Though the opening Test of the eagerly anticipated 5-match series between India and England is likely to peter out to a tame draw, legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar has already termed the Rajkot affair as a ‘moral victory’ for the visitors.
Speaking to NDTV, the 67-year old also brushed aside any talk of skipper Alastair Cook pushing for a result by making a bold declaration whilst complimenting the England team for putting in a much improved performance following their ignominious loss against Bangladesh in the second Test at Dhaka which led to them sharing the spoils.
Acknowledging the vast difference in conditions, Gavaskar felt, “It is already a moral victory for England to bounce back after losing to Bangladesh. They came to India low on confidence. They were expecting a turner which did not happen and they capitalised on it.”
Cook won the toss and his batting lineup responded brilliantly by registering a mammoth total on board. In reply, India rode on centuries from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara before a flurry of wickets threatened to derail their progress. At 361/6, they found themselves in a spot of bother as the deficit stood at 176 runs. But, all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin managed to steady the ship with a handy knock.
Alongside the gritty Wriddhiman Saha, he put on 64 for the seventh wicket. When the wicket-keeper batsman was dismissed for an 82-ball 35, Ashwin continued his fine batting form against England and helped India reduce the deficit to just 49 runs with his resolute 70. The off-spinner’s effort did not go unnoticed by the man who was renowned for such rearguard displays at the top of the order.
Gavaskar noted, “Ashwin saved India the blushes. His partnership with Saha steadied the innings. England could well have been in a position to declare at lunch on Sunday (if India had been bowled out earlier). But now, Alastair Cook will not want to take chances. He is a good player and as a captain sensed the opportunity. They kept India on the field for almost five and a half sessions. They were all over India till Ashwin and Saha rescued the home team.”
Predicting a stalemate, the Mumbaikar added, “The pitch has not deteriorated too much. It is still a very good pitch to bat on. But, you cannot say anything with certainty. With wickets in hand, England could go bang bang, take the lead to 300 at lunch and ask India to bat. India could then be in a slightly precarious position. But, it is unlikely India will collapse.”
Interestingly, present-day opener Murali Vijay has kept all possibilities open in the hope of his team getting early wickets and launching an audacious chase during the final session. However, the placidness of the pitch makes Gavaskar’s assessment the likelier one.