Saturday, February 13, 2010


It begins tomorrow. At the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. The match to decide who will hold the Mace. The Title of the World No. 1 Team in Test Match Cricket.

South Africa, despite having the momentum, will be nervous for certain reasons. Their biggest concern will be the fitness of their captain - the most inspirational member of their team - Greame Smith. True, Smith did not contribute a lot with his bat in his team's victorious campaign in the First Test. However, his astute leadership has been responsible for many great feats achieved by South African cricket.

The other concern for South Africa will be their historically well - chronicled ability to somehow goof it all up when their noses are in front. South Africa is perhaps the best team in the world when they are up against it. But when it comes to holding on to an advantageous position, they have not been the most successful team around. Will the C-word come to haunt them again at the Eden Gardens?

India, on the other hand, despite their loss, will be a lot more positive with the fitness of a certain VVS Laxman. VVS has had a great liking for this ground, like one another member of the team - Harbhajan Singh. I have been saying it for quite some time - Harbhajan Singh does not deserve a place in this squad, irrespective of the history surrounding him and the venue.

Voices from many quarters are saying that VVS should take up the No. 3 spot. This will mean that Murali Vijay will have to be pushed down to No. 5 or 6 spot, along with Subramanium Badrinath. Vijay, a specialist opener, in the lower middle order in a team that is trying to retain the mantle of the World No. 1 Test team? I don't think so.

Agreed, even South Africa has been playing Ashwell Prince, a middle order bat, in the opening spot, albeit unsuccessfully. But that does not mean that India should also try such tinkerings. If an opener cannot be accomodated in the opening slot, then the only place that he should play is at No. 3.

I read an interesting post on the bog 'A Cricketing View' that said that Gautam Gambhir should be tried at No. 3  for this Test. I quite like the idea. Gambhir has been a consistent No. 3 in the ODI arena, when SRT opens with Viru. If Vijay and Sehwag were to open in the Second Test, it would also mean (as mentioned in that blog) that Morne Morkel will have to bowl to two right handers first up. Given the fact that his round-the-wicket line has troubled many left handers of late, this might actually be a workable solution.

With the Gambhir at No. 3, Laxman can be allowed to play at his familiar No. 5 position, shepherding the tail - a role that he understands very well now. VVS has proven himself to be indispensable for India in that role.

After all this speculation, what a shame it would be if another Indian batsman were to injure himself 15 minutes before the toss tomorrow!

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