The plum is on offer

If the Ashes has a tradition and is the ultimate for an Australian or an Englishman in a cricket sense, the India vs South Africa series has no tradition to boast of, yet it could be termed as big or a bigger series! After all it’s the battle between the two best teams in Test Cricket if the rankings are a yard stick to go by. India is currently the top test team with 129 points with the South Africans in second place with 116 points.

However the Indians will have a lot to prove, as to whether they are actually the undisputed number one test team in the world considering the fact that they are yet to win a test series in South Africa with the closest being in 2006/07 under Rahul Dravid. In that series the Indians won the first test convincingly only to loose the next two games and the series two matches to one!

The South Africans too on their part haven’t defeated the Indians in India in a series and hence it evens out though one could have an argument to state that the best team has to be the best every where and not only in specific places. Indians will have that in the back of their mind as they venture out to the series.

The Indian opening attack then was Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan, who combined to bowl India to their first and only victory in that country. Whilst both players are in the squad Zaheer Khan is plagued by injury and it will be a point of interest whether he could be as deadly as he was three years ago. Sreesanth too has been troubled by injury and had been out of the Indian line up for a while and has just made his way back. Despite these setbacks the Indian pace attack will have the cutting edge in pace in the form of the youngster Ishant Sharma who is able to bowl at good speeds. Yet what India will be yearning for will be penetration at a regular rate.

The South African pace attack on the other hand will be a new look one from 2006/07. Dale Steyn and Mornie Morkel backed by the relatively new Tsotsobe could be termed menacing. At least Steyn and Morkel could be termed as the best new ball pair in the world at present as they have pace and bounce along with wicket taking ability! Graeme Smith the South African captain speaking to the media on the eve of the first test said that Steyn today could be termed as the best fast bowler in the world. “He Steyn has the pace and bounce and above all is very accurate and there is no let up for the batsmen” definitely a big statement and one which confirms the confidence the skipper has in his pace ace!

South Africa's Dale Steyn appeals unsuccessfully for the wicket of India's Gautam Gambhir on the first day of the first cricket test match in Pretoria, December 16, 2010. REUTERS

In the spin department the Indian pair of Harbhajan and Ojha are definitely the superior combination to Harris and Botha, though the South Africans are bound to bank on pace. What is evenly matched however is the batting though the Indian line up has the right blend with experience and flair. South Africans have Smith, Petersen, Kallis, De Villiers, Amla and Prince who have been very reliable and scored plenty of runs. On the other hand the Indian line up is Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni.

Possibly the most experienced six batsmen in the top seven in the world. Whilst I am tempted to state that the batting looked evenly matched the contest is bound to be between the South African pacemen and Indian batting. A mouth watering contest if there was one! One team playing for its position and pride and the other trying to avenge the defeat after the last contest and also looking to grab the top spot! Smith the South African captain confirmed this thinking when he said “It is going to be a tough series. This Indian side is easily the best I have faced at home”. Will it really be a close affair or will one side walk over the other? Let’s wait and see.

Well-done Sri Lanka Cricket and Carlton Bernadus!

Sri Lanka Cricket should be richly congratulated for their great gesture of finding sponsors for the Tier A clubs for the forth coming season. At a time when finances have become very hard for most clubs the effort of SLC to find a sponsor for each of the top eleven clubs should be commended and every member, player and official of clubs are grateful for this as it is the first of its kind. Mr. D.S. De Silva and his Interim Committee should e appreciated for this gesture as not since the days of Mr. Jayantha Dharmadasa and K. Mathivanan’s has a club benefitted so much. The Dharmadasa administration did give the clubs bowling machines and also contracted players of clubs and offered remuneration to coaches, trainers and managers which was a significant step and an excellent decision to uplift club cricket. The decision of the Current Interim Committee happens to come after a period where the clubs were deprived of their privileges. Hence all clubs say thank you to the SLC as this will be a huge boon to all Tier A clubs.

Carlton Bernadus the newly recruited School Cricket development Manager too has got off his mark in a positive manner. Bernadus a highly experienced administrator and an official with experience in both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh should be congratulated for his decision to support and regularize the activities of the numerous cricket academies in Sri Lanka. These academies do a silent service by training very young kids and youth and sometimes work with minimum facilities. Supporting such trade schools with equipment and technical help will definitely ensure that the finished product will be of a good standard. This was a long felt need which has been noticed and actioned by Bernadus. We say this is a step in the right direction.

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

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