After being embarassed in the First Test at Centurion , India clawed their way back to tie the series in Durban. In Australia , England sandwiched two decisive victories around an Aussie win . Have there ever been two such series played simultaneously in which fortunes swung so dramatically ? I can’t think of any. The big difference between them is that while India – South Africa have set up a tantalizing decider in Capetown , the contest for the Ashes is over . The best that Australia can hope for is to salvage a measure of self-respect in the remaining Test . Even that is going to be an uphill struggle ; so comprehensively were they defeated at Melbourne.
At the end of the first day’s play in Durban , with India 183 for 6 , it looked like it was going to be a repeat of the first Test debacle . Steyn was bowling at his hostile best and. on a green pitch, none of the Indian batsmen lasted very long. What followed could not have been predicted even by the most fervent Indian supporter as fortunes fluctuated as first one side , then the other, looked poised for a win. The result was in doubt until the morning of the fourth ( and last day) when Kallis tried to avoid a sharply rearing ball from Sreesanth only to have it glance off his glove to Sehwag.
Enough has been written about Laxman’s heroics and Zaheer Khan’s inspired bowling and I don’t want to rehash those topics here.I do want to comment on some of the other aspects of India’s win .
While the efforts of India’s bowlers are to be lauded , the Indian fielding should also be given its due. Dravid , Pujara and Harbhajan took three stunning catches which, along with the fortuitous runout of Kallis by Ishant Sharma, enabled the bowlers to dismiss SA for a first innings total of only 131. It seems strange to praise the Indian fielding which has so often been a weak point. I hope that this is the start of a new era. A couple of days ago , Dravid was interviewed by Cricinfo on the occasion of his record-setting 200th catch in Test matches ( a record that, I think, will be even more difficult to break than Sachin’s 50 centuries). The article detailed the hard work and dedication that Dravid put into his fielding and I hope it is made required reading for all Indian Test aspirants.
I am still in a state of shock over SA being dismissed cheaply, not once but twice, in this Test. Granted the Indian bowling was tight and took full advantage of the conditions. Still the SA line-up headed by Graeme Smith , Petersen , Amla , Kallis , De Villiers and Prince is imposing. I’m inclined to agree with Smith’s post-match comments in which he said “…we haven’t played to our ability.” I expect a much better performance from the Proteas batsmen in the final Test at Capetown.
I also hope to see a better performance from the Indian batsmen . In the first innings at Durban , when the pitch was at its liveliest , every Indian batsman got into double figures but failed to convert . I hope that this means they are getting used to facing Steyn and Co. Dravid may be in wretched form but Sehwag is due for a big innings and if that happens , look out ! The Newlands pitch is supposed to more batsman friendly than the pitches for the first two Tests and we could be in for a high scoring contest.
Quick … who’s been the most consistent Indian batsman ? Sehwag ? Nope. Tendulkar ? Nope. Laxman ? Nope .It’s Dhoni who has scored 33, 90, 35 and 21 in his four outings , a performance that seems to have gone unnoticed. It annoys me how Indian fans are constantly criticizing him for his batting style ( or lack thereof ) , for his wicketkeeping and for his alleged lack of smarts as a captain. ( Who are these guys ? ).During the Durban Test , one fan even got on Dhoni’s case for not sending in a night watchman towards the end of the third day’s play. Why don’t these chaps realize that Dhoni is one of the best things that has happened to Indian cricket in the last few years ? He is a large part of India’s success since 2008 and that rarity , one who thinks of the team first and foremost. Any side in the world would be glad to have him. The only thing I have against Dhoni is his miserable run of luck with the toss .
Memo to Dhoni : Dude , you’ve lost the toss – what – eight times in a row. Do something about it . Forget about the Law Of Averages.It’s time to take action. Send Sehwag out for the toss in Capetown.
Pujara , by the way , seems to have displaced Suresh Raina from the Indian Test side. Though he didn’t score very much, he provided stout resistance in both innings and fielded very well. It’s only right. Raina has had several opportunities but has failed to come good . He seems more suited for the T20 and ODI formats.
The only change I foresee in the Indian side for the third test is Gambhir reclaiming his opening slot from M.Vijay, if he has recovered from his hand injury. I wonder if the SA selectors will bring in Wayne Parnell for Tsotsobe . The latter may have been wayward in his bowling but he did claim a total of 5 wickets in the two innings.It’s a tough call.
I don’t understand why India , or rather the BCCI, is so adamantly opposed to the use of the UDRS. When there is proven technology that can help the umpires with the close decisions, why not use it ? Wrong decisions can go both ways so I don’t see any advantage to the BCCI’s stance. Is it just their sheer bloody -mindedness ? I hope the international body lives up to its responsibilities and mandates the use of the UDRS for all international matches.
India’s performance in Durban should give them renewed confidence for the Capetown Test.The low key responses by Dhoni and his men after their win augur well for India but I’ve been disappointed before. A win would be nice but a long as India play to an even draw I will be happy .
Aaah ,…who am I kidding ? GO INDIA !!