A great win for India. After being thrashed in the ODI series India came back strongly to win the first test. On the eve of the second Test which promises a key contest, here are a few key thoughts from the first Test.
- Almost all of India’s batsmen (barring Jaffer) displayed shades of their class. Barring Laxman’s 73 and Dada’s 51 none of the others could extend their starts to make a big score. But the positive sign was that all the key players did well enough to show that they are in the right form to make big scores in the remaining tests.
- India’s bowlers despite a strong show in first innings, struggled quite a bit in the second. Offered 7-2 fields all three of India’s pacers strayed down the leg side quite often. In low scoring games this can make a huge difference. Prince and Pollock appeared so much in control at one time and but for Pollock’s wild swing at Kumble the match could have been a lot closer.
- SA didn’t just get their bowling right in this Test. To compound matters, they lost Dale to an injury half way through. The same could very easily happen to India in the second Test! (especially if a half fit Munaf returns the side!). India could end up missing a fifth bowler though the they pulled off a famous victory in the first Test with just four bowlers.
- Sreesanth’s six of Nel and his jiggle that followed underscored his aggressive nature. His well deserved MoM award hopefully does not make him over confident. For someone who is so early in his career, he has shown alarming non-cricketing changes in a very short time. Strange outfits like a black full sleeve in-shirt, colored hair, repeatedly gesturing with the cross-sign (despite being a Hindu), all kinds of threads and necklaces, self chatter on the way back to him run up, to name a few (wonder how much of this was around before he hit the national stage). It would help him and his team cause if he focused more on his game and less on playing to the cameras. He needn’t look far. His co-seamers Zaheer and Irfan were not long ago walking down the modeling ramp before they saw their cricketing fortunes slump.
- VRV brings back memories of Javagal Srinath in his early days. Fast and bangs the ball in hard, but seldom pitches far enough to trouble the batsman. When he does pitch up its usually over pitched. VRV could benefit by watching Javagal in action on the NZ tour (one of his last tours) to discover the right length. Meanwhile, bringing back Munaf would be a useful move provided he can last the Test match without an injury.
- India could use a left hander in the top order just as SA could use a left arm seamer to add some variety to the 5 man right arm pace attack. Opening with Gambhir in place of Jaffer might be a good bet to unsettle SA, which seems all set to go in with 5-man right arm pace attack. If Pathan’s bowling form was any better, he might have been a worthy wild card experiment to open the batting with Viru and serve as the fifth bowler. However, at this point it appears that a defeat in the second Test might be required before India goes down this path even with Gambhir.
- This Test saw the return of former discards, Dada and Zaheer. Hats off to Dada for applying himself and fighting his way back. A couple more innings will be required to firm up his return. Two back to back defeats could still dramatically change his fortunes. But for now, the Prince of Kolkata deserves a big salute for his show in the first Test. He certainly showed more grit and skill than most people anticipated.
- India meanwhile sent Pathan home to play Ranji cricket. Its a great move. If Viru fails to make a big score this series, he could benefit from a similar exercise. A break from International cricket when out of form can be the best for both the team and the player himself as proven in the case of Dada and Zaheer. Its a pity that Viru wasn’t given a break especially in ODIs where his form over the last three years has been highly questionable.