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The Joy of Watching Laxman, Dhoni

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Laxman gave ample evidence of his decisiveness—the hallmark of a good batsman. He was never caught in two minds over whether to bat left- or right-handed.

VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit centuries in a record partnership before India declared their first innings on 643 for six because they had a restaurant reservation.

The total is India’s highest against South Africa, beating the 627 they scored at Chennai in 2007-08. India now have a lead of 347 runs. Between 11 batsmen, South Africa only need to score about 500 runs to get back into the game.

Play was called off after South Africa had faced just five deliveries in their second innings. Bad light is announced when the umpires can no longer take photos with the cricketers between overs.

Laxman, a batsman known for square cuts that sizzle through the onside, continued his fine run at the Eden Gardens. It was his fourth century in his ninth match at the famous venue, which is now thinking of getting its own airport. Laxman has scored more runs at the Eden Gardens than any other character in the Ramayana.

Sourav Ganguly forgot to bring his cricket clothes and had to watch the match from the stands. He sat there drinking Coca-Cola, which is good for offside play. For some reason, Dada does not smile much these days. Maybe he’s weary of the game. He should just retire.

Like Laxman, it was a memorable day for Dhoni too. On a wicket good for umpiring, he got his first century in Kolkata. But he would have been unhappy over the way he faced short balls. He could not head even one to the boundary.

Between overs, the television showed Akshay Kumar and Irrfan Khan trying to reach the stadium. Akshay dangled from a rope. He was trying to get to the ground through the roof. Irrfan was in a train. In order to pass time, he advised fellow passengers on insurance matters.

Laxman gave ample evidence of his decisiveness—the hallmark of a good batsman. He was never caught in two minds over whether to bat left- or right-handed.

Laxman and Dhoni added 259 runs for the seventh wicket, a record. The earlier record holders were Ravi Shastri and Syed Kirmani, whom we wish the best in future endeavours.

The ball was coming on to the abdomen guard in the morning, so the Indians wore small helmets inside their pants. Laxman started in exciting fashion, hitting Dale Steyn and Paul Harris for fours. For a spinner, Steyn has a long run-up. Laxman’s assertiveness set the tone for the day, and India ended with the upper hand.

The rest of the match, and the ODIs that will follow, promise to be interesting, especially if they continue to play overhand.

On a more sobering note, some commentators still need to be educated about the game. When they say “playing with a straight bat”, is there an option? No one uses a curved bat. Then there are times when they go on about how Bradman, the English legend, got his runs on uncovered wickets. But Laxman and Dhoni also batted on an uncovered wicket.