Indians still top dogs in Test cricket
Indian cricketers led cleverly by wicket keeper batsman Mahendra Singh
Dhoni did magnificently to retain their top spot in Test Cricket with an
innings and 57 win against South Africa in the Second Test that finished
at Eden Gardens in Calcutta on Thursday.
In the First of Two Test series, South Africa slapped an innings
defeat on the Indians and when the teams took the field for this Test,
the stage was set for a Test that was going to be a make or break one
It was vital for the Indians to win this one and jump top of the
rankings. As for Greame Smith’s South Africans they had to draw or win
this game to grab the top slot. But as fate had decreed, the cricket
gods looked benignly on the Indians and in giving them an innings
victory, also made them sit proudly at the top of the rankings which is
the bottom line of any Test cricket playing nation.
Often asked question
Before going on to further comment on this series we would like to
fire the often asked question on those who matter - what is the big deal
in playing just Two Test matches? This question becomes all the more
important because this series was going to decide as to was going to be
top of the Test rankings.
To decide on the Test ranking after just Two Test series and each
team winning one is not a fair indication of the team’s prowess and
their worth in winning the championship crown.
As it proved, this Two Test series becomes a joke when each team wins
a match. It is not too later for the cricketing authorities to rethink
Two Tests and play a minimum of Three Tests.
Having said that, we move on to the Final Test which finally turned
out to be a nail biter. With just thirteen minutes to for the curtain to
come down on the Test, which if it had ended in a draw would have had
the South Africans jubilating.
Plumb in front
But a top spinner from ‘Turbanator’ Harbhajan Singh proved cruel for
the visitors catching last man Morne Morkel plumb in front thus breaking
the hearts of the team and their supporters who would have been glued to
their radios and TV sets at home. It cannot be helped because that is
how sport goes.
Umpire Steve Davis held his nerve to raise the dreaded finger which
nailed the South African coffin and made the Indians do the war dance
and celebrate a victory that at one stage looked elusive with Hashim
Amla and Mokel defending doggedly. TV replays showed that Davis made the
With this victory which perched them on the top of the Test rankings
the Indians also pocketed a money bag of $175,000 that is given to the
team that tops the ICC rankings at the annual cut-off date of April 1.
What caused the South Africans to capitulate in this deciding Test
was their shameless collapse after being well set on 218 for two wickets
with Hasim Amla and A. Pietersen hitting centuries.
Fell to pieces
But from there onwards the batting fell to pieces (296 all out) and
with that they suddenly found themselves in the deep end with the
Indians rattling up a massive 643 for seven with Sachin Tendulkar,
Virender Sehwag, Singh Dhoni and V. Laxman smashing centuries, the South
African had to sink or swim in a swamp of their on making when they took
The South Africans began their second dig confidently and with the
man of the match and series Hashim Amla again playing a dream innings,
supported determinedly by their frontline batsmen, it looked as though
the South Africans would swim ashore. But they choked with 13 minutes to
go and with it shattered their dream of ascending the Test ranking
throne. Anyway the Indians and the South Africans played the game in the
true spirit and above all making it an exciting one which saw the
cricket mad Indian supporters flocking to Eden Gardens to savour the
It is cricket played in excitement such as this that could lead to
Test cricket revival and bring the spectators flocking back instead of
flocking to cricket like the 50-over and Twenty20 that is meaningless
other than for bringing in the filthy lucre with winning by or hook or
by crook being the bottom line.
Soccerites hit back strongly
The Sri Lankan footballers who disappointed against Myanmar and
Tajikistan, showed their true capabilities by bashing the SAF Games
champions Bangladesh 3-0 at the AFC Challenge Cup at the Sugathadasa
Stadium on Saturday.
I watched the three games that the Lankans featured from the stands.
It was a learning experience because there is more inside information
available in the stands and much one could learn from former footballers
who gather there. Where the Lankans went wrong in the first game was
that they lost Imtiaz Raheem within the first twenty minutes of the game
against Myanmar. An insensible act by Raheem saw him get the red card
and from that moment everything went wrong for them.
Game plans and how they were going to front up to their opponents and
what tactics to showcase went up in smoke, because the homesters were
reduced to 10 men. When that happens there is little the team can do but
become apprehensive and all they can do is fall back in defence. From
that point attack is out of the question. That they lost 4-nil was not
Losing a player of Raheem’s caliber was too much to bear and his loss
was noticed in the second game against Tajikistan where they lost
three-nil. But the final victory against Bangladesh saved the blushes
for the players, the coaches and the officials. Now they must take it
Coming from the school that was renowned for football where the only
Brazilian trained coach Albert Fernando worked magic with his young
footballers and ruled the school soccer scene in the 1950s and ‘60s, I
know the trouble and the pressure that coaches and officials work to get
the players to hit the net.
I was very close to Fernando in later years and I know. I have
followed the game for the last 40 years. G.A.K. Abeyesekera the senior
statesman in football today will vouch for this. There is nothing that
Abeysekera does not know in the history of the game that is worth
knowing. During his time he was impregnable between the posts. The final
victory by the Lankans again proved that adage that a game is not won or
lost till the final ball is bowled or players, coaches and officials
should not be written off till a tournament is over.