A very very special Indian outfit

India is no more the poor travellers as they were known in the past, thanks to their victory in the second test at Kingsmead Durban. It was an outstanding effort after being bowled out for just 205 in the first innings to come back and win the game by 87 runs.

The current position of the series is the type of dream everybody wakes up to and especially the TV networks always hope for! The series locked at one all, and all to play at Newlands in Cape Town where India hasn’t won a test match.

Interestingly the South Africans have enjoyed a brilliant run at this venue since their re-admission in 1992 loosing just two test matches to Australia during their prime and winning most of the other games and drawing the rest.

India on the other hand has played three games and lost two and drawn the other. As such the historical scales are tilted heavily in favour of the home team going in to the decider. Fascinatingly Kingsmead too didn’t boost of a favourable record for India. After three games before the last test India had lost two and drawn the other recording one of their worst defeats of over three hundred runs in the process.

So none of the grounds in contention be it for the second test or the up coming third test on the 2nd January has been India’s favourites to play. In that backdrop the winning of the second test defying all odds confirms India’s stature as one of the best in the business at present. The question is will they be able to reconfirm their status as the number one team in Test Cricket in the present day. This only time will tell.

VVS Laxman is gradually taking over as the Indian rock

Back to the second test and what an innings it was from Laxman! In a match where nobody else made a half century Laxman’s effort has to be counted as very very special as he is fondly known. Watching his innings on TV one got the impression that he is very much in the makings of a good vine.

hey say spinners mature with age but then what about Laxman? In his 37th year and after 119 test matches the Hyderabad right hander is still going strong. A test average of forty seven plus and a first class average of fifty plus makes him such a vital cog in the Indian wheel.

Don’t forget that the current Indian batting is one of the strongest in the world and that includes Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid and Dhoni plus Laxman in the top seven. To outshine them in a tight situation seem to be a habit associated with Laxman. Sri Lanka vs India 3rd Test at the Sara stadium last year was yet another glaring example of this fact amongst many other test matches!

If Laxman was the batsman of the match that gave India the runs the fast bowling spearheaded by Zaheer Khan was the other huge factor. The Indian aggression despite not having the pace of their South African counter parts was magnificent.

Sreesanth who normally is associated with his pent up fury was mild by comparison in his behaviour though he was as menacing as one could imagine with the ball.
True the pitch had life and also enough assistance to the faster bowlers, but what mattered was the manner the Indian bowlers used it in both the South African innings.

Harbajan’s off spin had four cheap wickets in the first innings and when it mattered most and as soon as play started on day four which was the final day, the bowling was spot on with very little in terms of loose deliveries. Add to that when one of your quicks delivers an absolutely peach of a delivery to the best South African batsmen Kallis and have him dismissed as soon as play resumes, it tends to create the doubt in the minds of the rest of the batting. And that was precisely the case with the rest as one could have seen the tentativeness in the manner both De Villiers and Boucher played at deliveries which accounted for their scalps.

So what has been the secret of this Indian resurgence? After being humiliated by Alan Donald and Bret Shultz fourteen years ago, the Indian team has risen to the occasion. As Donald himself put it “They are a very confident side and they are not taking a step backwards

“Even in the first test after being made to follow on the manner they came back and fought in the second innings was ample evidence of this fact. India are a very confident and a mentally strong side” It is interesting to note that Donald who always recognized weak links acknowledging the Indian strength both mentally and cricket wise.

Despite Donald’s observations and the great team effort India won’t be over the moon about their batting and the manner they coped with Steyn and Morkel in the test match. Their weakness against the short delivery and the habit at playing at deliveries leaving the batsman was evident as a high percentage of batsmen were either caught behind or caught in the slips.

That will be an area the Indians are bound to pay plenty of attention to, as come the third test the South Africans smarting from a rare home defeat are bound hit the Indian batting with pace as they have tried to do in the series. India has shown the world that they lack nothing in the area of aggression and intimidation and as Dhoni stated “the series is nicely poised and we need to be on top of our game to make history” great expectations from the skipper and looking at the Indian camp I am sure they would want to start the new year in the way they ended it.

Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator

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