|Still in safe hands|
It is one of the adrenaline charging high points of watching cricket when the young debutant, under suffocating pressure, comes out of the restricting cocoon of inhibition and self doubt, and emerges with self expression and stroke play as a promise of the future.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s courageous counter attack in the fourth innings at Bangalore was fascinating, sending the country into passionate celebrations. He drove with authority and executed thrilling pulls. And as has become so predictable to the point of puerile, there followed in the wake of the innings mass manufacture of laudatory lines, clichéd columns and praise-ful pages across the curious popular entertainment platform – also known as the media.
There have been suggestive speculations hinting at contrasts with a typical Dravid counter in similar circumstances, and wondering if this is not the opportune moment to replace the ageing maestro with the youthful new hero.
Well, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, the latter shrewdly promoted by the team management, did counter attack to conquer the fancy of the Indian fan, laying the foundations of a memorable victory. But they had been batting with the secure knowledge that in their wake waited a safety net of 26000 runs and 78 centuries. If they got out, the next two men at the wicket would be Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. That very thought would have allowed them to go about their task with the gay abandon of youthful adventure.
What if Sachin and Dravid had come together at the fall of the second wicket, with a 200 plus score staring at them and sitting in the pavilion with pads on were Pujara and Raina? Could they have indulged in aggressive tactics like the young duo? Cricket changes with circumstances, and comparisons cease to hold water at some levels.
And even as we rejoice in a batting hero after all these years of waiting for one, can we actually claim that this victory looked a remote possibility with Australia putting on 476 and India struggling at 38 for two? Without one timeless champion coming in and turning things around with 267 runs in the match? Novelty sells papers, magazines, raises the TRP and increases webpage hits, but it cannot replace the experience gleaned through more than 300 test matches with one innings.
Sehwag will definitely play on for a few years. It is difficult to measure and analyse the mind and methods of this curious cricketer, but one of the reasons for his cavalier approach to batting is probably that he is secure in the knowledge that at one down will come in the broad bat of Rahul Dravid, at two drop the genius of Sachin Tendulkar, and after them the calm conjurer in the guise of VVS Laxman. The only two other successful opening batsmen who come remotely close to matching Sehwag’s murdering methods in the not too distant past are Mathew Hayden and Gordon Greenidge. The bowling attacks of the teams they played in varied vastly, but still there remain parallels are aplenty. Their methods contributed to their teams being the most successful ones of their times. While Greenidge went about scoring runs with the shelter of Haynes, Richards, Lloyd and Larry Gomes around him, Hayden did so with the assurance of Langer, Ricky Ponting, the Waughs, Martyn and later Clarke and Hussey to follow, with someone called Adam Gilchrist as an additional security to fall back on. Will Sehwag, with that celebrated uncluttered mind, manage to play with the same fluency if the next three names to follow are Rohit Sharma, Pujara and Raina? Oodles of talent may jiggle around between them, but there will be some 33000 runs and 94 centuries less in assets. Figures that make one realise that perhaps one solitary innings of 72 is not all that big a deal as yet.
I try to imagine what the Indian line up will look like a couple of years from now. No impregnable Wall making his way to defend the country after the quick loss of a wicket, dapper and dignified, every aspect of gesture, grandeur and gear embodying the immaculate cricketer. No compulsive cheer at the fall of the second wicket, the moment for which a nation waits, the trot of the little big man to the wicket, that lean into the cover drive, that look at the heavens after yet another hundred. No magician walking out next, spreading calm with lazy elegance, wristing the balls to unthought-of regions of the green oval, delighting the cockles of the heart with a whip to the mid wicket. And in the field, no reliable assurance of the bucket hands of Dravid at first slip, no cheerful Laxman at the second, no exuberant little man sprinting around like a teenager in the outfield.
|When they turn their backs on us|
A feeling of emptiness in the soul even as we contemplate. Cheteshwar Pujara has shown a lot of promise. Definitely it is the time to groom him as the understudy, to prepare those young, quick stepping feet for the enormous shoes that they will put on with time. However, for now, even as we rejoice sitting at the pinnacle of test playing world, let us enjoy the blessings of the three amigos as long as we are able to.