Saturday, December 18, 2010

India v South Africa:Not a pretty picture

After India’s dismal showing in the 1st innings, I was sure a lot of talk over blogs would be the inability of India’s batting to perform in South Africa and the need to play some warm-up games before the so called final frontier.

But, BCCI didn’t even ask for them, which I find absurd. Many bloggers are of the view, that warm-up games are over-rated after all. I personally feel, even if it doesn’t benefit, it won’t harm for sure. Some players need time to get used to bounce and pace of the pitches and it could have been a different story with a couple of two-day or three-day games. I am not saying that if India had got some match practice before hand, India would have scored 400. But, it sure could have been better.

One can’t take away any credit from the Saffers though. They outplayed the Indians and dominated right from the start. The most awaited competition, Steyn v Sehwag didn’t last too long as the flamboyant batsmen perished to a wild shot early on. Sehwag is a player of instincts and I don’t blame him for following his instinct. To be frank, only two batsmen looked comfortable during their stay at the crease and they were the big two, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. VVS Laxman fell to a weakness that he has had since long, but hasn’t worried him at least of late. Dhoni didn’t manage to bat for long today morning as the ball kept slightly low, just like Dravid’s ball. Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn really deserve a lot of credit for bowling fast and accurate. They had plans for almost every batsmen and execution was spot on (Laxman’s wicket proves that).

With just 136 runs on board, India needed to take wickets quickly. With the sun baking over the Centurion a lot of moisture had possibly dried up. Sreesanth started the bowling and was as usual far too inconsistent. He was allowing the openers to leave a lot of deliveries and just didn’t make them play enough. He has to learn that bowling a superb ball once in a while won’t do the job against good batsmen. Pressure needs to be applied continuously, which didn’t happen. He was conceding more than 4 runs an over for a long while. I really think Sreesanth should use his brain more than his mouth. Harbhajan Singh managed to get a wicket just before lunch, though he was hardly impressive as he gave away 38 in his first six overs. It’s just not good enough if India seriously want to challenge this team. Ishant Sharma was better. He bowled a consistent line, though didn’t really pose any real threats. Having seen debutant Jaidev Unadkat bowl in U-19s, I feel he is good enough for the international side but to fill in the boots of Zaheer in such a key match is never going to be easy. Though he is way better than the third seamers (if at all you can say that, because he is as such the fourth) that we have previously taken to SA (VRV Singh last time and David Johnson before that). He was another disappointment today, but I am hopeful it was a one-off day.

At lunch my thoughts were: India must somehow manage to take quick wickets else if South Africa score 450 plus, which is likely, dare I say India will lose by an innings. The team must have surely had some plans against each of batsmen and they must bowl accordingly. There is no point to keep 3 slips for Sreesanth when he doesn’t even make the batsmen play much. In test cricket, a couple of bad sessions can totally take away the game from you and if India doesn’t fight back , even a draw might be difficult to achieve.

Now after seeing the position at stumps, I am pretty sure India will lose the match by an innings. SA have taken a big lead and as commentators often say, it will be a test of character for the Indian batsmen. In the recent past, at least one batsman has stepped up and saved the day like Gautam Gambhir did in New Zealand. However, South Africa is a different altogether particularly when Steyn-Morkel combo is on fire. India continue its age-old tradition of being bad starters in another key series. All I want from India is to take some wickets, particularly Unadkat and then the batsmen to show some character and at least make sure the match doesn’t end on day 4 itself. All four Saffer players I mentioned in my previous article have shown their flair, it's time the Indians stand up rather than buckling down under pressure.

Must add, no one quite noticed Rahul Dravid going past Brian Lara in test cricket. Maybe because he made just 14, maybe because India was in a spot off bother, maybe because RD did it, and not some flamboyant batsmen. But, it seems like nature's rule that every Dravid achievement is hardly noticed by news channels or general public.

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