admittedly, tpr is not too keen about the excessive length of the headline. (much, much longer than the five or six word limit that's considered proper by the important people who decide on these things.) but, as our time in the badlands of advertising falanas and dimkanas has taught us, less is not always more. even more so, when there exist a profusion of punning opportunities that we're sure our highly literate audience will most definitely appreciate.
and so, pleased as a skilled minesweeper for having deftly side-stepped our way out of a potentially tricky issue, time now to dig into another one of our characteristically unmeasured takes; this time on the incandescent brilliance of the two princes of indian cricket who lit up the four corners of chinnaswamy stadium with an array of chops that would have done a masseur proud. and, in the process, consigned the moral victory achieved by pakistan at eden to the forgotten reaches of short public memory.
on a day when - in the grander scheme of things - almost everything went swimmingly well for india (save for gambhir's continuing inability to nail down a place in the test side), the pakistani bowling attack, once again, looked more toothless than a gummy geriatric. shoaib akthar's consistent inability to bowl more than a handful of overs at express pace on the first day of two of the three test matches in this series has meant that the indian top order has never had to tackle anything like the questions that might have been thrown at them in a more evenly matched contest. (that a gentle trundler like yasir arafat still managed to reduce the indians to 61-4 is something the australians will have gleefully made a note of.)
that said, the first day's play was not about shoaib's latest injury worries. it was not about gambhir's inability to, yet again, find a better way negotiate the so-called 'corridor of uncertainty' outside his off-stump. it was not about jaffer's mildly disturbing penchant for getting himself out without offering a stroke - in our memory, he has done it three times in his short career so far. it was not about vvs laxman's not-so-special habit of playing half-cock and exposing himself to the vulnerability of being bowled or leg before wicket more often than not in the early part of his innings. it was about the two princes of indian cricket who provided a fitting riposte to their naysayers.
the pressure on sourav - who hasn't ever, at least, in our memory, followed up a big score in a test match with more of the same in the next - to keep his place in a middle-order bursting with resources must have been immense. and the conditions to do so were far from ideal. probably, the prospect of playing his 100th test match on boxing day in the backyard of the old enemy - australia - must have fuelled an appetite for runs in sourav we have rarely had the privilege of seeing. sourav was always a captain with a cast-iron stomach for combat, but it is in his 'post-greg chappell avataar' that the former captain and prince of calcutta has considerably tightened his defenses and buckled down to concentrate harder on the business of scoring runs. and it showed.
while the youthful heir apparent yuvraj scored faster, more attractively and more, it was the mature dada who looked the more assured and at no time in any great danger of losing his wicket. so will sourav get it right this time and go on to score a double hundred? if his near flawless performance on the first day is anything to go by, we would bet on it. we'd also be very interested in watching how dinesh kartik rises to this occasion. considering how stiff the competition is for the one or, maybe, two available batting slots in the side and how ravenously everyone is competing for them, day two promises to be a most revealing one.
will dinesh kartik, with his superior batting technique, strengthen his case for inclusion in the side as wicket-keeper batsman at the expense of dhoni? should india pick a regular opener like gambhir or sehwag or, even akash chopra, to partner with jaffer in australia? who in the middle order will make way for yuvraj in the next test match? will it be dravid? can they afford to leave out dravid against the likes of lee and company on the fast australian wickets? and in the midst of all these india-centric issues, shouldn't we spare a little, eensy-weensy thought for the delightfully-eccentric younis khan?
indeed, we must. the beleaguered skipper was - on a first day wicket fresher than anything seen so far in the series in a test match pakistan had to win - forced to fall back on the likes of salman butt and yasir hameed to buy wickets. in all the years of consuming cricket, never have we been witness to a series in which the indians have regularly taken the field with a more potent new ball attack than that of pakistan's - something the think tank would do well to factor in while preparing for australia.