Monday, June 12, 2006

Kaif arrives, finally!

How India managed to not win the first Test in the Caribbean is beyond me. Many, including one Sunny Gavaskar said it was perhaps the right result considering India was down in the dumps after the the first two days of the game. I agree in the context of the situation, but one has to look at the big picture - this is a team that has been repeatedly humiliated by most test nations except the punching bags. Even Bangladesh threatened to shame them, if I remember correctly, when three of their batsmen made hundreds on their maiden tour to the islands. It is quite heartening to see that finally India is playing like the team it is supposed to be, and dominating the West Indies. Wasim Jaffer's monumental innings has been the catalyst of the turnaround, even if the disappointment of the first test still rankles. Now Mohammed Kaif has also put a big step forward towards establishing himself in the line-up, something that was expected to happen a while ago. There were many calls for Kaif's head, especially in the wake of the Ganguly episode (if Ganguly is dropped, why not Kaif?). Thankfully, the selectors decided to persist with Kaif after his dismal one-day series in Pakistan and he did reasonably well against England and here in the disaster that was the one-day series. Personally, I have always thought of Kaif as Test match material, from the time he made his debut in Sri Lanka about five or so years ago. A set line-up meant that Kaif was always struggling to get in, and he did his chances no favour by getting modest scores. He did do extremely well in the ill-fated Australia series at home in late 2004, but somehow was still on the fringes. The West Indian bowling, especially minus Fidel Edwards, is hardly top class and a century on an apparently batsman friendly surface against such an attack should be no reason to assume that Kaif has 'cemented' his place. But for now, he can take credit for ensuring that India made use of the spectacular impetus provided by Virender Sehwag. The scorecard at the end of the first day's play instantly reminded me of a similar start in Melbourne a few years ago when India lost their last six weeks for just 37 runs. Now it is up to the bowlers to complete the job and take the side closer to a series win - anything less will be a complete disaster. The first blows have already been struck, and even if Brian Lara has never quite been the devastating batsmen against India that he is so often against more potent attacks, getting him out of the way is a psychological strike. Kumble and company smell blood, I'm sure, and they should waste no opportunity. - NK


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