I watched the cricket series between India and South Africa. It’s been a while since I watched the entire series and it made for tough viewing given that India under-performed during the one day series and squandered a good start in the test series.
It’s hard to imagine that it was the same Indian team that won 12 or 13 matches in a row against strong opposition and now fails to even put up a decent fight. The bowling was pretty good at times and regularly removed the top order with few runs on the board. But the inexperience of the bowling attack was noticeable when bowling at the death where they gave a lot of runs. The Indian batting was completely another matter though. It’s hard to believe that a team having the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Dhoni and Sehwag would misfire this spectacularly. Tendulkar did have a couple of decent knocks but not the kind that would inspire the rest of the team. He looked laborious while infrequently playing a gorgeous drive or cut, and that is definitely not adequate.
After the one day series, it must have looked like the Indian team needed a minor miracle to even put up a fight in the test series. That miracle came in the form of Sreesanth who bowled spectacularly to dismiss the SA team for 84 in their first innings. His aggressive attitude combined with his ability to actually back up his words while bowling was the shot in the arm needed by the team. Ganguly too looked really good with the bat. Everyone would know about his deficient technique against the short rising ball into his body but that may not be enough to keep this batsman down. He copped a few, took a few blows on his body and was laid low by a nasty bouncer but he always came back fighting. He was fluent scoring runs at a decent pace and kept the score board ticking. Tendulkar was doing fine as well until the very last innings where his scratching and prodding innings was flagger basting. It was the right time for him to make his presence felt in the match and prove that he is a big match winner. It’s been a recent trend where the need was to keep the scoreboard ticking while playing carefully, Tendulkar inevitably comes up with a knock that completely deflates the morale of his own team and plays right into opposition's hands. This kind of approach was also noticed in the last match of the series between India and England.
If you had to pick a session that defined the India's approach to winning or losing the match, it was this session when Tendulkar and Dravid bored everyone to sleep while batting in the second innings. Its quite clear that Tendulkar may occasionally come up with a decent knock but its hard to imagine him play a defining innings like Lara (even at this stage of his career) is capable of. This is not to belittle little mater's contribution over the years but to make the management open its eyes and consider him in the larger scheme of things only if he is still the best player around to fill the slot he currently occupies. His bowling is still awe-inspiring though he is being under-used. I still wonder why he is not being considered as an all rounder when this little guy can bowl virtually everything short of sheer pace bowling.
It’s good to see Ganguly back in the team and hope he carries the same attitude forward as the world cup is nearing. Some players who really impressed during the tour were Dhoni (though he was not matching his own high standards but still performed considerably better than others), Karthik, Sreesanth, Zaheer khan and of course Ganguly. Its high time players like Tendulkar step and provide the kind of impetus and performances that players of their stature should.