This is a Test and not a Tendulkar benefit match, says Bedi
A Test at the Eden Gardens can be a compelling package of intrigue and excitement. More often than not a passionate cricket fan gets his moments — pristine to the connoisseur, exceptional to a layman; such is the allure of watching cricket on this grand stage.
You have to participate in the drama to appreciate the nuances and ecstasy of a fascinating duel between bat and ball.
This West Indian team is a mere shadow of some of the formidable combinations of the past under Garry Sobers and Clive Lloyd, but the Indians realise the importance of keeping their focus.
The last lap
When Sachin Tendulkar steps onto the field on Wednesday, the greetings from a full house can be expected to reach thunderous proportions. Sporting Sachin masks, the fans would have a silent prayer on their lips, success for the knight who embarks on the last lap of his cricket conquests. One more Test after this and a great career will come to an end.
But, Tendulkar would like to remind his fans, just as his colleagues in the dressing room, that this is a match that belongs not just to him. He has taken pains to make his partners comfortable even as the hype surrounding him reaches dizzy heights.
The frenzy only increases the pressure on the 40-year-old shoulders.
As Bishan Singh Bedi succinctly remarked, “This is a Test and not a Sachin Tendulkar benefit match.”
Precisely, what the Master, too, has been consistently trying to convey to the world. There are 21 others players in the fray, including the West Indians, who are excited at becoming part of history as Tendulkar prepares to take a graceful bow.
The two-Test series comes on the heels of the high-scoring one-day contests against Australia. The Indian batsmen, in blazing form on placid pitches, will encounter a challenging surface here.
The slow turner might hinder smooth strokeplay even though India has an array of batsmen who have begun to assert themselves in all conditions.
Leader of new pack
Virat Kohli is the leader of the new pack, coming up with a number of sound knocks embellished with some astonishing shots. The team management may rave about Rohit Sharma’s recent deeds but Test cricket demands a higher degree of commitment and skill.
Hence, Kohli signifies the modern cricketer. His hunger for runs is the force that drives him to produce brilliant cricket and this is an ideal stage for him to pay rich tributes to Tendulkar.
Percentage play should carry India forward. A sedate Cheteshwar Pujara can complement the adventurous Kohli, who can take on any attack in his current imperious form.
Tendulkar’s calming influence in the middle-order has guided the batting for a long time now and the time has come for the mantle to be passed on.
Kohli is ready and Tendulkar acknowledges the awesome talent that marks the Delhi batsman’s cricket.
For openers Shikhar Dhawan and M. Vijay, the platform appears apt to showcase the ability to play long innings without suppressing aggressive instincts.
After the Australian batsmen made a dent in their reputations, the Indian bowlers will have the opportunity to improve and stake their claims for the tour of South Africa next month.
Mohammad Shami is the bowler to watch and Ajinkya Rahane the batsman. They have done enough to earn a place in the scheme of things.
The West Indies, given its ability to adapt, can be highly unpredictable. Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul bring distinctive styles to the batting strength with battle-scarred Marlon Samuels adding depth with his innovative approach. The confidence that Darren Sammy infuses in the ranks is a feature that has served the team well in recent times.
With some of the leading names relishing the Indian pitches and conditions, thanks mainly to their stints in the Indian Premier League, this West Indies team is ready to meet fire with fire.
The stage is set for entertaining cricket. This battle between bat and ball during the week may bring some cheer to the bowlers, for a change.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, M. Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Amit Mishra and Ajinkya Rahane.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Narsingh Deonarine, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Denesh Ramdin, Tino Best, Veerasammy Permaul, Sheldon Cottrell, Kirk Edwards, Kemar Roch, Shane Shillingford and Chadwick Walton.
Umpires: Nigel Llong and Richard Kettleborough; Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni; Match Referee: Andy Pycroft.
Play starts at 9 a.m.