Vantage point

Monday, February 08, 2010

Dare we all dream the Tamil Dream?

Given that one updates this blog rather sporadically these days, it is perhaps ill-advised to write a post that may well be moot by 9:45 a.m. IST tomorrow. But well, here goes.

Almost a decade back, in Calcutta, two men were given an opportunity to grab glory by its balls. Two men who had been seen as "promising" for several years, but whose careers had meandered of late. VVS Laxman had been in and out of the team, oscillating up and down the order, making decent contributions, but nowhere close to the phenomenal run he was having in domestic cricket. There were dreaded comparisons with the most notable occupant of the domestic-test purgatory - Ajay Sharma. Rahul Dravid had started off his career very well, scoring big hundreds in tough conditions in South Africa and New Zealand, but for a couple of years it seemed like the opposition had him figured out. A disastrous tour of Australia, was followed by a bad home series against SA, and in the first test against Australia at Bombay, he got starts but looked ungainly and was dismissed easily. We all know how those two men responded to the spectre of innings defeat after being made to follow-on on a generally placid pitch by the best bowling attack in the world.

The two Tamilians in the team that is in trouble in Nagpur are in some ways analogous to RSD and VVS. Badri, much like VVS in those days, is a domestic giant. Vijay is technically compact, much like RSD. And they now shoulder, along with the omnipresent Tendulkar, the responsibility to make something out of this follow-on. Most of the Tams I know have been crowing about Badri for ages now. It will be a dream come true for Madras if he steps up, like VVS did and follows up a first innings half-century with a big knock that saves and who knows, maybe even wins the match.

Badri's supporters don't talk about his impeccable technique or his attractive stroke-making. Rather, they talk about his attitude, approach, application, and mental strength. Making him sound like a potential Steve Waugh. And his domestic career certainly shows many such instances, the most recent, something a Mumbai fan like me can never forget - a dogged 250 taking TN from 50/5 to 501. Wouldn't it be great if he replicated something like that tomorrow? Vijay, who impressed with his fluent and level-headed approach in the couple of test calls he got, was unlucky to get a Steyn special in the first innings. But in the second innings so far, he has looked composed and untroubled.

So big centuries from both these guys, pushing India to a safe position and guarding the #1 spot as well as Dhoni's unbeaten streak for at least another week, will be the ultimate Tamilian cricketing dream. It will cement their positions in the test team. And us Mumbai fans, having begrudgingly accepted Bangalore's batting talent pool since the 70s and Delhi's newfound brilliance in the last few years, will have to make way for another metro - Madras, to come and strut around. I think we can live with that. :)

There is of course the man still there - Sachin Tendulkar. Somehow, I get a bad feeling about him for tomorrow. I am still waiting for the definitively Tendulkar-owned test. And no, I don't count the Chennai England win as being "owned" by him. Dravid's owned a test, Laxman's owned one, Sehwag has owned at least 4 even by the most stringent standards. Heck, even Gambhir has owned one - the Napier draw. Will Sachin step up and own this?

And of course, there's Dhoni. Whose failure in the first innings was an aberration for his tendency in the last 2-3 years to step up and contribute when most needed. He should consider himself "due" tomorrow. Especially since his unbeaten streak as test captain is at stake.

We'll see.

Like I said at the outset, all this could be moot by 9:45 a.m. tomorrow if Steyn and Morkel pick up a couple of early wickets. But till then, let's dream the dream.