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Sachin’s exit turning point
- The wisdom of getting Rahul Dravid to open is now debatable

Melbourne: Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal on Thursday may well turn out to be the opening 3mobile Test’s most defining moment. It could have a huge bearing on the four-match series as well.

Till Sachin became a Stuart Clark victim (one of four), the Indians had reached 120 for three, recovering splendidly through a commanding and attractive partnership between the senior-most pro and Sourav Ganguly.

Sachin’s exit minutes before tea, though, led to a repeat of the morning and wickets fell like confetti during the Christmas celebrations the other day.

There were, of course, two poor decisions by Billy Bowden. But no matter how aggrieved Yuvraj Singh and captain Anil Kumble may feel, the bottomline doesn’t change.

The Indians not only conceded a lead of 147, they failed to break through in Australia’s second innings. By close on Day II, the hosts were ahead by 179.

“It’s such a disappointment... In India-like conditions, with the sun out, we should have made the most of yesterday’s comeback... We’ve let go a big opportunity,” former India captain and cricket manager Ravi Shastri told The Telegraph.

Moreover, a debate could now start over the wisdom of getting Rahul Dravid to open.

Dravid wasn’t the first to go — actually, he would have been, had Phil Jaques not dropped him off Mitchell Johnson — but took 41 deliveries to get off the mark and struggled during his stay of 66 balls.

The former captain seemed to be fighting demons where none existed and couldn’t profit even from a second reprieve, when a no ball saved him.

Surely, Dravid knew what he was getting into when he agreed to do a job he hadn’t done for almost two years.

Dravid fell for 5 but, by then, enough damage had been caused in the dressing room too. After all, if the most accomplished bat is at sea against Brett Lee and Johnson, then how much of a chance do lesser mortals have?

Lee (7-3-10-1) and Mitchell (7-5-3-0) were brilliant in their first spells, but the Indians had opened with a pair boasting solid technique and unflappable temperament.

Jaffer and Dravid, however, conceded too much ground far too easily. Instead of making a statement, which was the need of the pre-lunch session after Australia’s first innings ended, they made it a no-contest.

Shockingly, both played into Ricky Ponting’s hands by not rotating the strike.

“I reckon the openers developed a mental block,” added Shastri, who made his debut at No.10 but gradually emerged as a top quality opener.

There would have been some relief over the move to promote Dravid had Yuvraj, whose selection changed the batting order, made runs. Well, he hadn’t scored when Bowden gave him out caught behind.

Besides Sachin, V.V.S. Laxman looked good for a while before falling to a brute of a delivery from Lee, and Sourav batted with authority till a Brad Hogg flipper did him in.

Sachin’s 62 came off 77 balls (7x4, 1x6), while Sourav took 79 deliveries for his 43 (1x4, 1x6).

While the Indians had an awful day, Lee and ’keeper Adam Gilchrist touched milestones. The quick (“I’m enjoying myself”) has now taken over 250 Test wickets. As for Gilchrist, with 395 dismissals, he’s currently on a par with compatriot Ian Healy.

The task, as they say, couldn’t be more clear cut for Kumble and Co. Sachin has vowed that the team will fight, but that must quickly translate into wickets.

Otherwise it won’t be a happy end to a year which has seen quite a few successes.

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