The Dawn of a New Era

It wasn’t Sourav Ganguly’s team that played in the middle today; it was Greg Chappell’s.

Tendulkar scores 93 on return, Pathan promoted to #3 and delivers BIG time with a surprising 83, Dravid blasts 85 at more than a run-a-ball, a new paceman S Sreesanth impresses with a short but fiery spell, Murali Kartik for once gets a decent bowl and does astonishingly well, picking up three wickets off nine, yes nine, overs. It has been long, too long, since something unconventional happened to team India, a side plagued for more than a year, by what was described as rust. And today, the first match after Ganguly was removed from the helm, so many surprises, all together!

There was a bizarre excitement ahead of today’s match. What will Chappell do to this side? If today’s result is just a preview of what is to come, boy, are we in for a ride or what? India, after a long time, put up 350 on the board, thanks efforts by more than one player, and then successfully, even easily, defended what could have been a tricky proposition, on a flat track at Nagpur, in the first ODI against Sri Lanka.

It was a perfect setting for Sachin Tendulkar to make a return to international cricket, after a break of six months owing to his tennis elbow problem; India had won the toss, and they were going to bat, on a paradise of a wicket for batsmen. Often Tendulkar has failed to live up to the hype. Chappell had gone to such lengths of panegyric for the master batsman as a set-up for the series that one thought it would be more shameful for him if Tendulkar failed, not Tendulkar himself.

With the aid of nine fours and two sixes, and almost as close to being back to his old self as possible, Tendulkar reiterated the cliche: Form is temporary, class is permanent. Back came the thunderous over mid-wicket six, the perfect straight drive, the cheeky paddle sweep, the Tendulkar of the old, the Tendulkar who ruled the ’90s, the Tendulkar who was bowlers’ nightmare.

Indian fans were looking forward to seeing Sehwag and Tendulkar bat together again, but it wasn’t to be so. It was the unlikely combination of the latter with Irfan Pathan, promoted to #3 surely as a part of the revolutionary tactics Chappell is thought to be scheming, that scored 164 runs, brought the spectators to their feet. Pathan’s own astonishing innings, in which he easily outscored Tendulkar, comprised of eight boundaries, and four sixes.

Both Pathan and Tendulkar fell in quite succession, just after the 30th over with India having crossed 200, and it seemed as if India might falter. But Captain Cool, Rahul Dravid took care of that. Not only that, he shattered the death bowlers. One usually wouldn’t associate a strike rate of 135 with him, but that is what he scored his 85 runs at, making sure that despite a clutter of wickets in the last fifteen overs, the run rate doesn’t dip; and India ended up with a monstrous total of 350.

We regret the unavailability of details from the Sri Lankan innings.

India 350-6 in 50 overs
SR Tendulkar 93 (96), IK Pathan 83 (70), R Dravid 85* (63)
TM Dilshan 2-40 (6)

Sri Lanka 198 in 35.4 overs
KC Sangakkara 43 (37)
Harbhajan Singh 3-34 (10), M Kartik 3-49 (9)

India won by 152 runs

Man of the Match
R Dravid (India) – 85* (63)

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