Sunday, January 29, 2006

Losing it and second chances

So I describe the first day's play to my wife, and conclude with, "So India lost the initiative a bit" - and am told "more like, they propelled it 100 miles an hour towards the floor".

Well, yes (was she trying to say they 'dropped the ball'? - I'm never quite sure in these moments when our cultural differences, only partially reconciled, come to the fore). India took 3 wickets in the first over of play and thereafter, proceeded eagerly to put Pakistan back in the match. The odds were always on some counterattack being mounted, and Akmal did just that. But 245 all out after 39-6 represents a Houdini-like move, made easier by the indulgence of guards nodding off on duty. To have India at 74-4 means that Pakistan go into the second day looking for one early wicket with which to take over this match completely. First sessions are always important; the series could be decided in this one.

Pathan's story has come and gone. The importance of his effort will only be clear once the game is decided. But a far more compelling story is in the making. The two men at the crease include one Sourav Ganguly. Seldom can a more dramatic stage have been set for a cricketer. The team is struggling, the ball has life, he will face a hostile crowd and attack, and his position is up for grabs. Every single black mark against him could be wiped out with an innings of quality, and he will not ever, live down a quick, weak dismissal. Its all set for Ganguly. The pressure on him will be intense but he has a chance at redemption that is only rarely given to us. Tune in tomorrow to see the fate of this former captain decided in the most compelling of settings: facing a Pakistani pace attack in Pakistan with the series on the line.

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