It was ‘cape of good hope’ for India

It was a fitting end to a series which was billed to be exciting and hard fought. Definitely it was hard fought and contained very exciting cricket, though South Africa must be disappointed as they continue to search for a series win at home since 2008, when they trounced Bangladesh.

The pitch at Cape Town defied all odds and even with the hot conditions, it didn’t deteriorate as much as Smith expected. The South Africans anticipated that their pace attack which caused India immense problems in the first innings will come good in the second too but some dogged batting and surprisingly settled fifth day pitch barring a few moments of anxiety saw the Indians through safely and to a series draw and of course the retention of the top spot in the Test rankings.

Dhoni the Indian skipper was upbeat as he said “it was a fascinating series which could have been different had we got that extra wicket either on day one of the first test or on the fourth day of the last test“It eluded us and we had to settle for a drawn series “But it is a good feeling to end a test series unscathed.”

Graeme Smith’s thought were different “I expected more from the pitch on day five after the swing we had on the first three days”.

I believe the comments of the two skipper’s sums up the standing of the respective camps, with the disappointment in the home camp being apparent. Despite the series being leveled I am sure that the South Africans always held the upper hand over all. The statistics of the respective teams seems to suggest the gulf. Kallis was the stand out batsman with almost five hundred runs at a staggering average of one hundred and sixty six runs per innings whilst there were three others who had averages over forty for the home team. In the bowling Steyn and Morkel accounted for a combined thirty six wickets at very decent average whilst the pace trio of the South Africans had an over all 43 Indian scalps!

For the Indians it was once again the evergreen Sachin Tendulkar who topped the batting with three hundred plus runs at eighty one followed by Gambhir who played just two tests scoring two hundred and forty plus at sixty which included his match saving knock in the second innings of the last test. Whilst Laxman and Dhoni had decent averages in the mid thirties the disappointing feature of Indian batting was the loss of form of Sehwag and of course Dravid and Raina.

Kallis proved that he belongs to a superior brand of cricketers in world cricket history.

Dravid in particular who had a wretched series with an average of just twenty and a best score of forty three seem to confirm to his critics that his best days are behind him and India needs to find a suitable replacement to bat at the vital three. Out of the young players on tour Raina after just one game was dispensed with as it appeared he was struggling with the short ball whilst Pujara had just thirty one runs in three visits to the crease which should also be a concern to the Indians.

The bowling however held out greater promise for India. Whilst Zaheer and Harbhajan confirmed their status as top bowlers in world cricket the reemergence of Sreesanth with his consistency and aggression appears to have given India some hope as Ishant Sharma’s lack of form has plagued him even in South Africa.

Even as the over all series result is bound to satisfy the average Indian cricket fan, it is clear that there will have to be plenty of planning ahead for the world champions. To begin with it is clear that the old brigade will have to be phased out with Dravid appearing to be on top of the causality list. One also wonders as to how long the likes of Tendulkar and Laxman could prop the middle order as their extended stay could be viewed as a detriment in the over all scheme of things as in the case of what happened to Australia! Whilst teams would want to retain their players if in good form, despite being above the accepted cricketing age forgetting the fact that young players with promise and potential will be lost.

Hence the selectors at most times are expected to phase out senior players and create the correct blend of youth and experience. The issue with the Indian batting currently is the lack of real youth and openings in the line up have to be created to ensure that they are not lost. In order to do so the senior brigade will have to be carefully moved out ensuring that the balance remains.

However for the moment the focus will be on the T20 and the five ODI games beginning on the 9th January and ending on the 23rd January. Though the result of the test series was important to both sides and as it is now done and dusted, the flexing of muscles in the shorter version could be an indication of things to come in the ultimate cricketing event, which is of course, is the World cup. The Indians will want to maintain their confidence as the co hosts whilst the Proteas will be looking to ask all the questions to create doubt and confusion in the Indian build up. This once again points to another enthralling battle. Sit back and enjoy the action!

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

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