Tag Archives: India v South Africa

No joke this one

I knew the match had started, but was away in a meeting. What is going to happen in one hour, right? Nothing spectacular, I would imagine. When I got back, I went over to CricInfo to check the scores. Imagine my surprise (shock!) to see India on 56 for 8 – that’s right 56 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in the 16th over! For a brief moment, I even hoped CricInfo was trying to pull a late April fools joke on us.

Surely the pitch can’t be that bad. Will have to wait and see if India even end up crossing 3 figures. This is one match that is likely to yield a result and it won’t favour India for sure.

-Mahesh-

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India Vs RSA :: 2nd Test :: Preview

After playing out a laborious, painful and drab draw in Chennai, India and South Africa move to Ahmedabad. Of the three locations for this series, Chennai was most likely to produce a result. Now that that hope was buried I am not holding my breath, awaiting the results of the Ahmedabad and Kanpur Tests. Then again, the BCCI has pulled some surprises in the past and I for one would be most happy to be horribly surprised once again! Matches like the one we had in Chennai are bound to grind Test cricket to the ground in India, as Jamie Alter says on Cricinfo.

Sachin Tendulkar is not playing in this next Test. So that should give the team and opportunity to move Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman up the order. This would give them an opportunity to play another bowler. My bet would be on Irfan Pathan playing instead of Sachin Tendulkar. The team would then need to decide on whether or not it wanted a mildly fit and listlessly lethargic R. P. Singh or the spin option of Piyush Chawla. I’d go for the latter. Although there is grass on the pitch, the Motera track has assisted spinners on days 3-5 of Test matches.

This would then give the following Team India: Sehwag, Jaffer, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni, Pathan, Chawla, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth

After his splendid innings at Chennai, the South Africans are wary of Virender Sehwag. They have decided to target Sehwag with short stuff aimed at his rib cage! Not a bad ploy particularly if the South Africans are able to bowl rib-cage stuff from around the wicket. After all, Sehwag has shown his ability to handle anything short and outside off-stump! South African coach, Mickey Arthur, indicated, “We had a look at Sehwag’s fantastic innings. He cuts the ball very well but we saw he played his first pull shot only after scoring 312.

It would be interesting to see how Sehwag copes with this approach.

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 2nd Day

A match that was destined for a slow death looks headed for a painful death at the end of day-2 of the Chennai Test match between India and RSA. At the end of day-2 on a flat, docile, graveyard of a pitch the South Africans had made 540 all out. In reply, India made a brisk 82 for no loss off 21 overs.

It was a hot, energy-sapping day that saw a continuation of some ill-directed bowling, bad fielding, ill-tempered admonishment between some of the Indian players, some careful batting, a solid (if not spectacular) batting display by Hashim Amla, a solid (if not spectacular) bowling display by Harbhajan Singh and a confident response from Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag. All of this on a pitch that looked less interesting and more dead than it was on day-1 — if that was at all possible!

Virender Sehwag admitted that the Indian fielding was somewhat shoddy. There were times when Kumble remonstrated openly with Laxman; Harbhajan with R. P. Singh; Harbhajan with Sree Santh; Dravid with Sreesanth… It seemed that it was open season on venting frustrations against anyone — and the younger players seemed to cop it more than the seniors!

The India bowlers toiled all day. They had to be extremely patient. It did not help that the umpires seemed to work against them too. I felt sorry for Sree Santh when what looked like a plumb LBW against Mark Boucher wasn’t given by New Zealand umpire Tony Hill. “What was he thinking? Had the heat fried his brains?” were questions that popped to my mind! Replays showed the thinnest of inside edges! Similar questions with some choice expletives popped out when Asad Rauf did not spot a glove-deflection off Paul Harris to Rahul Dravid at slips off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. The fact that Rauf did not spot the deflection or the accompanying dead give-away (batsman’s head snapping backwards to see if the catch was completed) would have left the already enervated players even more deflated and exhausted.

The South Africans batted extremely well though and battled the hot conditions as well as steady bowling from Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Hashim Amla, in particular, looked solid as a rock. Sree Santh bowled a good morning spell but fell away after that. R. P. Singh continued to bowl like a millionaire.

In reply, thanks to Sehwag’s 61-ball 50 and Jaffer’s patient 21 off 65 balls, India reached 82-0. There is still a huge total to overhaul though and it may be that India need to bat on and on and on for getting even close to manufacturing a result in this game. Either that or the Indian batsmen have to throw their wickets away in a stunning array of rash strokes. I can’t really see the bowlers doing too much on this pitch!

I give the first two sessions of the day to South Africa and the last one to India and so the SBS at the end of day-2 reads: India, 1 : South Africa, 4.

— Mohan

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 1st Day

A flat pitch, bad luck (in the context of the toss result), bad fielding, hot and humid conditions, a four-bowler policy and some good batting from the South Africans all conspired together to leave the South Africans slightly ahead at the end of day-1 of the 1st Test between India and South Africa.

Harbhajan Singh in his post-match-interview said that the Chennai pitch was, “very very flat”. One day… Some day, the BCCI will realise that pitches need to be good to retain the attraction that Test cricket has for many in this world. We live in eternal hope. Many “Pitch Committees” have come and gone. But all we are left with, as a legacy of these successive committees, is a pitch for more jobs for the boys. Former cricketers come and go, but the pitches appear to be the same. Bone dry and boring!

What we saw yesterday was a flat, dry pitch that did nothing for the bowlers. The pitch bore a stunning resemblance to the boring pitches that were prepared for the Pakistan series. This is an early call to make, but it looks very likely that we are set for yet another (yawn!) long, slow and boring series! In his article on Cricinfo, Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan argues that some of India’s best recent victories have come on sporting pitches! It amazes me then that BCCI cannot recognise this and prepare lively pitches in India too!

No doubt, this pitch will take some spin from day-3 onwards, but a look at the pitch yesterday was enough for words like dry, flat, unresponsive, boring and insipid to jump to the forefront!

It is, therefore, amazing that India chose to go into this Test match with only 4 bowlers! On a dry pitch and in hot-humid conditions, a four-bowler policy would have been terrible had India lost the toss. India did lose the toss and it was, indeed, terrible.

The pace bowlers bowled like millionaires and leaked runs! There were fours flying off the bats of Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith. Although India did reign in the rampaging South Africans in sessions 2 and 3, the early damage had been done. South Africa hit a total of forty-five fours on day-1! While the dry, sapping heat and poor fielding could account for some of those fours, I think the bowlers need to put their hands up and admit that they had a bad day at the office! A 5th bowler was called for.

After seeing the fielding-heroics in CB series in Australia, where a young Team India threw themselves around to stop any white object that flew towards them, the fielding standards in the Test team was expected to be poor. But one did not quite expect the shoddy display that we did see! Harbhajan Singh himself admitted, “I think we have given around 20-30 runs in our fielding and that makes a big difference. I hope tomorrow we put in a good performance in bowling, batting and fielding. It would have been nice to stop those 30 runs and see the scoreboard at the end on 270 for 4.” Even Yuvraj Singh, substituting for Sachin Tendulkar, cut a sorry figure on the field. It was ironic that the oldest man on the park had the most spectacular fielding moment of the day when Anil Kumble dived to his left to snatch a return catch!

I score the first two sessions to RSA and score an even third session. So, my Session-By-Session score for this Test would read India, 0 : RSA, 2. India will hope for a better day-2 in this Test match.

— Mohan

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: Preview

After a well-earned, short break, India is going to play some cricket; this time at home against South Africa.

This comes a day after Sunil Gavaskar took careful aim at England and Australia in a newspaper column of his!

The South Africans have been smart with their scheduling — they have spent the last month in Bangladesh and are possibly acclimatised. Even though the opposition wasn’t as strong as India, they should have also acquired a feel for the nature of the pitches they might encounter in India. They toured Pakistan not so long ago too. So even though the only practice game that they had (against India ‘A’) was canceled, South African Coach, Mickey Arthur, wasn’t too concerned. As a result of this confidence in the conditions, the team flew back to South Africa on 14 March for a quick refresh before heading back to the sub-continent.

Although some of their players have hit form at the right time — including Greame Smith — the team has been dogged by a colour-based-selection policy. This even saw Charl Langeveldt pull out of the tour — the player did not wish to be included just on the basis of his colour! Greame Smith, the South African captain said, “We need to find a way to deal with these issues so we can concentrate on the cricket.”

Jacques Kallis weighed in to the selection debate and called the selection-saga “frustrating”. He said it is best that “the task of choosing the side is left solely to the selectors in the future.”

Langeveldt was initially included ahead of Andre Nel to fulfill a quota obligation. This has resulted in the charismatic Andre Nel threatening to quit cricket! And now, we have the Langeveldt pull-out! No replacement has been named for Langeveldt!

Amidst this backdrop, the first Test of the three-match series starts in Chennai on Wednesday 26 March 2008.

The Indians have found themselves in a bit of controversy too, since their victorious return from Australia. This has revolved around M. S. Dhoni’s alleged seniors Vs juniors comment as well as the fitness of a few players. A few have also questioned the need to continue to invest faith in Yuvraj Singh in the Test side. Anil Kumble, Team India Test captain, put down the seniors Vs juniors issue as a pure media-play and nothing else.

The two sides, meanwhile, are evenly matched, in my view. The South Africans have done well in India in the past and although they will play against a Team India Test squad that is largely refreshed by the inclusion of a few well-rested “seniors”, this may be a closer series than many Indians would like to accept!

South Africa (possible): Graeme Smith (c), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince (vc), A. B. de Villiers, Mark Boucher (wk), Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini

Reserves: Jean-Paul Duminy, Robin Peterson, Monde Zondeki

India (possible): Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, M. S. Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth/Chawla, R. P. Singh

Reserves: Wasim Jaffer, Yuvraj Singh

While the South Africa lineup does not have too many doubts surrounding it, the Indian squad is, as always, punctuated by the opener conundrum and its corollary — the 4-bowler-policy. Anil Kumble has declared emphatically that Rahul Dravid will bat at #3. So, unless the team decides to go with only 4 bowlers — a risk in the humid and hot Chennai conditions — I do think that Pathan will open to accommodate an extra pace bowler (Sreesanth) or spinner (Chawla). The rest of the team picks itself and has, apart from Harbhajan Singh, Dhoni and Tendulkar, a “well-rested” look to it.

This will be a series which will, to me, indicate whether India now has it in them to add the word “consistent” to the adjectives that are used to describe the team. Indeed, this whole year will present an opportunity for Team India to prove that it can be consistently good at the highest level. A good result for Team India will mean that its #2 spot will be consolidated on the ICC Test Table.

— Mohan

Bring on the Proteas

Now that the Australian tour is over, we can start looking forward to cricket with another challenging team – South Africa. Here is the fixture:

  Venue Dates
1st Test Chennai Mar 26 to 30
2nd Test Ahmedabad Apr 3 to 7
3rd Test Kanpur Apr 11 to 15

 

The last test series between the two countries was a very close one that India eventually lost 1-2, but this time India have the home advantage and SA have to reckon with a team high on confidence. India also have a good mix of experience and youth to pull it off.

So, should we start speculating what the Indian team make up would be?

Openers

I think Sehwag should be an automatic choice and we shouldn’t let his ODI form affect his test chances. Jaffer and Karthik both failed in Australia, but I would imagine that Jaffer being a regular opener would get the nod ahead of Karthik. Chopra and Gambhir would probably also be in the selectors radar, while Dravid and Pathan have an outside chance of being considered as an opener.

Middle Order

Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman are probably automatic choices. Ganguly would probably get the nod too. If Dravid opens the innings, then there is an opening for Yuvraj Singh or Rohit Sharma in the middle order. Gambhir could also be considered. A lot of our readers have expressed an opinion that Badrinath should be considered. I would be very surprised if the selectors made such a bold move (although it wouldn’t be a bad one!) Dhoni will of course don the gloves and come in to bat at No.7

Bowlers

Kumble is an automatic selection and if you are playing in India, Harbhajan Singh is another automatic selection for the second spinner spot. Zaheer Khan is still injured and the other two bowling spots would probably end up going to Ishant Sharma and RP Singh. If the track does take a lot of spin, then including a 3rd spinner (Piyush Chawla) may not be a bad idea, with Pathan opening the batting and also sharing the new ball with Ishant Sharma.

So, here is the final team –

  • Sehwag
  • Jaffer/Pathan
  • Dravid
  • Tendulkar
  • Ganguly/Yuvraj Singh
  • Laxman
  • Dhoni
  • Kumble
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • RP Singh/Chawla
  • Ishant Sharma

That makes up the 14. Not much different from the team that toured Australia, but why should it be?

(I know, I know! – I will probably get a lot of flak for including Yuvraj Singh in the test team 🙂 )

-Mahesh-