In my previous post, written before the start of the first Test, I had predicted that India would lose the first Test before coming back to win one of the other two and tie the series . Well, India did lose the first Test but what I , and most other fans , could not have foreseen was how utterly they would be dominated. This was a thrashing , no doubt about it. Even if the pitch was more lively on the first day and became progressively easier as the game went on , it is hard to swallow how India were skittled out for 136.The Indian batsmen gained some measure of self respect in the second innings ; one hopes it was because they did get somewhat accustomed to the pace of Steyn and Morkel and not because the Proteas let up a little.
What was even more disquieting than the batting was the performance of the Indian bowlers. It was little short of pathetic .No blame can be attached to 18 year old Unadkat who was playing in his first Test but surely one can expect more from Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth who have been around for awhile . The return of Zaheer Khan for the second Test is heartening since his mere presence seems to make the others play better but it doesn’t say much for Ishant / Sreesanth’s spirit or their maturity. It is ridiculous to blame the bowling coach for the shortcomings of the bowlers ; at some point , the bowlers have to take responsibility for their own performance.
There was an interesting sub-plot to the match , namely the reaction of the South African players to Tendulkar’s century. When Sachin reached three figures , Kallis reportedly did not clap . Later , in his post -match comments , Graeme Smith questioned Tendulkar’s tactics on the last day in not shielding the tailenders from the strike . After the fourth day’s play , India needed 30 runs to avoid an innings defeat with Tendulkar and Sreesanth batting, and only Unadkat still to come . Tendulkar apparently did not make an effort to monopolize the strike and Sreesanth and Unadkat were soon dismissed . Tendulkar fans will point out that there was no hope of saving the Test and trying to shield the tailenders would only have delayed the inevitable .Tendulkar’s critics will retort that at least he should have tried to avoid the innings defeat and besides , whatever happened to fighting till the last ball ? Throughout his career , Tendulkar has been dogged by the criticism that he plays first for himself and second for India . Unfortunately , this incident is only going to give ammunition to those critics . Graeme Smith’s comments may be justified but Kallis ‘s action was ill-advised. I have the greatest respect for Kallis , a world-class all-rounder and a consummate team player , but not clapping for Tendulkar’s century was bush league.
Even after such a one-sided loss , teams have managed to come all the way back and register a win. Australia have shown that it can be done after their amazing come back in the Ashes . After the manner in which they lost the first test , I don’t think anybody gave them any chance of winning a single game . The team was in disarray , the selectors were panicking and the fans were howling for Ricky Ponting’s scalp. The way in which the Aussies roared back in the second Test has been little short of remarkable and their resilience and fighting spirit cannot be praised enough. I hope that the Indian side is able to reach deep down within itself and come up with a similar effort. This fan is not going to give upon them just yet but I must admit that my pre-series prediction of 1-1 is beginning to look more like wishful thinking than a realistic assessment.