In the end, India managed to save the Ahmedabad Test pretty easily on the final day, thanks to solid efforts from Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar, coupled with good contributions from nightwatchman Amit Mishra and VVS Laxman. However, while the Test ended in a stalemate, the game of cricket ended up on the losing side. Amidst all the talk of ‘saving’ the most sacrosanct version of cricket, an unresponsive pitch was the last thing Test cricket needed. Since seven centuries were scored and plenty of runs amassed on both sides, one could say there was ample entertainment for the crowds. But there was no ‘test’, as such, for the batsmen even as bowlers bled profusely. In short, the contest that makes the five-day game intriguing was completely missing.
The authorities concerned have got to make sure that barren lands stay away from the Test arena as much as possible if they want to protect the future of Test cricket. Such surfaces also dampen the enthusiasm of the bowlers as even the best look insipid; something that was evident in Muttiah Muralitharan’s (the highest wicket-taker in world cricket) extremely ordinary figures. How then can you expect the less talented ones to perform? As it is, the bowlers are suffering in the various abridged editions. And more shockers like Ahmedabad will only lead to deterioration in the standard of bowling in international cricket, which is at an all-time low as it is.
Speaking of the match per se, it was undoubtedly dominated by Sri Lanka, with India having their sessions only on the first and final day. Batting wasn’t a tough task out in the middle. Hence it is the bowlers who did well that deserve most of the credit. And the first name that instantly comes to mind is medium-pacer Chanaka Welegedara. Considering the fact that he was drafted in at the last minute following an injury to regular new ball bowler Thilan Thushara, Welegedara came up with an exceptional performance. It was his devastating spell on a moist pitch during the opening day that set the tone of the game for the Lankans. Getting Virender Sehwag, Gambhir and Tendulkar is no mean feat - no matter what the conditions are - and no praise can be too high for Welegedara for his effort. The most impressive aspect of his bowling was that all his dismissals were either bowled or lbw, proving his penchant for nagging accuracy.
From India’s side, Zaheer Khan was not equally effective in comparison. But the fact that he bowled without pain and claimed a couple of wickets will definitely give him and the team a lot of confidence as they head into the next Test. The same, though, cannot be said about Ishant Sharma. Again, the pitch was a factor, but even otherwise he hasn’t looked at his penetrative best recently. Meanwhile, the spinners from both sides would like to forget the match and move on.
This was a batsman’s Test no doubt. Dravid, Dhoni, Dilshan, the Jayawardenes, Gambhir and Tendulkar, all helping themselves to centuries. But even they would like to face sterner challenges. After all, that is what Test cricket is all about.