 450 overs, the Gaddafi saw under 221. Bizarre and an awful promo for the sport’s longer version.
Footnote: Dravid and Shoaib Akhtar (who went wicketless) engaged in eye-contact, but the Team India captain didn’t want it interpreted dramatically. “Facing a fast bowler also gets my adrenaline going... He’s a good bowler and we respect each other.”