By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar batted skillfully in the second innings to guide India towards safety in the first Test match at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad but their task was also made easier by the refusal of the Sri Lankan skipper, Kumar Sangakkara, to apply the pressure on the batsmen.
Only one team could have won the game, if it did produce a result, after Sri Lanka had secured a massive first innings lead. India had nearly five sessions to survive and under no circumstances could have they posted a big enough total to threaten the visitors in the available time.
The pitch had not deteriorated as generally witnessed in Test matches going the distance that meant the bowlers had to do something sensational to force a result. The Sri Lankans were in the driving seat and they could have tested the batsmen by surrounding them with close-in fielders.
Sangakkara, rather surprising, was happy to spread the field in India’s second innings when the prime objective in front of the home batsmen was survival more than the quantum of runs.
The only way the Sri Lankans could have rattled the celebrated Indian batsmen was by attacking them with purpose. There had to be more fielders in the catching position rather than being stationed to save runs.
I don’t know why the Sri Lankan captain kept on thinking about containment when he had all the cards in his pocket. There was no way the Indians could have won the match after trailing by over 300 runs in the first innings. One failed to understand what fears Sangakkara had in his mind when marshalling the troops in India’s second innings.
His mind-boggling tactics kept the rate of scoring down but that didn’t help the cause of any team. The Indians had no problems in picking up singles instead of finding boundaries.
May be Sangakkara became a bit concerned due to the onslaught carried out by Virender Sehwag in the innings. But didn’t he know that India wouldn’t have come in a position to win the game even if the master blaster recorded the quickest triple century.
Sehwag has his own style of playing around with the bowlers and the only way to stop him is by sending him back to the dressing room. Luckily for Sri Lanka he didn’t last long in either innings. It could have been a different story to relate had he got going in the first outing.
Who could have thought of a high-scoring draw when four of the leading batsmen of the world had been sent back to the pavilion within the first hour of the game? As it turned out the pitch eased up to the extent of a belter and only 17 more wickets fell during the rest of the game with as many as seven centuries scored.
The spinners from both sides were thoroughly disappointing. The inconsistent umpiring didn’t help their cause either. The pitch did have turn and bounce but even the champion off-spinners like Mutiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh could not make inroads.
The limelight was stolen by the batsmen of both sides. Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni revived India with sparkling centuries and then Tillekeratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Prasanna Jayawardene put Sri Lanka firmly in control. It was then left to Gambhir and Tendulkar to save the day for the hosts.
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