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Rash cricket has probably cost us the Test already
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 19 November 2001

India seem to be hurtling towards yet another defeat at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth. A pathetic batting display in our first innings has meant that we will require a herculean effort from our batsmen in the final innings to save this Test. But knowing the team, I doubt if that will happen.

The game slipped from India's hands on the second day. With South Africa 237 for five, we needed to clean up the South African innings as early as possible. And it was not that we didn't have our chance. After Srinath dismissed Shaun Pollock, Harbhajan foxed Mark Boucher into hitting a ball up in the air. It was a dolly but Rahul Dravid in first slip made a hash of the chance. Boucher went on to make 68 and guided South Africa to 362, a very good total considering the pitch.

Herschelle Gibbs

Before I move on, a few words about Herschelle Gibbs' innings. After an explosive start, the young South African opener put his head down and played very responsibly. Gibbs' knock showed that he, a dasher by instinct both on and off the field, has finally put his callow days behind him. His precious 196 which though was not without its lucky moments, also marks him out as one of the potentially great players.

The Indians did not help their cause by starting off on the wrong foot. On a seamer-friendly track they decided to go in with just two quicks. I simply could not comprehend the rationale behind leaving out Venkatesh Prasad in conditions that would have been very favourable to him.

Venkatesh Prasad

As I said in my previous column, Prasad knows all about bowling on South African pitches. He is, to quote the record, the only Indian bowler to claim ten wickets in a Test against the Proteas, a feat he achieved during the last tour. It cannot also be his current form that is keeping him away from the side as he was our most successful bowler in the previous Test series against Sri Lanka. Add to all this the fact that Prasad and Srinath have always done well when they have bowled in tandem. Why in heaven's name then was Prasad left out?

Srinath, for his part, bowled brilliantly maintaining an almost impeccable line and length. I must confess that it was probably the finest display of controlled bowling that I have seen from him. But he lacked support from the other end. It is here that Prasad's presence would have made a crucial difference. I have but the highest regard for Anil Kumble. This was though one Test where, I felt, he should have been asked to make way for his statemate because of the pitch and the overhead conditions.

As for the Indian batting, the less said the better. With the exception of VVS Laxman, none of the others applied themselves. The rash strokes that many of them played left me squirming in my seat. Their lack of application becomes all the more glaring on considering the nature of the pitch and the class of the opposing bowling attack. All the Indians had to do was to negotiate Pollock successfully and there were runs for the taking. But three top-order batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, succumbed to the masterful bowler in his opening spell and that meant India were fighting to save their collective hide from thereon.

Shaun Pollock

Pollock, to reiterate, was outstanding. He kept the ball in the `corridor of uncertainty' and reaped handsome rewards. The South African captain, who has claimed fifteen wickets in this series until now, has almost single-handedly bowled his side to a series victory and that underlines his greatness as a bowler.

The gritty stand between Laxman and Kumble, meanwhile, showed the top- order up for their lack of effort. Laxman, who came down the order in this match, at last converted a promising start into a significant innings. It saved India the blushes and ensured that South Africa will have to set a target for the Indians in the final innings.

Now is the time for the Indians to show spunk. Only a fighting side can conjure a miracle and, if you were to ask me, barring a miracle, or rain, we are doomed.

© CricInfo

Other Articles by Krish Srikkanth



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