Ahead of the Eden Gardens Test, there has been a lot of fuss about the pitch and the curator, and MS Dhoni’s demand for a turning track. I would have loved it to happen more discreetly, as I see nothing wrong in utilising home advantage. As for the curator, he has gone through a lot of turmoil in his personal life, and maybe he is bit sensitive as a result. But whatever be the case, the Eden pitch will not be anything like the one in Mumbai.
Frankly, India’s bowling worries me. I think young fast bowlers need opportunities. You can’t keep someone waiting in the dressing room for too long. They need to be thrown in at the deep end, like Rahul [Dravid] and I were at Lord’s in 1996. I think it’s time for Ashok Dinda to get a chance, and on home turf at that.
Eden has been a happy hunting ground for India in recent years, and I do believe the team has what it takes to turn things around. England played some superb cricket in Mumbai, but it will be a Herculean task for them to repeat that in the next two Tests.
I will be keeping a close eye on the team composition that Dhoni opts for, and it will also be interesting to see how Sachin responds. How will he adjust to the pressure, and to the slow batting surface of Eden, which will turn as the Test goes on?
The build-up to the game has been partly overshadowed by events in Perth. We had some memorable tussles with Ricky Ponting down the years, and he deserves to be up there with the greatest to have played the game. It was a treat to watch him at his best, because that was the time when his feet movement was unparalleled. He would move back and forth with such ease according to the length of the ball, and would even pull on the front foot.
One of the best knocks I saw him play was in the World Cup final in 2003, a bittersweet memory because he batted us out of contention. His double-century at the Adelaide Oval during the 2003-04 series was another example of class batsmanship. Though we won that game, it was a terrific innings.
I always enjoyed a great relationship with Ricky, and during his one-year stint with Kolkata Knight Riders, we came even closer. We would talk cricket, and it helped me understand more about his approach to the game, the way he shaped up before crucial matches and how he would plan a particular innings. There are several happy memories.
With Ricky following Rahul and VVS Laxman into retirement, we’re almost at the end of an era.
Everybody has to move on someday, whether that’s Bradman, Pele, Maradona, Borg, Sampras or Warne. I still believe, however, that Test cricket will always be the yardstick for any cricketer if he wants to be remembered for a long time.
It’s always difficult to walk away, because one will not be doing things that one loved for a long period of time. But that is the nature of sport. Each of us has a shelf life, and I have always believed that the big players must leave on a high. The thought one needs to get out of one’s mind is ‘One more series’, because there’s no end to that.