Can't field, can't captain...
Mistakes, like headlines, shouldn't repeat themselves, but it's true - India
had their chance ... and they dropped it. Said Mahatma Gandhi, whose ashram
is not far from this venue: "If somebody slaps you on the cheek, do not slap
in retaliation. Instead, turn the cheek." India dropped four catches in
England's first innings, and came back courageously to drop four more today.
The Test, however, is not lost. This scrambling, tumbling day of cricket has
pushed the series to the most titillating edge of the knife. India still
stand a very good chance of drawing, and a slim one of winning. Their last
good chase came at Kandy just four months ago when Sourav Ganguly made a
brave, chancy 98* to see India through to a target of 264. He might need to
whip up something as worthwhile tomorrow to convince his country that he
should be one of the 11 men representing them.
In this Test he has paraded every facet of his incompetence. Compared to
Nasser Hussain's move-a-minute, he's been a dawdling bureaucrat - his only
real trick today was to confront Hussain with an ultra-short cover that
didn't bother him, and for the briefest of moments, hand back the 8-1
offside-field treatment. Yesterday he meekly lost a battle to Andy Flintoff
that had been sparked off at Mohali. And this morning, Ganguly the sluggish
fielder, a bona-fide lethargio, was exposed to the hilt when he ran back
with arms outstretched and spilled a not-too-difficult chance.
England have gritted away efficiently in this Test but they are still a team
enormously prone to collapse, and Harbhajan Singh is a triggerer of
collapses. He is a hot-streak bowler: he doesn't meticulously stack them up,
he swoops down for a handful, and then soars away for a wander. At one stage
today, he picked up three wickets in eight overs, but really, it should have
been two in three balls, and who knows what could have happened from 124 for
3. But Ganguly and Deep Dasgupta, arguably the two worst fieldsmen in the
team, dropped Hussain and Mark Butcher. Harbhajan let out some frustrated
abuse, but he was just incredulous when Tinu Yohannan emulated Ganguly.
There was another miss too, of Hussain, when he was on 10, and the total on
30. It was a half-chance for Dasgupta, who didn't get far enough across, as
well as Virender Sehwag at first slip, who didn't get forward enough. Two
halves made a hole.
India have all to play for tomorrow. They've been stealth-attacked from the
back door that they carelessly left open, by a team written off perhaps even
more than Zimbabwe were when they came here last winter. They are not likely
to go for a win, although few things could be more fascinating to watch. A
draw would be almost a victory for England, and India will look back at the
scores at the end of day three and probably see it the same way.
Rahul Bhattacharya is a staff writer with Wisden.com India.
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