PARTAB RAMCHAND | 23 OCTOBER, 2019
The South Africans Were Little More Than Punching Bags
‘South Africans were absolutely no match for the Indians’
There is nothing more gripping than a well contested Test match – and there is nothing more insipid than a lop-sided one. And even more listless is a one-sided Test series in which one team is always calling the shots and the other is little more than a punching bag. But for the genuine cricket lover in India this has been the norm with the home team’s awesome record which saw them recently notch up a world record eleven successive series victories.
Almost 60 years after watching my first Test match I am still excited about cricket’s traditional format despite the distractions offered first by ODIs and recently by the T-20 game.To be candid I was eagerly looking forward to the South Africa – India series in spite of the fact that the visitors had inherent weaknesses following the retirement in the last couple of years of Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and AB de Villiers and the loss of several players who opted for Kolpak deals with English counties thus turning their back on representing South Africa. I was aware that India would win the contest but what I was not prepared for was the absolutely one-sided series that unfolded before us.
There is no fun in watching a match when the result is known even before it starts. Even when India were 39 for three on the morning of the first day of the Ranchi Test there was a strong feeling that India would recover – and this is exactly what happened. They recovered so strongly that they won by an innings early on the fourth day. But for the rain on the first day it might well have been a three-day finish.
The surfaces for all three Tests were sporting enough to give batsmen and bowlers (both pace and spin) a chance to excel. But the South Africans were absolutely no match for the Indians. On the same wicket that the Indians scored runs aplenty the South Africans struggled. On the same pitch that the Indian bowlers found bounce and turn the South Africans could extract nothing. One wonders how much the Indian team will benefit from such a lame contest other than notching up one more victorious campaign in the record books.
In such a hopelessly lop-sided contest one must be cautious when it comes to praising players of the winning side. But India can just play whatever opposition they get and it was their good fortune that they got an emaciated side – certainly the weakest South African team to visit these shores. The result was a spate of records, batting and bowling feats aplenty and a 3-0 sweep. Given the kind of opposition they got this was the expected result. One victory by 203 runs, two victories by an innings with more than a day to play was along the lines of the result achieved in Sri Lanka two years ago – the only time India have registered a 3-0 sweep outside this country.
But even if one wants to be cautious in assessing the performance of the Indian players credit must be given to them for their professionalism. Sometimes against a weak opposition there is a tendency to take things lightly, experiment a bit and give a couple of youngsters their big break. Full marks to the Indians who never once took their foot off the accelerator pedal. They fielded their best players, performed up to the highest level expected of them and maintained their lofty status of the No 1 Test side in the ICC rankings.
Looking ahead the most positive aspect of the series has to be the sensational success of Rohit Sharma at the top of the order. Yes, one is aware that he averages virtually 100 in 12 Tests at home and 26 in 18 Tests abroad. But he seems to have found a new avatar in the opening slot and there is no reason to believe that with his newfound confidence he cannot improve on his away record. Also both spinners and pacemen shared the wickets and this was a noteworthy fact that did not go unnoticed.
As if the team itself is not strong enough the bench strength is highly encouraging. Right down the order there are several youngsters good enough to fit in the shoes of the seniors. Shahbaz Nadeem provided enough proof of this. Yes, any which way one looks at it India are not going to be toppled from the top slot for quite a while. Their runaway lead in the ICC Test Championship table is testimony to this.
Indeed of late there has been a spurt in clean sweeps by the Indian team. Besides the just concluded series India completed a 3-0 sweep against New Zealand in 2016-17 and a 4-0 sweep against Australia in 2012-13. Indeed this is nothing new for India had registered 3-0 clean sweeps against England in 1992-93 and against Sri Lanka the following season. The latter result was perhaps the most one-sided of all as every match was won by an innings.
If this trend continues interest in Test cricket will diminish in this country. No one, not even an avid Indian cricket fan wants to see his team wrap up matches continuously by an innings and with more than a day to spare. In the meantime however there is no stopping the Indian juggernaut rolling from one victory to another.
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