Numerically there is only a digital swap between 2001 and 2010. Similarities are more instead. Plenty of things were in common between the test match between India-Australia in 2001 and the one between India-South Africa which concluded yesterday. First, they both were great matches. Sheer classics in cricketing parlance, especially test cricket! Nothing can quite scale up to that 2001 epic event, which ended the great Australian juggernaut of consecutive test victories (and that too at a phenomenal level of domination) but 2010 indeed lived up to the Eden garden’s charm and reputation. With high level of tension and hanging fortunes, Eden gardens was much like a grand theater set up for the climax . The balance was between a win for India and survival for South Africa. In the end, quite fittingly India managed to win and gave the home fans something remarkable to cheer about for years.
The final stage had two actors at their imperial best. Harbhajan singh and Hashim Amla. Amla was the epitome of concentration, all personified in human form. Things surrounding him was chaotic and noisy. None of the furies around him however bothered one cool mind of his. Googly, leg breaks, off spin all were dealt with the impeccable calmness. Yet, Harbhajan was the hero emerged in the grand finale. His reaction when Morkel was adjusted LBW has literally pumped the Eden gardens. That heralded the match, curtains were down on the cricket field, but the celebrations had only began. Test match cricket came alive yet again. What treat!
If Harbhajan was the pivotal figure in the finishing stages, one cannot forget Zaheer Khan‘s contribution in the first innings. That one session post tea in day one triggered a possible result in India’s favour. The stage was well set for the Indian batsmen to drive home the advantage. Boy, did the famous Indian batsmen cash in? The master and student combo were at their best show on day two. The way Tendulkar handled the day and his attacking student Sewhag was amazing. Their innings paved the way for the man who own part of the Eden pitch to come and do a stroll. VVS Lakshman in the company of Dhoni did the routine. When India declared their innings on day three, it was ample clear that India is well within a big win.
The nature had her own ideas to add to the drama. Bad light and rain shared the stage time on day four. But action on the curtailed day favoured India with three top order wickets, including that of the important number of Jacques Kallis. Day five was yet again bright and sunny. Amla stood the ground like a rock, even when things around him followed a different formula. Indian bowlers tried their best, but nothing seriously worked against Amla. The leg before shout by Harbhajan when Amla was in the 70s had serious merit, but that was the lone chance the cool mind offered to the 11 folks. Otherwise he was knocking everything came in his way to still.
In the final stages Tendulkar came to bowl a couple of overs or so. Considering that, it was he who took three pivotal wickets in the 2001 stage, it was a great ploy by the captain. The dangerous opener Hayden, the ever so dangerous Gilchrist and the flashy Shane Warne all were tapped by the magic of Tendulkar in the 2001 classic. But things changed a lot since. Lot of water has flown away under the bridge over nine years. Tendulkar hardly bowl these days,even at nets. Yet, the very second ball almost curtailed the match. One pitched a few inches outside the offstump took a near 90 degree turn and missed the Morkel stumps by a whisker. It was a fabulous delivery. Not as great as the famous one to Moin Khan, but it still had some magic. He had done this many a times in the past. So, I hastened to believe that, he was going to have a different script for the final moment. But how can Harbhajan leave his favourite ground without a five wicket haul? It was only fair to have him take that final wicket and seal the match. As they say, so be it.
For South Africa, there will be disappointment,but no one needs to remind them where they lost the plot. The first day evening proved too costly for them. They were outstanding at Nagpur, but Calcutta favoured India. In all, it was a fabulous test series. It was hastily arranged.If only the cricketing authorities gave it a thought to have a longer test series (by ignoring the flashy one day series)! Not to be! Anyway why complain, when we had two great matches. Long live test cricket!