In Sunday best, Eden beckons

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  • Published 19.03.05

Calcutta, March 19: The Pakistanis dread Sachin Tendulkar and are wary of Virender Sehwag, but respect Rahul Dravid the most.

That isn?t misplaced.

In fact, at the Eden this afternoon, the Team India vice-captain completed a century in each innings for the second time in his 88-Test career.

If anything, the visitors? respect for Dravid will grow. Actually, all national sides treat him in much the same way.

Dravid?s 135, following his first innings? 110, helped Sourav Ganguly set a 422-run target for Pakistan in the second Test.

By stumps on the penultimate day, the visitors were 95 for one.

Had the explosive Shahid Afridi not fallen for the Anil Kumble-Sourav trap seven minutes before the extended close, any of the three most common results would have been possible tomorrow.

Dravid, for one, does feel all three ?a win either for India or Pakistan or a draw ? remain possibilities. Yet, realistically, it narrows down to two: either a win for India or another draw forced by Pakistan.

Whatever, excitement ought not to be at a premium. The odds, however, are stacked against the visitors.

For example, the highest target achieved in India is the West Indies? 276 for five at the Kotla in 1987-88. As for Pakistan, they haven?t scored more than 207 (Kotla, in 1998-99) batting fourth.

Moreover, the highest anywhere is the West Indies? 418 for seven versus Australia almost two years ago.

Hardly encouraging, but Inzamam-ul Haq must be hoping the wicket stays as it was ? rather flat, that is ? even late today.

Of course, it?s an opportunity for the captain to silence those campaigning against him, publicly and covertly.

India would have been strong favourites had Pakistan not come back from the dead, in Mohali, exactly a week ago. So, even if an Irfan Pathan gets early wickets, the visitors can draw inspiration from the first Test.

The crowd, though, could be a factor. At least 60,000 turned up today and the morrow should see an even higher turnout ? the best of this Test.

The fourth day belonged to Dravid and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik. The latter has been under pressure for work behind the stumps, but the excellent career-best 93 has surely given him much breathing space.

Karthik?s effort notwithstanding, Dravid was the cynosure. Incidentally, till this three-Test series, Dravid didn?t have much to show for this season ? three fifties and a century (against Bangladesh).

In three innings now, he has already totalled 295 runs.

?I didn?t plan to keep my best for the season?s last and real big Test series? It just happened,? Dravid told The Telegraph.

The other day, when Sachin joined the 10,000 Test runs? club, Dravid urged him to go for the ?real target? ? 15,000.

Asked whether he had one of his own, Dravid quipped: ?It?s easier setting a target for others? Today, I don?t have one for myself?.?

Earlier, interacting with the media, India?s most dependable batsman (and he has been so for years) said he was happy with centuries ?in difficult circumstances.?

Dravid acknowledged scripting a century in the second innings as well is tough, but Steve Waugh ?inspired? him.

Waugh got a century in each innings at Old Trafford in 1997, an effort which doomed England.

Dravid did so in Hamilton, a little over six years ago, but was looking for another opportunity as the second century came when that Test was headed for a draw.

This personal achievement apart, Dravid made the point that the ongoing Test has seen ?great cricket? and was an ?excellent advertisement? for the sport?s longer version.

Dravid, winner of the two most envied (inaugural) ICC awards last year, is himself an extraordinary ambassador.