Gosht Nihari is one of the best Dishes I have ever eaten. It is cooked over a painfully long time. The aromas keep tempting you, You nearly get frustrated many times and are about to eat it prematurely and find it under-cooked, or at times you are so pissed off with the idea of waiting, that you give up the idea of having the dish at all. But the cook doesn’t give in to your demands and cribbing until the dish is perfectly cooked. And when it is finally cooked, and served, only then does one realise, that the wait was worth it!The Ongoing Adelaide test match reminds me of eating Nihari.
It is a complete, delicious package. Unfolded like a saga. For an Indian 48-year-old fan, it is not very uncommon to get up early in the morning to watch a game played in Australia with great hope, and just by the time you get ready to go to work, the hopes evaporating like a drop of water on a hot dosa plate. The start to this match was no different. Indian Openers, and captain were back in the hut in no time, the so-called dependability of Ajinkya had failed him once again as it has done frequently in this season, and India looked to be staring into the defeat in the very first session of the test match. But Cheteshwar Pujara cooked a good Nihari.
He threw in the first ingredient of patience early on in the innings, added an impenetrable concentration to it, and wore down the Aussies at one end.He did not succumb to the pressure of the consumers’ expectations, and cooked his dish delectably well. Ashwin, resolutely stood for his twenty-five runs, and Rohit and Pant played two cameos which were irresponsible to say the least, yet contributed a valuable 62 runs between them which, while looking at the equation of the match appear more precious than they did on the first day. Yet Pujara stood out. He is head and shoulders above many poster-boys of Indian cricket when it comes to playing test cricket. When all the other front-line batsmen were lured into the same trap of undulating deliveries of fast bowlers outside the off-stump like a bear to honeycomb, Pujara left them alone like a celibate sage. He had unwavering concentration, and yet he was very much in the game to pounce on the very few scoring opportunities offered by the disciplined Australian attack.
Though it may have looked audacious bordering on the frenzy of madness, his up and over square cuts played when he was in his 90s were a perfectly calculated risk, The Square boundaries on the Adelaide Oval are short, and once connected, the ball is sure to have carried over the ropes. Pujara was the rock of Gibraltar. Immovable. Very patiently, he had moved in to his nineties, and he had changed gears once Ashwin fell. He was aware of the Indian lower order’s incapability of resist and hang in there, and so had to accumulate runs quickly. He did it but didn’t look as if he’d lose his wicket playing these strokes. He had analysed and memorised the bowling attack and the behavior of the wicket like his wife’s birthday and was not going to take any wrong step. No bowler could get him out, and ultimately, he got run out. India scored 250 with just under half the runs coming in from Pujara.
The Bowlers responded to Pujara’s effort splendidly, sawed off the first four Australian wickets when they had not even scored 100. Then, rookie Travis Head started playing an innings beyond his years, and in a sedate matured manner batted with Handscomb to add 33, and the tail supported him too limit the Indian lead just to 15. But slender or whatever, India had taken lead over Australia in the first test match of the series, and it was a huge confidence booster. K L Rahul’s slam-bang approach to batting, for this instance worked, and the needed impetus was given to the innings at the very start. Scoring 18 off 53 balls, Murali Vijay played a good hand in blunting the new ball. Then Pujara was joined by his captain and both of them between them added 105 runs in 308 balls, biding precious time and ensuring that Indian wickets didn’t fall in a avalanche like they often do. Kohli’s departure for 34 brought in Ajinkya, who carried on in the same vein and India were at a healthy position at 243 for 3. But Pujara’s fall for 71 then brought the Indian lower order back in their elements, and 7 wickets fell adding a mere 63 runs between them.
India have set the Aussies a target of scoring 323 to win in 140 odd overs. With 4 Australian wickets down, a further 219 required to win, and the wickets crumbling, the odds are heavily stacked in India’s favour. Some Indian fans must’ve already put champagne on ice. All looks good for them in Indian test cricket. Being an Indian fan, I am delighted too. But what has excited me more than a probable Indian victory is the way in which India has played this test match. There was irresponsible batting, not playing in the team’s interest in the name of “natural game”, overambitious stroke play, complacency and as usual the big-mouthed coach bragging, but there were players who put their hand up, rose to the occasion and hung in there on both sides. Patience, perseverance, and grit was amply on the display.
The opening notes of this symphony called the Border -Gavaskar Trophy 2018-19 series have been savory to the ears and the unfolding melody promises to be pleasing too. Lets hope this performance is repeated repeatedly. Yes, one likes to see his side winning all the time, but the battle should be closely fought. The tantalizing uncertainties which have punctuated this match are ones which make the plot intriguing and puts bums on seats. A 300 scored against a hapless bowling attack can never substitute a century scored against a potent bowling line up, where the fast bowlers are always at you, breathing fire and their tails up, and a quality spinner is spitting venom. Yes. I found watching Pujara’s 123 more gripping than watching Matty Hayden flaying the Zimbabwe attack for 380 runs. And as the number of overs in a game reduce, the possibility of such tales with numerous twists and turns is further reduced. All that people get to watch is a mindless, frenzied slam, bang wallop game, where the bowlers appear just like whipping boys, meant only to get pummeled by the batsmen. Test cricket has it’s own flavour. It is to be had like wine, sip, swirl, and let it glide down the throat. It is not to be swallowed like beer or gulped like a vodka shot. The intoxication is slow, serene and supreme, and it takes watching cricket to a next level, where we start appreciating the fact that the game is played 10% on the field and 90% between the ears. I feel we’re going to end 2018 and start 2019 by a feast of good, hard and intense test cricket. Amen. 😊