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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Virat Kohli Ajinkya Rahane 262 partnership - Boxing Day and Pongal Day

At Melbourne on day 3 at draw of stumps, Indians are 462/8 trailing Aussies by 68 runs – sound pretty healthy, though the danger is not yet totally gone, considering the fact that we have folded in a couple of sessions in day 5.  It was a good day as close to 4 hours, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli stood together after Murali Vijay had played his part.  The stand was a massive 262, India's highest stand outside Asia in the last 10 years.  After grand centuries by both the batsman, there was another slide – from 147/3 to 409/3 … Rahane fell, then the debutant Kannaur Lokesh Rahul played in uncharacteristic fashion throwing his wicket followed by Dhoni and Ashwin and eventually Kohli at 462/8.  The byline cliché – ‘it could have been better’ !!!
photo credit : BCCI tv

After scoring his third Test hundred of the tour, Virat Kohli brought his attacking form to the press conference too, saying he was left with no good reason to respect Mitchell Johnson and some of the other Australia players after verbals flew "throughout the day" at the MCG.  Cricinfo reports that the squabbling reached its peak when Johnson fielded in his follow-through and threw back at the striker's stumps. Unlike with Mohammed Shami and Steven Smith on day one, there was a genuine case for Johnson trying to run Kohli out, and the throw was headed for the stumps when it hit Kohli, who was trying to get back into his crease. Kohli believed it was an attempt to hit him and an argument ensued, which needed the intervention of the umpires. "I was really annoyed with him hitting me with the ball, and I told him that's not on," Kohli said. "'Try and hit the stumps next time, not my body.'
Kohli said this attitude from Australia helped him play better, which he said might be one of the reasons why five of his nine hundreds have come against them. – hopefully, Indians salvage a draw by extending some more time on day 4 – and not allowing Aussies to make quick runs and most importantly, do not fold on day 5.
As most know, this test at Melbourne started on Boxing day.  Boxing ~ pugilism is a combat sport – known as contest of strength, reflexes, speed and more… but can be quite nasty. Boxing Day perhaps has nothing to do with pugilism but traditionally the day following Christmas day when people would receive gifts from their employers known as Christmas box over there  … understand that it is most popular down under; but in South Africa, Boxing day was renamed to day of Goodwill in 1994. The Indian cousin to Boxing day tests at Melbourne  was ‘Pongal Tests’~ the matches at Chepauk which  has been in existence from imperial days – the first ever test here was in 1933-34 when Douglas Jardine played CK Nayudu led team.  Crowds have always come in large numbers  ~ it is not only the numbers – they are reputed to be most knowledgeable and appreciative………. 
Understand that the first ever Test match involving Boxing Day took place in 1950. Prior to that, Boxing Day at the MCG had been the domain of Sheffield Shield cricket, often the highly popular Victoria-New South Wales encounters.  Today, there is a report by Ashley Mallet that way back on Dec 26, 1866, the legendary Tom Wills pitted his team of Aboriginal cricketers against the Melbourne Cricket Club at the MCG. This game was the genesis of the nation's most-loved summer fixture, the Boxing Day Test, and the catalyst for Australian sport's first major overseas tour - the 1868 Aboriginal cricket tour of England.
Looking back, the last time Chepauk hosted a test was in Feb 2013 against Aussie and India won that match quite easily. Bhuvneshwar Kumar debuted in that match.  Sachin Tendulkar ending the day with 71 raised great expectations – next day, he got out adding just 10 more – but a double-century from Dhoni had eclipsed everything else. India had  dropped slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha (who has since been banned now!) preferring instead the off-breaks of Harbhajan Singh, who earned his 100th Test appearance against his favourite opponents.
For long – connoisseurs had the pleasure of seeing Pongal Tests at Chepauk – pitch for sure would assist spinners and surer still were the results. The famous Indian spinners would be virtually unplayable in the 4th innings.  In 1975 Andy Roberts and Gundappa Viswanath shared honours in a match which India was to win by 100 runs (massive in those days); in 1979 it was a good performance of Kapil Dev as India beat Windies led by Kalicharra...... and in the twilight of Viv Richards – India led by Ravi Shastri (his only Test as Captain) had 3 debutants : WV Raman, Ajay Sharma and Hiru.  Phil Simmons debuted for Windies.  At Chepauk in Jan 1988 -  India won an important toss, made 382. Hirwani took three of the five West Indian wickets to fall on the second day. On the third morning, Hirwani clean-bowled Vivian Richards with a googly  went on to  finish at  8 for 61; in the Second against a huge target of 416, Vivian Richard’s WI were dismissed in 40 overs.  Hirwani was the wrecker-in-chief again with 8 for 75 and overall match figures of 16 for 136.  Sadly, Chepuak was to become a batsmen’s paradise with hundreds and doubles flowing later……..
~ and statistically that Hirwani debut, Shastri led Test was the last Pongal Test.  Returning to Melbourne, in Test No. 812 in Dec 1977,  Indians led by Bishan singh Bedi were off to a worse start losing both the openers without a run on board.  The bowling attack was Jeff Thomson, Wayne Clark, JB (Sam) Gannon, Gary Cosier and AL Mann and the captain RB Simpson. Mohinder, Vishwanath, Vengsarkar and Ashok Mankad took the score to 256.  Craig Serjeant made 85, while rest Dyson, Coiser, Ogilvie, Simson, Toohey, Rixon went out cheaply and were bowled out for 213.  Chandrasekhar took 6 for 52.     In the second India made an imposing 343 with Gavaskar making 118.  Set an improbable 387, Aussies mustered only 164 giving Indians their first win – a big one at that.  The accomplishment of the first win in 12 tests in Australian soil was outrightly due to Chandra’s magical figures of 12 for 104 in the match. Then in 1981 Kapil Dev demolished Greg Chappel led Aussies for 83 taking 5/28 fashioning a remarkable win.   When will we see another spirited performance and another Indian win ?
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

28th Dec 2014.

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