The opening day of Sachin Tendulkar‘s retirement series saw an emphatic performance from Team India, and though there were different heroes on the day, the Kolkata crowd went home having witnessed a rare event on Day 1 of the 1st Test.
Here are the highlights from the first day of the Kolkata Test:
The local hero
No, it’s not Mohammed Shami I’m talking about. The biggest cheer before the start of the match, not surprisingly, was reserved for the local legend, Sourav Ganguly, who is a member of the commentary panel for the series.
Sachin Tendulkar got a rousing welcome when he came on for some practice before the match, but Dada was the clear crowd favourite when he stepped out on the ground, not in the usual whites that the fans are accustomed to watching, but in a suit, all ready for his analysis behind the mic.
The stadium, getting filled at that time due to an early morning start, went all crazy on seeing him; such is his impact at Eden Gardens.
The other local hero
Local boy Mohammed Shami, getting the 279th Test cap for India, produced a marvellous effort with the ball, falling just one wicket short of becoming only the 3rd bowler after Mohammad Nissar and Abid Ali to take a 5-wicket haul in his debut innings in Test cricket.
Shami was consistently fast on a slow pitch and his well-directed bouncer to Kieran Powell removed the opener who had played some classy strokes till then.
He would have to thank the umpires and Marlon Samuels though for the rest of his wickets, as the West Indies batsman’s crisp hits to the fence seemed to have changed the shape of the ball, and the officials decided to change it.
The effect was almost immediate as he produced fast reverse swing in the 2nd session, uprooting the stumps of the dangerous Samuels and Denesh Ramdin, changing the course of the game.
Chris Gayle, the ‘bunny’?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is increasingly making the explosive Chris Gayle his ‘bunny’, irrespective of the formats he’s facing him in.
When Gayle hit that monstrous 175 in Bangalore, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s figures read 4-0-23-0.
Since then, out of his 4 dismissals against India (3 in ODIs, 1 in Tests), Bhuvneshwar Kumar has accounted for his wicket 3 times for scores of 21, 10 and 18.
The mode of all three dismissals has been same too – caught behind the stumps. Against the movement that Bhuvi produces at the start of the innings, the lack of feet movement has resulted in Gayle producing an almost inevitable edge.
It’s a nice side-rivalry brewing between the two. But for the moment. the indication is clear; when in danger against Chris Gayle, call Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The Tendulkar show
MS Dhoni may not give it much thought in public, but he does appreciate the iconic stature of a moment. In Sourav Ganguly’s last Test match, he handed the captaincy to Dada after the 9th wicket of the opposition went down, earning much plaudits for his gesture.
Today, he handed the ball to Sachin Tendulkar at the historic Eden Gardens, the venue where Tendulkar bowled one of the most memorable spells of his career against Australia in that Test in 2001.
The first ball from Sachin was a straight delivery which was defended. A googly which turned a long way down the leg-side followed and went for 4 byes. He bowled a leg-break next, which was calmly defended again.
His fourth delivery Tendulkar bowled on the middle stump, and it held its line. Shane Shillingford, the tall West Indian spinner, expected the ball to turn and put his bat next to his stride forward and was hit on his pads plumb in front of the wicket. Nigel Llong, the English umpire, after having turned down some really close shouts earlier in the day, raised his finger and Eden Gardens erupted.
Tendulkar’s smile rivalled debutant Shami’s. He was in his 24th year of international cricket, and had taken his 201st international wicket. He still cherished that one more addition to his tally like his first.
The drops that didn’t cost India
MS Dhoni is usually very safe behind the stumps, but today he dropped two chances, and both against Pragyan Ojha.
Marlon Samuels was almost lazily hitting the Indian bowlers all around the park, and India were leaking runs fast on either side of the lunch break. Ojha had faced the brunt of Samuels’s charge, starting with his first ball which was dispatched into the crowd.
He produced an edge in his 12th over, but the ball popped out of Dhoni’s gloves and looped out of his reach onto Samuels’s pads and onto the pitch. Shami didn’t give Dhoni much time to grieve about the drop though as Samuels was sent packing 7 deliveries later.
The next drop, again off Ojha, was of Shane Shillingford, who got a reprieve when he was on 2. The offie went for an expansive hit over the leg side, but only got an edge. Dhoni seemed to have it covered, but failed to grab the ball at a good height to his right. A seemingly lazy second attempt didn’t help too, as the chance was grassed.
But 3 overs later, Tendulkar struck, removing Shilligford for 5. No harm done again, but Dhoni would regret the twin misses.
The twin blunders of Shivnarine Chanderpaul
It’s quite hilarious how for someone playing his 149th Test, the discussion still surrounds his unusual stance.
However, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the much-feared run-accumulator against Indian bowling attacks, made two huge mistakes on the day, resulting in the dismissals of the two batsmen who’ve fared best against this opposition in the past.
First, he responded to a call from Darren Bravo, who had struck most runs by any batsman in the series when he last played in India, stopped and left his partner in the middle of the pitch. Dhoni removed the bails before Bravo could reach back, resulting the 4th wicket falling for West Indies.
Then, when it was looking like Chanderpaul would play another one of his trademark knocks, he missed the one angling in from Ravichandran Ashwin, playing down a completely different line while defending on the backfoot, as Ashwin’s straighter one clipped his off-stump.
The twin losses in concentration from a batsman who’s otherwise in zen mode, made India’s task all the more easy on the day.
Having struck off 37 already from West Indies’ first innings score, India look like running away with the match on Day 2. The thousands who’re going to throng to the stadium, hoping for 2 Indian wickets to fall quickly so that they can see Sachin Tendulkar bat, would definitely not be complaining.
P.S. - Despite the mistakes of West Indian batsmen, the Blunder of the Day award goes to CAB.