Rediscovering the chemistry

Dravid, Laxman must roll the clock back to show young guns the way in II Test

“Man, Kensington Oval belongs to the West Indies,” said Ambrose with pride, and the home side’s record here justifies his emotions. In 81 years, the Caribbeans have lost just nine Tests at this venue, six of them coming post-2000 after the retirement of Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

Now, West Indies certainly don’t have pace bowlers of their calibre, but Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul can test batsmen on their day as they showed at Sabina Park. Add express pacer Kemar Roach to the mix, the hosts will have a formidable pace attack, dangerous on a pitch many believe to be quick and bouncy.

So, the onus will once again be on Rahul Dravid to guide India’s inexperienced line-up as he did in Kingston while scoring a magnificent hundred. Dravid’s technique against pace bowling is quite impeccable. He gets behind the line beautifully, and the approach gives him more than one option and extra bit of time to tackle the delivery.

Great concentration

More importantly, he has made a beginning at Kingston, displaying Dravidesque qualities – concentration and desire to stay in the middle and graft for runs -- and India will perforce require an encore at the Kensington Oval. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni explained the method and value of Dravid. “Rahul is an exceptional batsman. He got 100 in 250 balls, which means you have to be very patient, and push the bowlers to bowl in your areas and to your strengths. I think that’s what he did. He was patient for a long time, and waited for the bowlers to bowl in his areas.

“That has been the pick of his innings. Not only in this one, but whatever innings he plays he just waits for the bowlers to pitch it in his areas. I think he was brilliant,” Dhoni said.
India came out of what would have been a very embarrassing situation because of the gumption of Dravid, who waged a lone battle in the second innings. In such ventures, he usually gets the support of either Sachin Tendulkar or VVS Laxman.

Horror Test

With Tendulkar skipping the tour, the responsibility to partner Dravid was on Laxman, who came to bat at number four. But the Hyderabadi stylist went through horrors at Sabina Park, making just 12 runs in the match. Variable bounce thwarted Laxman, and the news about the Kensington Oval pitch might please him to no extent.

The elegant right-hander loves the ball coming on to the bat, something very critical for him to unfurl those sinewy wrists. At Sabina Park, Laxman looked totally out of touch, perhaps also beecause he was playing a competitive match after a considerable time.

Now he will have a pitch that offers pace and true bounce at the Kensington, and that might just be the kind of surface Laxman needs to get back into the rhythm that fetched him 939 runs at 67.07 last year.

Laxman in full cry is imperative for India’s scheme of things because once set, the right-hander can play some really long innings, just like he does so often in Australia. A flowing Laxman can also instill more confidence in Dravid as they have been involved in some massive partnerships over the years, like that unforgettable 376 at the Eden Gardens and 303 at Adelaide in 2003, punching directly on the face of Australians.

Will the old boys’ association revive its magic at Kensington?

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