Lessons From The First Test Against South Africa

Despite the Indians’ shameful batting display, Eye On Cricket argues for cooler heads given the circumstances:

What if anything, have we learned from yesterday’s collapse? Not that much. Indian batting line-ups (like lots of batting line-ups the world over) are susceptible to high-quality pace and swing. And this line-up was weakened by the absence of Dravid and Laxman (we had collapses even with those gentlemen present). Indian tails are still notoriously fragile, so its no surprise to see the bottom bit of the line-up buckle and fold.

I’m inclined to agree. Tosses are generally important in cricket, but especially so in India. Still, watching Dale Steyn bowl, I couldn’t help feel sorry for our pace attack in comparison. I realize that’s not how we generally win in India; look over the India-Australia scorecards from 2008 (which India won 2-0), and you see the crucial role that Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh played. But, man, the ball just seemed to fly out of Steyn’s hands (and note the way he “set up” M. Vijay and S. Tendulkar, proving he’s smart as well).

So, this is a case of strategies and fortune going against India: 1) Our spinners, the usual trump cards, didn’t bowl as well as they could; 2) We lost a crucial toss; 3) We were without the experienced middle order (and just when we needed Gambhir to prosper once more, he didn’t, exposing young lads too soon), and 4) The South Africans gambled on an old premise — Indians can’t play raw pace, and a yorker in Nagpur is as good as one in Perth (as Steyn said) — and won.

We’ve been here before (see: Ahmedabad, South Africa v. India 2007). As E.O.C. argues, this is the new cricket world: each side has its weaknesses, and it’s all the more fun because of it.

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