Africa was impressive
The Sri Lankan leg of ODI’s did not push the Indians to the
limit. They got off to a good start and remained on a roll. The
islanders could not string together consistent performances throughout
a game to stay in contention or stage a comeback.
the opening game the toss had a bearing in the other four day games
when the Sri Lankans were on tour. That is to be expected because
the games commenced at 9.00 a.m. due to light fading early during
this part of the year. However, in the South African series the
ball seamed around even with a mid-afternoon start. To add to the
woes of the team batting first, the dew would set in and make it
difficult to grip the ball when it came to their turn to bowl.
was a no-win situation if you lost the toss. So it happened –
a one hundred percent record – the team winning the toss won
all four games. Nobody is complaining much because the two captains
won two tosses each and the series was drawn. It is an issue that
the authorities must sit-up and take notice. My reckoning is that
sixty per cent or more games are being decided by the toss when
two teams of nearly equal strength contest each other.
On paper the South Africans did not seem to have the power to challenge
the Indians. They had no player even close to international standards
when it came to spin bowling. Succeeding without spin in any form
of cricket, in India, is a near impossibility.
as when the Sri Lankans who played the pitches were not big turners,
the top surface did not break up and batsmen did not have to be
wary of facing the spinners most of the time. Maybe those were the
instructions dished out to the groundsmen – make pitches that
last the distance. It is a move in the right direction.
Africa’s strengths are their top order batsmen and the fast
medium pace bowlers. They had to come good in those two departments
and field exceptionally well to succeed in Indian conditions.
from their success at home against the New Zealanders Smith’s
team were a confident outfit. They were minus two certainties, with
Herschelle Gibbs and Niky Boje opting out of the tour. At most times
their batting clicked. On the two occasions they batted first, they
did not succumb without a fight.
best effort came in Kolkota. Perhaps they got most support in that
venue too! The home town of the discarded Sourav Gangully, did not
prove to be a happy hunting venue for the home team.On that day
the South African Captain Graeme Smith dominated totally. India’s
total to 188 was made to look meager as Smith and Hall shared an
undefeated opening stand and gave the visitors a ten wicket win
and a lead in the series.
also won comfortably with 14.1 overs to spare. Smith’s effort
was perhaps the best batting performance in the series. It took
the wind out of the Indian bowlers completely. In the final game
India batting second bounced back. The seam bowlers of both teams
bowled well when they had conditions in their favour. They capitalized
when it mattered. Both teams displayed improved playing strength
and reserve strength too.
South Africa to draw the series two games each was creditable. They
must be pleased with that result. The momentum gained by the Indians
was checked. That is what cricket at the highest level is all about.
The South Africans tour Australia next. They play three test matches
and the triangular series against Sri Lanka. To raise the bar is
a must for them to succeed “down under”.
Sri Lankans who hit rock bottom have had some time to recover. They
too have to raise the bar to push the in form Indians on home conditions.
They must put the recent past behind and start afresh believing
in their ability.