Lunch on Day 1 - Nagpur
Anyway, Bhajji and Ganguly both out of the third test and while one creates a problem, the other looks so nice that one is tempted to make it a permanent thing ... ;-)
30 overs are up and Murali Karthik hasn't yet made his entry. Nothing wrong with that, of course, coz the pitch is supposed to be favouring the faster bowlers but past experiences just suggest that Karthik might not be used too much. See, whether he does well or not is a different matter but once selected in the team, he should get a long bowl. Seamers operate best in short spells while spinners operate best in long spells ... all I want is that once selected Karthik should be given that long spell. Anyway, there is a lot of cricket to be played ... so we can always wish. The captain is different so all the Ganguly bashers who cribbed about his denying Karthik a fair chance will now get to see what a different captain can get out of him.
Bhajji's not playing is a big blow for India ... only yesterday I was happy about our bowling not being a cause of worry at all and bingo - one of our main bowlers pulls out. Enough to pull one's hair out.
Yesterday I talked about Ganguly's contribution being much more than a batsman .... if u think of replacing him ever, u have to think of replacing a captain and a batsman and not just a batsman. Stop gap arrangements are a different matter and Dravid's capability and ability to handle captaincy and batting together cannot be tested completely here but it does give one the facility of looking at a batting line up without Ganguly. It is always nice to know what one's options are and even better to get to try them out ... so Kaif gets another chance after his gritty 60 odd in the 2nd test and good for him. He wasn't exactly brilliant in that innings of 60 and must do much more than that to look convincing at this level and cement a place for himself. Ganguly is established in the middle order and it will take more than a pipsqueak performance from Kaif to even put an element of doubt in the selectors minds.
When I heard about Bhajji not playing, and I hadn't yet heard about who replaced him, my mind automatically said Nehra ... coz considering the pitch and Karthik's inexperience, it seemed better to go in with another seamer ... but I don't think it is a match-altering decision. Karthik may do well and it is not as if Nehra is certain to do something great ... he is as much of a lottery as anyone else. That is the hard part of losing Bhajji ... he is not a lottery. Agarkar on the other hand is ... so if we had lost Agarkar (yes I remember he was my recommendation) to injury, it wouldn't have hurt so much .... but losing Bhajji is painful.
Chopra comes back into opening .... and if the first session report is any indication, Yuvi will be the happiest guy around. We need our openers to play as they did in Australia ... and I am always hopeful of Chopra coming out of his 40 run rut and somehow make a big one. Chopra and Ramesh are the two openers that are on my mind for the second opener's slot .... and while Ramesh is not available, Chopra doesn't make the big ones. Frustrating!!!
Anyway, three wickets down at last count ... Patel latched onto one from Zaheer and Zaheer seems to have taken the challenge of being the bowling spearhead on a pitch suited for the faster bowlers. Good for him. He still needs to come back for a couple of incisive spells and take out more guys. On a Bangalore pitch, his taking the two initial wickets would be enough ... on this Nagpur pitch, he has to do more.
Finally to the guy who said I was being unfair to SRT (sadistic was the term used), I don't think so. I have nothing against SRT at all ... in fact today in office we had this stress management course (one of the many time wasting techniques prevalent in big corporations) and when they were talking of ways of relieving stress, believe me, the image that flashed before my eyes was one of Tendulkar driving on the up through the covers and then driving straight down the ground. What could be more stress relieving that that? I love the guy and just coz the media hypes him so much, that doesn't make me hate him or something ... but we all have a devil in us somewhere and that devil in me just makes me think it would be so much fun to see the excuses given if he fails. See, I am sure SRT won't give excuses coz he is a good bloke and plays it gamely ... my pointer was more towards the butt kissers in the commentary box and expert panels on various news channels.
To end this, remember the last time Dravid was captain ... it was the match in which SRT was 194 not out when the declaration was made. Naughty thoughts come to mind.