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Posted on | February 20, 2010 | 2 Comments
What a great come back by India in Kolkata and it reinforced what I said a week ago that they needed the mature, experienced players to stand up and be counted under pressure.
Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni all made hundreds and Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan took the wickets. When India are at their best they are as good as anybody in the world and saying that begs the question, if they are number one in the world why are they playing so little Test cricket?
While their best players are at the zenith of their careers they ought to be making it count by playing as much Test cricket as possible and maybe the players should be imploring the BCCI to give them more Tests over the next couple of years.
It’s nice to be top of the tree and they have nothing to fear from England, South Africa or the Australians, so wouldn’t it be great to play these teams home and away and then India could proudly say we are indisputably number one.
A two Test series is an unsatisfactory way to settle who is the best and a third game here would have captured the imagination of all cricket lovers the world over, not just in India and South Africa; people would have been queuing up to see a fantastic decider and after two wonderful matches we were all left a bit up in the air.
South Africa have only themselves to blame for a heavy defeat because they made serious maistakes before and during the match. The biggest of these was not sending for a specialist wicketkeeper to replace Mark Boucher.
They knew he had a back problem and his stand in, A B de Villiers, has not kept in the longer form of the game for years. He’s done a bit in one-day matches when the pitches are flat and the ball hardly turns but, I’m sorry, it’s a far cry from standing up in a Test match in India where the ball spins and bounces irregularly and any temporary or occasional ‘keeper is going to get caught out.
It wouldn’t have taken much effort to get a replacement with regular flights from Johannesberg to Mumbai and on to Kolkata taking only a day and South Africa paid a heavy price when he missed stumping Sehwag on 43 when he was two yards down the pitch. He didn’t even get the ball in his gloves. If you let a batsman like that off he’ll kill you and currently Sehwag is probably the most consistently destructive batsman in the world.
The second mistake was the bad batting in the first innings. Jacques Kallis, of all people, a classical, technically correct player of the highest class, with only ten runs to his name, tries to slog Harbhajan over mid wicket and Hashim Amla, after making a lovely well-crafted century, tries to hook Zaheer. He’s not a good hooker, never has been, and should have gone on to grind the Indian bowlers down instead of getting complacent and sloppy.
De Villiers was stupidly run out and on top of that Ashwell Prince should never have been on the tour let alone playing in the team he’s been in such a trough of bad form with only 101 runs in seven innings against England.
JP Duminy, the new wonder boy after his feats in Australia, is not in the greatest nick either with 167 in seven knocks against England and both of them are hopeless against off spin when the ball turns. On flat decks they are OK but they play the turning ball so badly it’s clear they just haven’t a clue.
Some of us who saw these two bat against Graeme Swann, the England off spinner, forecast they would be mesmerised by Harbhajan. They either hide the bat behind the pad and get given out leg before for not playing a shot or play at the ball with the bat way in front of the bad and edge to slip. If those two had gone in for a third time Harbhajan would still have bowled them out, they are such novices!
Thirdly, their catching was appalling. Normally so sharp they had a really bad time and India are a tough enough nut to crack on home turf without letting them off the hook time and again. It’s hard enough taking ten wickets but when you have to take 16 or 17 because of fielding lapses winning becomes an impossibility.
Fourthly, when the pitch turns Paul Harris and Duminy bowling against Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni is a no contest. They eat spinners for breakfast and even the great Shane Warne couldn’t take his few wickets at a cost of less than 43 runs apiece out there.
South Africa made a rod for their own back with too many mistakes and India were good enough and smart enough to make them pay.