India take on South Africa (RSA) in a 2-Test series starting today (6 Feb 2010). It is a battle between #1 and #2 sides in the ICC Test rankngs. Having said that, in my view, the ranking system cannot really be that good if it rewards a team that has never won a series in Australia or South Africa! Nevertheless, thems the breaks. India did not construct the ranking system!
The fact is that, starting today, the 1st ranked Test team takes on the 2nd ranked Test team in what will be a cracker of a contest. I can’t wait. Bring it on!
In my view, if India come out of this with a win or a draw (a) it will be a minor miracle, (b) I will start to accept this team as a “good” if not “terrific” team, (c) the team will have secured help from spin-friendly pitches.
I have absolutely no problems with spin-friendly pitches in India. Let me state my position on this VERY clearly. The day I see/hear/read Ian Chappell and Mikey Arthur complain that Perth and Durban are too bouncy and offer their home teams undue advantage, I might consider writing an article bemoaning spin-heavy conditions in Chennai or Kolkata. You don’t expect to go to San Fransisco and whine that the city does not have the Taj Mahal! Similarly, Indian pitches afford spin. Night follows day!
Considering the fact India is without Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh (possibly) Laxman and Sreesanth, India are behind the eight-ball against a full strength opposition that is itching to claim #1. Given this I am doubly sure that India should offer the kinds of pitches that the local soil and environment offers and should NOT “doctor” pitches to offer unnatural conditions.
M. S. Dhoni is yet to lose a Test as India captain. I will not be surprised if he blemishes his copy book in this series against a hungry opposition. The loss of Dravid, Yuvraj and, possibly, Laxman will be a blow. While their “replacements” will, no doubt, be tough competitors, the real blow is likely to be to the mental approach of the rest of the batsmen. If Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar and Dhoni, the mainstay Indian batsmen, adopt an early-90s Indian batsmens’ mental attitude, then India will, I believe, be cooked in this series. India needs the above four to play with clear minds.
The batting replacements for Dravid, Laxman and Yuvraj Singh are good, but untested at this level. It is a perfect opportunity for Badrinath, Vijay and Rohit Sharma to announce their names on a big world stage. I do not mind this bapism one bit. As I said earlier, this to me is a test of Indias recent strides as much as anything else. These stores have been impressive. This test will reveal if luck played a bigger role than warranted.
South Africa has problems too. They are without a full time coach and a selection committee. Even so, I’d rather have their problems than have 4 key players on the injury list. The real problem for South Africa, in my view, are (a) the forms of Ashwell Prince and Duminy, (b) ability to take on quality spin, (c) the form or Paul Harris.
The above problems are, in my view, smaller than those that India faces.
So I expect a tough, gripping and exciting cricket. I think South Africa might win unless India prepares spinning pitches.