The debutant’s century provides balm to a savage wound caused by Tendulkar dismissal

It took an off-spinner to remind the Indians of their vulnerability on a pitch that demanded discipline and caution, not to forget survival skills. Shane Shillingford, having gone through corrective measures for his action, rocked the Indian batting with his crafty stuff. It was crafty because it left Sachin Tendulkar bemused regardless of the debate on whether the leg-before verdict was right or wrong.

The Eden Gardens was left dejected as the master departed, but India found new hope and a hero in Rohit Sharma, who cracked a century on debut and carried India to 354 for six at stumps for a lead of 120 runs.

The second day’s play in the first Test took a predictable course. The mini collapse in the Indian ranks was an aberration as Rohit and R. Ashwin came together to arrest what could have been a hugely-embarrassing slide.

At 83 for five, the Test threatened to rest in the West Indians’ lap but for M.S. Dhoni showing the way for Rohit and Ashwin to prosper in the afternoon with an unfinished partnership of 198 runs.

Joy to watch

Rohit can be such a joy to watch. He has a domineering presence at the crease thanks to his ability to pick the ball early. The graceful connotations of his batting scattered the West Indian field and trap. Picking gaps is his forte, but what stood out this day was his application.

He curtailed his penchant to hit, preferred to play the waiting game, and milked the bowling. The situation required him to hang in and that is what he did in the company of Ashwin.

Ashwin’s innings was mature and very productive. He complemented Rohit with a shot here and there but generally stuck to his job of blunting the bowling. Virat Kohli fell a victim to one that jumped from the length off Shillingford. If Kohli’s dismissal was a blow, Tendulkar’s was a savage wound that the spectators nursed the whole day until Rohit provided the soothing effect with his wonderful innings.

Early dents

The West Indies had planned to create pressure and make things difficult for India when it resumed at 37 for no loss. The early dents took the match to an exciting stage as Shikhar Dhawan dragged the ball in to give Shillingford his first scalp. The bowler was energised and the spring in his stride was evident. Suddenly, Shillingford raised prospects of an intense fight.

Cheteshwar Pujara played a most uncharacteristic shot, an overhead poke, wanting to reach the third man but did not cross even the 'keeper.

Wishful thinking

Tendulkar and Kohli together and the Eden settled into an expectant mode, for some vintage stuff from the senior and modern work from the youngster. It turned out to be wishful thinking. The young Kohli departed to an old offie’s trap and Tendulkar to a contemporary invention, the doosra, well crafted by Shillingford. The fact that he beat Tendulkar’s outstretched block and hit the back leg, even if high, was a victory for the bowler after two silken drives by the maestro provided a throwback to the days when aggression marked his batting.

Dhoni, dropped on 12 by ’keeper Denesh Ramdin off Darren Sammy, effectively stalled the West Indies march. His robust strokeplay instilled confidence in the Indian camp. Of course, he succumbed to his desire to dominate and left the stage to Rohit.

For long Rohit has shown potential. This afternoon, he succeeded in sterling fashion, putting India on course to press for a victory.

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