Why India will do well in South Africa

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 19, 2013 10:32 hrs
​Team India

"Can’t bat, cant bowl, can’t field" was how one acerbic writer summed up the shoddy showing of a side that had been thoroughly outplayed some years ago. One is tempted to write in the same dismissive tone about the non-performance of the West Indies team in the just concluded two Test series in India.  

Even as the tourists arrived in the country it was taken for granted that they faced a Herculean task. It didn’t matter one bit that they had a record of six straight victories coming into the series as the wins were against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and New Zealand.

More to the point they were ranked well below India which as the home team was always going to be formidable. Moreover since the days when West Indian cricket had fallen on hard times they had lost four and drawn two of the previous six Tests in India. 

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The visitors seemed to lack the firepower in both batting and bowling and going by their recent record in India they were written off as no hopers even if the batting with Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul around seemed capable of putting up a semblance of defiance.

But none could have bargained for what happened at Kolkata and Mumbai.

Losing both Tests by an innings and within three days was the kind of dismal showing that will have the West Indian cricket followers tearing up their hair in despair. Touring teams have quite often fared badly in India and none more so than the Sri Lankans in early 1994 who lost every match of the three Test series by an innings.

But they took each of the games to the fourth day. Had there been a third Test this time around it is certain that the West Indies would have fared worse than India’s opponents almost 20 years ago.

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West Indian teams at the best of times have been known to give up all too quickly then things are not going well for them.

Darren Sammy’s squad lived up to this dubious reputation. In each of the two matches they were outplayed very early and thereafter there was no fight at all in the ranks. However admirably the Indians – particularly the new stars - performed – it was largely the woeful display of the visitors that resulted in the lop-sided result.

Certainly Sachin Tendulkar deserved a better farewell series the only consolation being that India emerged winners but then there was never any doubt on this count.

At the end of it all Sammy could only express his disappointment. ``We just didn’t turn up’’ said the West Indian captain and he could not have summed it up more succinctly.

As he admitted coming here proved to be a lesson since it exposed the West Indians and taught them as to how far behind they were behind the leading teams. Sometimes even in a one sided series there are moments to savour for the losers but when a team goes down as tamely as the West Indies did they probably had just one crumb of comfort in the bowling of Shane Shillingford. 

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The 30-year-old off spinner had five wicket hauls in both matches raising his successive tally of such hauls to a remarkable five.

The victory pushed India up to No 2 in the ICC rankings displacing England and while on the face of it there should be little joy at the end of such a hopelessly lop sided series the most heartening aspect was that the win was largely shaped by two rookies Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami.

It might seem incongruous to speak of Rohit in rookie terms but the fact remained that he was making his Test debut after 108 ODIs and made an immediate impact. This was not surprising for those who have followed his career closely for he has always been a Test prospect.

His arrival on the big stage could not have better timed for with the retirement of Tendulkar Rohit fits nicely into the scheme of things at No 5 with Virat Kohli taking the master’s place at No 4 and Ajinkya Rahane coming in at No 6.  

Shami’s emergence meant there was now another young new ball bowler in addition to the others around and suddenly there seems to be a lot of options for the selectors as they sit down to name the squad for South Africa.

There is already an embarrassment of riches as far as the spin department is concerned and Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in turn had their share of the spoils – one becoming the fastest to 100 wickets in Tests for an Indian bowler and the other taking his maiden ten wicket haul.

Ashwin also took another step towards becoming a genuine all rounder with his second hundred in Tests.

The cynics might say that there was not much merit in winning easily against a side several notches below India in the rankings and come up with their usual chant ``wait till they play in South Africa.’’ 

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But the fact remains that the Indians displayed the ability to go in for the kill when they knew they could win in double quick time. This is a settled, balanced and new look Indian team and the youngsters are not the kind to be overawed by reputations. I will stick my neck out and predict that India will do well in the two Tests in South Africa next month.  

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