The Real Test begins!

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.

17 responses to “The Real Test begins!

  1. What a strange decision to play WP Saha as a batsman in this match !! If was playing as Wicket Keeper I would understand. If Laxman’s injury was so serious, he should not have been in the squad.

    It is a travesty there are so many talented in-form batsmen are out there and they would have loved the chance.

  2. Srikanth Mangalam

    For once I do agree with you, gnbmdr. They have made a complete mockery of the selection process. Why on earth did they not play a fifth bowler?

  3. Also, why wouldn’t Dhoni play as a batsman and have Saha keep wickets, especially considering Dhoni’s bad back?

    As per Dhoni’s post-day interview, Rohit got injured 15 mins before the start of play indulging in football. While that is unfortunate, what was he doing playing football at that time? The only explanation I can think of is that he might have been trying to quell his debutant jitters with some activity…

    In any case, it is unfortunate…

  4. hmm, i too accept they could have gone with 5 bowlers. But the problem is the batting is weak without experienced batsmen so no risks. But Saha itself is a risk.

    And another point is that, this Selection people knew that Laxman was injured and why did they take risk with only 6 batsmen in the squad?

    And, And if they are playing overseas tour, there is a point in sending a backup Keeper but they are playing in India and why do they need a backup.

    One more thing, This is important series for India and why did they select Saha ahead of experienced Dinesh Karthik???

  5. I am almost embarassed to admit that, like Srikanth, I too agree with gnbmdr! If the team management and the concerned player felt that recovery would be almost impossible prior to 6 Feb, why did they not call for replacements ahead of time? It just goes to show that Laxman is prepared to put himself ahead of team and country! In my view he deserves a one-year ban for this immature idiocy. A team always needs a reserve batsman. If Laxman declared himself unlikely and with Yuvraj and Dravid already out, the team would have called up Vijay, Badrinath, Rohit Sharma plus a cover (Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Irfan Pathan, etc) in case of an injury to any if the other bats!

    What transpired, however, was a travesty and a terrible mis-management.

    I do not agree that Saha should have played as a ‘keeper. All he had to do was drop one catch for Dhoni effigies and his new house to be burned down! Your best ‘keeper has to ‘keep. If he is not 100% fit he should not play. Simple. Period.

    Given (a) Laxman’s unprofessionalism, (b) Rohit Sharmas unfortunate accident, (c) the teams’ lack of batting depth, the team was left with no choice but to play Saha as a batsman! It is not the first time a player from Kolkata has been a lucky selection! The other man used his luck. Let’s hope Saha does so too!

  6. Hope so this won’t happen for India in future

  7. The sad thing is this is not first time.

    IIRC, during India – Australia series, @ the Melbourne test, after the historic Adelaide victory, there was a question mark over Zaheer’s fitness and he bowled 5 (five) overs in the test match. Already it is difficult to win with 4 bowlers. and it is impossible to bowl Australia with 3 bowlers. I would blame the fitness guy for not giving a realistic report to the team, whether a player can play or not.

  8. If a sportsperson doesn’t know his/her body he/she shouldn’t be on the park! It is easy to blame the physio and I suspect that, given it is Team India, the physio, the next door neighbour, the team bus drivers’ cat and the media managers’ office tea-boy will all get the sack! What really needs to happen is that Laxman should be banned for 5 Tests for not being honest about the state of his own health. He let the team down. Last year Dhoni said he was mentally tired and wanted a break from a series in Sri Lanka. He was lampooned! Only in India is honesty a bad/needless trait. Accountability can take a back seat! Meanwhile, right now the team cooks’ cat had better be careful… 🙂

  9. I can accept to this
    But according to Laxman, a player who player about 30 days of international cricket in a year will surely think of playing more.
    He might have thought this is a small injury and didn’t want to miss the match.
    It maybe wrong, but to him poor fellow he players only test cricket and gets to play only around 5 tests in a year.

  10. Srikanth Mangalam

    Dravid, apparently, was also keen on playing this series but Srikkanth talked him out of it. I think it requires a great of deal maturity, courage, and self belief (and possibly the stature of Tendulkar or Dhoni) to speak the truth in this environment. Having said that, I am in complete agreement with you Mohan on penalizing VVS.

    I may be in the minority, but I thought the Indians bowled reasonably well and were a trifle unlucky. The way Sehwag and Gambhir started out, this game ain’t over yet…

  11. I agree Srikanth and after the Ahmedabad Test against SL, the Delhi ODI fiasco and now this Test in Nagpur, I’d like the Indian pitch committee to be in the docks with Laxman! Pitches like these will kill Test cricket.

    Having said that, there is still a mountain to climb for India. The reply has only just begun. But really, there was nothing in that pitch for the bowlers — unless of course, the RSA bowlers prove me wrong! As I said, India has it all to do.

  12. India 47 for 2. This is exact situation that needs Rahul Dravid or Laxman.

    Dravid had surgery Manipal Medical college and was recuperating till last week. No way, he could have played in this match.

    As a selector, if Dravid is not there, you want to have atleast Laxman.

    I was really curious about Yuvraj’s injury @ Bangladesh 2nd test 🙂

  13. What a spell by Steyn.

    The delivery which Vijay got in the first innings is similar to Balwindar Singh Sindhu – had Greenidge clean bowled. The difference much faster speed 140 kmph+ . Superb movement off the seam.

    The ball that got Sachin – Andy Roberts like. The previous over – same length moving in – Sachin stepped up a bit had a copy book off-drive. The next over the same length, but moving out and Sachin committed to the same host and the outside edge.

    The innocuous ball from Paul Harris seemed to climb up on Dhoni, soft dismissal.

    Doesn’t India miss Dravid and Laxman ??

  14. South Africa win! poor show by the men in blue

  15. India surely miss dravid & laxman.
    Hopes r there that laxman will be back for his favorite eden gardens.

    BY THE WAY, another good news for India as Sreesanth has recovered and will play if selected!

  16. Pingback: Questions remain as India retain #1 « i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

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