I was planning to live blog this test match, but one hour into the day’s play, a sense of déjà vu crept in. And then I realized that my time could be better off doing some long overdue cleaning with an eye on the TV.The opening bowlers actually did their part, exploiting what turned out to be, IMHO, a perfect first day pitch. Early on, the pacemen had something to bend their backs and for quite some time, Hayden and Jacques had their work cut out. Both Zaheer and RP Singh bowled their heart out and were quite unlucky. But soon it turned out to be a familiar Indian story.
I think the first sign that I was seeing something familiar came when one of those slashed cuts had Kumble genuflecting at backward point. Then a couple of wayward returns to the keeper followed. Soon Ganguly made a hash of a routine stop in deep midwicket (letting the ball go between his legs) and it was business as usual.
One oft repeated quote from Kumble has been that he is a bowler first and then a captain, but if that was not a quote manufactured by a over imaginative journalist, someone should point out to Kumble that he did contradict himself. Bringing Ganguly second change did not really paint Kumble in glorious shade of crimson and gold. Neither did keeping himself out of the attack till only 20 minutes or so before lunch. And the fields set for Harbhajan left the bowler exasperated, though he did bowl a few horrendous deliveries very very wide outside off stump that Phil Jacques did well to reach and cut. So what was a period of optimistic attacking bowling turned out later to be a familiar story.
Another thing that comes to mind, now that I think of it is that, time and again captains have turned to Ganguly to bowl soon after the opening bowlers have had the opposing batsman hopping. Azhar seemed to do that and Kumble did so today. And most of these instances, Ganguly dibbly dobbly bowling has been tucked into, just like Hayden got into him today.
The bowling changes of this first session reminded me of Kolkota Test of the Asian Test Championship during the 1998-99 session. Srinath and Prasad had Pakistan hopping around and had reduced them to 17 for 6 or something. Then Ganguly comes as first change and after two maidens (which was probably because the Pakistanis gave him undue respect), gave away a boundary each and then the pressure was taken off. Incidentally in that test match, Kumble bowled exactly 1 over (the penultimate) before lunch. *Sigh*
My problem with Ganguly bowling with the batsmen under pressure is that Ganguly is not a front line bowler. It was apparent that when he was captain that he recognized that. One did not see him bring himself on first change (or second change) when he was captain. He let his bowlers do their thing and concentrated on other things.
Well, what’s done is done. Australia is 111 for no loss. The second session is about to begin and there is no Shep to hop around in one leg. May be the triple nelson will undo Australia. But more importantly and hopefully, Kumble and India will do things differently as we go forward in this Test match and this series.