The accidental opener
Time stands still when Deep Dasgupta bats -- because he's so very boring. He has a few strokes, but none of them are attractive to watch. He shows
the ball the full face of his bat, but mostly in resolute defence. Deep Dasgupta is not a pretty sight, but he embodies everything Indian cricket lacks,
and yet so desperately needs.
Maybe he takes inspiration from Justin Langer, another accidental opener
who has excelled in recent times, purely through grit and character. But
Langer was a middle-order bat who played enough at No. 3 to be familiar with
the new ball; Dasgupta was just a sacrificial lamb.
When Dasgupta opened in the second Test in South Africa, at Port
Elizabeth, it was a makeshift arrangement which nobody thought could last. The team
management did not have enough confidence in the second opener given to
them by the selectors, Connor Williams. They tried Rahul Dravid in the first
Test, but he was both unsuccessful and reluctant in that position.
Speculation raged as to who would open at Port Elizabeth; VVS Laxman was
sounded out, he declined. Then Sourav Ganguly, with great reluctance,
said he would do the job.
The hour had come, and so did the man. Dasgupta stepped up and offered
to do the job. He went on to show rare resolve and application, and saved the
match for India with a gritty fifty in the second innings. Strangely,
Ganguly did not persist with him, and Williams opened in the game at
Centurion. Then came Mohali, and Dasgupta was back at the top.
No paeans will be sung, no poems written about the way he batted today.
None of the bowlers - barring Flintoff, sporadically - was particularly
menacing, but Dasgupta did not try to punish them, as Tendulkar, Laxman et al
surely would have. Time was not of the essence: this was a Test match, and he
played as if he wanted to bat forever.
The first two sessions were dreary, and welcome; only 126 runs were
before tea, but only one wicket was lost, a refreshing statistic given
the batting collapses India has engineered in recent times.
Dasgupta and nightwatchman Anil Kumble were actually the ideal batsmen
for India when play resumed. Both had showed courage and had put a price on
their wicket in South Africa - Kumble at Centurion - and for a team that
badly has to learn how to play out morning sessions without losing too
wickets, their stodginess was just what the team needed. They added 53
in 164 deliveries - Kumble made 37 in 86 - and by the time Rahul Dravid
strode out to bat, the advantage of the newish ball and the morning
conditions had been completely nullified.
Dravid played a characteristic anchor role, as he and Dasgupta added 136
invaluable runs in 279 balls. They sped up after tea, and Dasgupta
a richly deserved century, off 252 deliveries, his first in
cricket. Both Dravid and Dasgupta played some lovely strokes, as did
Tendulkar when he came to the crease, but there has always been plenty
flair in Indian innings. It was the resilience which was cause for
The dilemma India face with Dasgupta is that the primary task of a
wicketkeeper is to keep well, and Dasgupta was quite horrid behind the
stumps; against Harbhajan, at times, he looked a baby juggling lego
But he has shown the willingness to learn, and the character to
and if given enough chances, will surely redeem himself in that area of
game as well. India need him to.
Amit Varma is assistant editor, Wisden.com India.
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