Before we get to the meat of the article, why not spice it up with some controversies that led Rahul Dravid to captain India in the 2006 tour to Pakistan and open with Virender Sehwag in the first Test in Lahore?
We all know a rift started in 2005 between Sourav Ganguly and then-team India’s coach Greg Chappell. During the Zimbabwe tour in September 2005, Chappell had asked Ganguly to step down from captaincy. In reply, Ganguly threatened to pack his bags and leave mid-tour. However, BCCI seniors intervened and were told to stay as it would put a dent in their reputation.
It didn’t stop there, later, during the tour, Chappell’s email to the BCCI in regards to Ganguly leaked out. Chappell had stated that Ganguly was “mentally and physically unfit. His negative attitude would hamper India’s development” he further mentioned “he had lost the trust of his teammates”.
Soon after all these complications, Ganguly was dethroned as the captain of India, and Dravid was assigned as the long-term skipper of India from the home series against Sri Lanka in December 2005.
After starting his full-time Test captaincy, Dravid’s first away assignment was against Pakistan. Prior to this tour, Dravid had captained the first two matches of the 2004 winning tour against Pakistan.
Dravid admitted that he had decided to open the innings alongside Sehwag on the night before the first Test. In case you didn’t know, prior to this Test, Dravid had opened the innings for India in eight innings and had scored only 128 runs at an average of 16 without a 50+ score.
On a flat deck in Lahore, Pakistan chose to bat first and posted a mammoth total of 679/7 before declaring. Four of their batters, Younis Khan (199), Mohammad Yousuf (173), Shahid Afridi (103), and Kamran Akmal (102*) smashed centuries.
In reply, Indian openers ended the second day (65/0) and a rain-hit third day (145/0) without being separated. Sehwag was unbeaten on 96 at stumps on day three.
At the start of day four, 16th of January, Sehwag added four more to his overnight total and scored a century in just 93 balls, the fastest for an Indian opener then. He went on to break that record later in June 2006, against West Indies, with a 78-ball 100.
Pakistan bowlers were bruised and battered by Sehwag’s counter-attack from one end, and tired by the blocking of Dravid at the other end. Eventually, Sehwag went on to register a double century off just 182 balls, the fastest by an Indian then. Again, he himself broke that record when he scored a double in just 168 balls against Sri Lanka in 2009.
Indian openers ended the fourth day as well, unseparated with a partnership of 403. In Tests, this was India’s second 400-run partnership. Thanks to an attacking double century from Sehwag (247*) and a steady century from Dravid (128*), India scored those 403 runs in just 75 overs.
On day five, India had the chance to break the record partnership of 413 between Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy. They had posted this marathon opening partnership against New Zealand in 1956 in Chennai.
However, that didn’t happen. Sehwag and Dravid fell short by four runs as the partnership ended at 410. This still remains to be the second-highest partnership for India in Tests. Overall, among opening pairs, their 410 is the third highest. Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith, against Bangladesh in 2008, posted 415, which is the highest opening stand in Tests.
As soon as Sehwag was dismissed, VVS Laxman faced only one ball, and the match was called off, ending it to be a dull draw. The second Test in Faisalabad also ended in a draw, with Dravid scoring yet another century.
However, Pakistan took the series with a win in the final Test of the series. Nevertheless, the partnership between Sehwag and Dravid against a hostile bowling line-up still remains to be a memorable feat.