Posted by: nestaquin | December 17, 2008

Pataudi Trophy 2008 First Test Indian Review

stumpyGrown men crying in a cricketing catharsis, World Test XI’s, an anomynous Harbhajan, a decrepit and dilapidated Dravid, a nation celebrating and mourning simultaneously; only a skilled writer like Rajesh Kanaan could weave and squeeze so much within and between his words and 99.94 is proud to publish his latest musings after what is likely to become one of the most celebrated Test matches of early 21st century life.

For Eden ’93, read Chepauk ’08. England have, for the second time in 15 years, played a part in a slow limp back to normalcy in India after horrific violence. A test match which would have been significant even if it had been a dreary draw instead turned into a mesmerising advertisement for the game. And Mohammad Azharuddin’s politically momentous 182 from fifteen years ago now has a worthy counterpoise from the man who must now surely go down as the greatest cricketer the post-war game has seen.

Virender Sehwag – Only two current players could have even countenanced victory at the start of the game (Matty Hayden being the other), but arguably, only Sehwag now possesses the execution to go with his fuss-free vision. He is often described as being, on his day, the most destructive and entertaining batsman in the world. He is all that, but on his day, he is also, simply, the best batsman in the world, with an eye and bat to match his audacious bravado.

Gautam Gambhir – Has become a master at innovation, nurdling singles and keeping the strike moving, but that is an unjust assessment for his frenetic energy and assuredness mean Dravid can usually have a full breakfast before padding up. Gambhir’s been spectacular this year and, on form, the World Test XI would include both him and his insane partner.

Rahul Dravid – He should not have played this match and he should not play at Mohali, but he will, unfortunately for Badrinath and India I suspect. Go back to Ranji, Rahul, and sort your head out- it’s painful to watch a modern great flailing like you are.

Sachin Tendulkar – This is what catharsis feels like. This is what he comes up with nine years since his most painful wound, while aching from the gash inflicted on his beloved city. This is the stuff that makes grown men weep.

VVS Laxman – Breezy cameos in both innings, but this test was not about him. He’ll go back out of the spotlight and quietly start weaving his magic again.

Yuvraj Singh – If this Test was nothing more than a launchpad for Yuvraj’s resurgence, it would be significant. As it happened, there was a wee bit more to the match, but Yuvraj must take this opportunity to cement his place – he has the talent and can evidently show the temperament, and will hopefully unpack his luggage to bed down in test cricket.

MS Dhoni – Midas Singh Dhoni. Critical first innings 53 cut down the lead to below a hundred, and much as people would have you believe that India chasing 387 would never have happened under Kumble (utter rubbish, of course), he is proving that the best captains are the luckiest ones.

Harbhajan Singh – Bowled patchily in the first innings and was anonymous in the second. He was successful only when he bowled slower (you’d think after all these years, he’d have had a Eureka moment about that – apparently not). But it’s as an all-rounder that he’s blossomed this year, and the sad truth is, he’s now a more dependable batsman than Rahul Dravid.

Zaheer Khan – His running battle with Ishant Sharma is riveting stuff and in both innings, he was the key bowler for India. The top-order breakthroughs in England’s first innings restricted the total to 316, and crucially, the tempo-changing fast yorker-length bowling in the second went a long way towards blunting England’s hopes of setting a bigger target.

Amit Mishra – Very impressive in the first innings, especially in his dismissal of Strauss, and his willingness to flight the ball even when being hit will stand him in good stead. He’ll take 3/99 rather than 1/60 in the same number of overs, and that’s what test match spin is all about.

Ishant Sharma – 4/89 in the match, and bowled with impressive menace. The fact that people are not gushing about his performance, especially in the second innings, is in itself a testament to how far he’s come and the expectation which now surrounds him.



  1. Rajesh are you a professional writer? Man this is some excellent writing.

  2. I wish, damiths. Someday, maybe. Thanks all the same.

  3. Lovely post, RK.

    May be a word or two about Coach Kirsten wouldn’t have been out of place?He’s been good, without making much fuss.

    For Mohali, I wish Dravid gets dropped and Badri gets a cap.But probably they won’t.

    Gambhir in the world test XI? Not yet, I reckon.

    Any World Test XI (assuming it plays Australia) would have Viru and Smith as openers in my book.

    The rest is spot on, and a delight to read.

  4. Thanks Kumar. Smith’s terrific as well, and the only reason I’d have Gambhir ahead of him (not just v Aus, but v Mars as well) is the chemistry he shares with Viru, whether it’s singles or judgment of a situation.

    And Kirsten’s been fantastic, hasn’t he? The fact that I didn’t mention him is in itself proof that he’s doing his job as the anonymous backroom strategist.

  5. Nice post. My friend, you underestimate the impact of fearless leadership. If only the impact of good captaincy was provable and objective, we would not be debating so much about what makes a good captain and what does not.

    Kumble could NOT have pulled off this victory. MS had everything to do with India chasing down 387 and the new found belief (quoting Sehwag “now we believe we can do anything”) has been methodically built one small step at a time.

  6. Gary Player: “The harder you work, the luckier you get”

  7. Hey Kashyap – I trust you are who I think you are?

    Actually, the lucky comment about Dhoni was meant to convey the exact sentiment Player espouses. I think he’s a sensational leader and a much better captain than Kumble – but arguing that 387 would not have happened under Kumble is a bit pointless – why needlessly malign the recently retired? Let’s just revel in this victory and marvel at what might be our own Hobart moment. It’s an inexact parallel, as Aus were in a far deeper hole in that match, but both victories stemmed from a refusal to even contemplate not winning. Imagine if we can embark on a run remotely like Australia’s after that match…

  8. Thanks Rajesh. You had a much tougher job than I did since I would have been tempted to sit back and just exult in the performance your team gave which was truly great.

    I hope Indian and Australian readers have visited some English websites where the writers and posters have saluted this victory and its architects with real admiration and warmth. We’ll be back complaining about Harhajan and Lalit Modi soon, but for now, we can exalt in the great game and one of its greatest wins.

  9. hey you brought it up :-)

    see you in Singapore buddy… we’ll talk about Alex Fergusson and MS Dhoni

  10. mea culpa, I did indeed. yea, see you here man, plenty to catch up on, United and beyond

  11. Am new here, and am surprised I never discovered this excellent blog earlier. Excellent analysis there, Rajesh. IMHO, Badri was unlucky that Yuvraj ran into form in the ODIs. He should certainly play (and his promotion to a category B contract suggests he will play soon), and the only spot available is Dravid’s, but Dravid probably deserves one last chance. VVS at #3 and Dravid at #5/6 wouldn’t be such a bad thing (Eden 2001…)

    Yes, almost every English website I have seen have been gushing about the Indian team, and SRT in particular. It is very refreshing to see, particularly after two series against Australia this year. I hope some of the grace of the English media would rub off on the Indian media as well when they describe other teams.

  12. Excellent analysis and writing Rajesh!

    Your Sehwag analysis makes one think – wouldn’t we have gushed similarly if Hayden’s “angry” assault in the 4th innings at Mohali had actually come off and put the Oz on track to an improbable but historic win or at least a draw?
    Would we have criticized Sehwag for his mindless assault if he had holed out for (say) 27?

    The wonderful uncertainties of sport!

  13. We’d probably have gushed similarly about Hayden MP, but on such fine margins does sport turn – John Terry not slipping before taking the penalty; Crystal Palace scoring in the FA cup final of ’90 and dooming the then Mr. Alex Ferguson to obscurity; Kapil Dev not taking THAT catch to get Viv. The what-ifs make the whats that much mroe compelling

  14. Thats the romanticism of Sehwag isn’t it. His mind is, at least seems to be, always in the present moment. Not in the dead past or the unborn future.

    Most of us in similar situations would have been weighed down by past history or been afraid of repercussions if we failed.

    Almost a vedantic element to Sehwag’s batting

  15. hey Rajesh great article. this was a great test. i’ve been really impressed with India’s performance lately.

    i wanted to ask you i started a new website. the link is and was wondering if we could link to each other. thanks.

  16. You should enter our unique cricket competition!

    Just go to

  17. Excellent analysis and interpretation. Agree with you on all points.

  18. happy new yr to nesta and trooting trumpet and raj.

    have a good yr ahead and hope to see you back in action soon !

  19. Hello good friend,

    Are you thinking of being in London for this years ashes, are you Australian, and would you like to represent an Australian cricket blog in a charity match whilst doing so, I thought so.

    Go to cricket with balls and check out all the details, and if you or anyone you know wants to play, email us and we’ll take it from there, it really is that easy.

    All the details are at the above link, and the game is in support of the everyman charity.



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