in this world full of cricket headlines monotonously lauding yet another dominant australian performance against yet another hapless comer, it's refreshing to come across the few that go the way of the googly.
look hard enough through the sports pages of any self-respecting paper and you're likely to find, at the most, one or two standout performances per month against the baggy greens. a fortnight ago, it was sangakkara's twin strike in a foregone conclusion. a week later, the kiwis had nothing to show other than their red faces; and not all on account of john bracewell. today, it was kumble's turn to remind the ponting's team that there remain a few pockets in world cricket that are still intensely resistant to the steamrolling ways of the aussie juggernaut.
all put together that's 3 good performances in one month of cricket against the best cricket team in the world; out of which two - by the brilliant sangakkara - were in lost causes. it remains to be seen whether kumble's team can take inspiration from their captain's early heroics and give the aussies a run for their far-from-hard-earned money in this test. (we know, we know...it's a state of affairs that's disheartening, to say the least, for fans of competitive cricket.)
it's a measure of the towering dominance exercised by ponting and his machines that a score of 330-odd for 9 is celebrated as a minor victory for the team that has managed to achieve the seemingly herculean task of snapping up more than a handful of australian wickets in a full day's play. (note: this is the first time in over a year that adam gilchrist has been called upon to bat on the first day of a test match.) india, today, played their best test cricket in recent times and still didn't do enough to put themselves in a dominant position to dictate the course of this match.
the depressing fact of the matter is, anything above 350 is going to be a tough ask for a batting line-up that - despite its bounty of experience and past achievements - is vulnerable against quality fast bowling. kumble, with his cerebral performance today, has shown what is required to keep the series alive. the bowlers have paved the road ahead and all that's left for them to do is finish the job, minus their customary struggles to polish off the tail. after that, it's up to the indian batsmen to put a mountain of runs on the board that kumble and the other bowlers will need to take that unthinkable 1-0 lead in a test series against australia. (hey, there's no harm in dreaming, is there?)
but before that, the indians will have to find the answer to the one question that has been hounding them for over 20 years, and which will decide whether their team will go the distance in this match. the question: who will open the batting? will it be dravid? yuvraj? laxman? sachin? sourav? or, maybe, it'll all come down to kumble. jokes apart, it'll take many more than a 5-wicket haul by the skipper to shake these aussies off their perch.