Rain throws a spanner

Though the Indians nurtured hopes of a victory, the Test was doomed once an entire day's play was lost. Vijay Lokapally reports.

As it poured in Chittagong, the players sat frustrated inside the dressing room at the Bir Sreshtha Stadium and the spectators prayed for the rain to relent. The dark skies brought gloom to the officials, who had worked hard to host the star-studded Indian team. The Test match was doomed right from the time it was scheduled, for it always rains here this part of the year.

Former Bangladesh skipper Akram Khan, based in Chittagong and now a National selector, was surprised at the scheduling of the match. Rahul Dravid was helpless. "The timing could have been better,'' the Indian skipper said, but was quick to realise that there was hardly a better time for the respective Boards to squeeze in this series. "The schedule is too cramped and honestly, it can be very tough on the players. We need to play a certain number of Tests and one-dayers, need to plan the tours well and keep the players fit in order to provide the quality. Or else we would end up bringing young players and it is not always easy to find the replacements.''

The Test match was doomed once an entire day's play was lost.

The poor drainage at the venue added to the misery of the officials. "All over the world attention has been paid to this area, especially in the newly-constructed stadiums. I think every stadium must have a proper drainage system because the teams can't afford to lose time like this,'' said Dravid, who was dejected with the way things unfolded. The Indians believed that they were in a position to win the Test.

India did control the match on the first day when Dinesh Karthik, Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly made up for the first-ball dismissal of Wasim Jaffer. It was a wonderful moment for Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, who eventually claimed the Man of the Match award.

Rudra Pratap Singh had a decent match on his return to Test cricket. Dravid praised him and V. R. V. Singh. "They bowled well on a flat pitch and looked very impressive. I thought Dinesh (Karthik) had a good match.''

Mortaza's performance was the highlight of the Test, which also saw Tendulkar hit his 36th Test century and Ganguly his 13th. By their own standards, the centuries hardly had any aesthetic value but then it was important that they got the runs. "It was nice to see Sachin and Sourav hit centuries,'' noted Dravid.

Tendulkar had played 17 innings since his previous century, while Ganguly's last hundred came against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo in Greg Chappell's first series as coach.

Tendulkar enjoyed his innings immensely. He called Ganguly a "wonderful'' player and admitted it was "always a pleasure'' to bat along with him. "We have been playing together for many years now. Sourav knows how to take runs and it is a pleasure to bat with him. We enjoyed our innings. We had fun in the middle. We basically remained focused and tried to keep each other going. The conditions were tough and we had to encourage each other."

Tendulkar also gave an insight into the approach the two adopted to help India take control of the match early. But he was quick to add, "There was no great planning. The idea was to keep things simple; the simpler you keep things the easier it is. I played the way I wanted to; the way the team wanted me to play. Scoring a hundred is always satisfying, as the team wants me to do well. And every batsman wants to go out there and score runs. People look at statistics but players don't play for the numbers, they play to score runs. I am no different.''

Ganguly too was under pressure to come good with the bat. It was not an innings that would delight his supporters but he was remarkably subdued and amazingly focussed on getting to the benchmark he had set for himself. The relief was visible on his face. Incidentally, he had adopted a new approach. He said on the eve of the match that he would convert his 80s and 90s into hundred.

"It is really good to get a century after a long time. It was important to score a hundred here. After South Africa I have not played Test cricket for a long time. I was looking forward to playing here. Century is not the only thing. How you play is more important. I was happy with the way I batted in South Africa. I had a couple of 60s and 70s. I didn't get a 100 there. It does not mean I was not playing well. This century has come at the right time," Tendulkar said.

To put things in perspective, India went into the match with five bowlers but sorely missed veteran Anil Kumble, who contracted fever and was not able to bowl. "We needed Anil but unfortunately he developed fever. We missed our lead bowler but I can't remember a session when we were under pressure,'' said Dravid.

Mortaza was a big factor in Bangladesh forcing a draw. The youngster, who drew lavish praise from Dravid, bowled his heart out and then produced a fitting innings that enabled Bangladesh avoid the follow-on. "I think he is a terrific player, very valuable to his team. He can develop into a genuine all-rounder,'' said Dravid.

"He is a very talented boy and is just beginning to understand his potential," observed the Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore.