It was a day that brought the realisation that in cricket the gritty can outdo the gifted. The events that unfolded proved that it isnt flashes of brilliance but a sustained charged performance that dominates a Test match. A few exquisite strokes can draw intermittent rounds of applause but not a standing ovation the kind that New Zealand got at the end of Day Three at McLean Park,having turned the tables on a star-studded Indian team,and forcing them to follow on.
The trio of a journeyman pacer,an underrated off-spinner and a part-timer got the better of a batting line-up with an intimidating glitter and overwhelming statistical aura. Before the Test series,pacer Chris Martin was seen as a spent force that the selectors had grudgingly picked. Jeetan Patel has been a butt of jokes ever since he was picked as a spin option against the nimble-footed batsmen with supple wrists. Jesse Ryder,meanwhile,was seen more of an option used to change ends for frontline pacers.
On Saturday,they did what even the best in business struggle to achieve. Patel,Ryder and Martin induced that rare false stroke off Sachin Tendulkar,Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, respectively,when they seemed in prime touch and all set for a rescue act. The situation was tailor-made for the supermen to put on their cloaks but a minor change in the script didnt see the transformation. Walking back to the pavilion with a pained look on their faces,Tendulkar,Dravid and Laxman appeared more like a disgusted Clark Kent emerging from the phone booth minus the makeover in other words,just another man on the street.
Not taking away anything from the New Zealand bowlers,who,unlike the Indians,showed perseverance on a pitch good for batting,Indias debacle,however,had more to do with the celebrated batsmen playing like lesser mortals. Other than the Martin dream ball that moved away slightly,taking an edge off Laxmans willow,the rest of the batsmen were out to avoidable strokes. Dravid chased a wide Ryder ball and Tendulkar,in an effort to grab a quick to reach his fifty,couldnt read the straighter one from Patel,whom he had hit for a couple of fours and a six earlier.
While Tendulkar,Dravid and Laxman missed the opportunity to score big after settling down,certified big-hitters Sehwag and Yuvraj didnt find the situation grave enough to alter their normal game.
The complex debate about playing instinctive cricket regardless of the scoreboard was kicked off once again as Sehwag and Yuvraj were out attempting ambitious shots. Yuvrajs expansive drive off Martin outside the off-stump saw him edging to slips,while Sehwag missed a wild swing towards mid-wicket off Patel to be adjudged lbw in the second innings.
In a nutshell,the day underlined the basic premise of cricket that gives hope to the every undistinguished bowler who runs in towards the biggest of stars. Regardless of the stature,situation or score it just takes one ball for even the mightiest to turn into the meekest.