Wishful thinking defined

Wishful thinking. I had little idea why this phrase kept bobbing up in my mind as I watched the Indian attack overcome the challenges of a flat track at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and keep Australia down to 254 for four on the opening day of the first Test.
Was it because we expected India to run through the Australian batting after Zaheer Khan – with some help from umpire Asad Rauf – saw the back of the dangerous Matthew Hayden before the fans had settled down in their seats? Or, was it because we expected Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh to stop Ricky Ponting?
I had been hoping that there would be some juice in the pitch for the Indian bowlers. For, they have found it hard to negotiate flat pitches. In the past year, they have had their teeth drawn on docile tracks against Pakistan in Kolkata and Bangalore and against South Africa in Chennai and Ahmedabad (where the pitch was lively over one session when India was bowled out).
Thursday was only the opening day of the Test match and, given that they tried hard through the day to make an impression on the batsmen, it would be unfair to crucify the home bowlers. Through the day, they strove manfully to keep the scoring in check and draw from the reserves of their patience and skills.
It can, however, be said that Harbhajan Singh could have done a shade better in his first two spells when it appeared that he was trying too hard to get a grip on the batsmen. India skipper Anil Kumble did the smart thing, bringing Harbhajan on fairly early so that he could challenge Ponting. But left-handed Simon Katich did well to play the first two and a half overs from the off-spinner, letting his captain watch his bogey man from the safety of the non-striker’s end.
When the defining moment came, Harbhajan blinked, delivering a flat, short ball that Ponting was able to turn it away on the leg-side for a boundary that would have relieved some pressure of him. More than his five fours off his Nemesis, it was manner in which the Australian captain faced him that was an expression of his determination.
Harbhajan tried all he could in terms of variation of pace and flight but, on Thursday, Ponting had a ready answer. By the time Harbhajan Singh had his man, trapping him leg before with one that was looped and kept low, beating Ponting’s attempted sweep, the Australian captain had got the monkey off his back (pun unintended).
Kumble has always loved to bowl on pitches from which he can generate extra, if not variable, bounce. But with neither quality available to him, he was left to try the subtle variations in angles, flight and pace to try and secure a wicket. He may come into the frame yet in the second innings if there is sufficient wear and tear on the pitch.
In the event, it was left to the new ball bowlers Zaheer and Ishant to try and pick up some wickets. On a fairly hot day, they toiled bravely – against the determined duo of Ponting and Katich – but, with there being so little seam movement or bounce, they were unable to change the script a great deal.
There was not much evidence of reverse swing till late in the day. And Zaheer, who was lucky to get the umpire’s nod and see Hayden’s back with just the third delivery of the day, did ask some telling questions with the old ball before Kumble had to take him off the attack rather than bowl him to the ground.
Just as Zaheer returned to trap Michael Clarke leg before wicket in the last over, the coin dropped and I realised why a phrase would not go off my mind all day. After all, curator Narayan Raju had been quoted as saying that the Test would be played on a green top that would have pace and bounce. If you needed to define wishful thinking, this was it.