Thursday, December 16, 2010


The anticipation is almost palpable now. For both the Tests that start tomorrow... particularly South Africa v India at SuperSport Park, Centurion. I just hope that the Gods don't decide to pour water all over the show.

Since I have already done a preview (sort of) of the Perth Test, this one will focus on the Centurion one. The match starts on 16th December 2010. This day - the 16th of December - holds special memories for Indian Test cricket fans. Exactly 7 years ago, on 16th December 2003, India defeated a world-beating Steve Waugh-led Australia at Adelaide and announced to the world that lousy visitors we are no more!

It marked the start of a new era. Some may argue that this era began with the victory in England in 2002 itself... when we showed that we are capable of winning Tests in alien conditions as well. But the Adelaide win was way beyond just a win... it was a celebrated milestone, and India has not looked back since then.

Though there are question marks now over the spot of the chief architect of that win (viz. Rahul Dravid), there can be no denying that he would want to erase those question marks with a strong match and series winning performance in South Africa... along with his contemporaries Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. The desire is almost a desperation now... and when such stalwarts are desperate, you know that something's bound to give!

On the other hand, South Africa is also aware of the importance of this series... and they know that a series win against India is the biggest step (almost a leap) that they can take in their desire of regaining the mantle of No. 1 Test team in the world. If the ICC Rankings are disconsidered for a moment, then there are a lot of people in the world who hold the belief that the South Africans are the real No. 1 team in the Test world. But India has an opportunity to shake this belief... to destroy this notion and firmly establish themselves as the best cricket team in whites.

The weather has been very wet in this build up to the First Test. There are chances that a lot of play will be lost on most of the days. So whereas I was initially hoping that India should bat first (simply because Gambhir - Sehwag v Steyn - Morkel is THE BATTLE of the series), now I hope otherwise. Batting first under cloudy skies with wetness in the pitch will be extremely difficult against the South African pace attack... just as it will be difficult for Smith, Peterson, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers and Prince against the Indian pace attack minus Zaheer Khan.

Zaheer's loss may have a telling effect, but the best that India could have hoped for in Zaheer's absence was for helpful conditions to assist the likes of Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma and Unadkat / Yadav (I believe that it will be the former who makes the cut tomorrow). If India does bowl first under overcast skies, that should compensate well enough for Zaheer's absence.

Talking about Zaheer, its only apt that we drop a line of two about Zaheer's potential replacement for the match as well. I would like to see Jaidev Unadkat make his debut tomorrow... and given how this 19-year old had performed six months back in his first-class debut at Leicester with a 13-for, I will definitely be hoping for another impressive performance on his Test debut. He (or Umesh Yadav) will be the 267th Test player for India... but I guess Unadkat will be the first teammate of Sachin Tendulkar who would have been born after the master made his debut over 21 years ago (he has played AGAINST youngsters who were born after his debut... I can recall Mohammed Aamer during the ODI match against Pakistan during the Champions Trophy last year).

Sorry for digressing... but now that I have brought up the topic of Sachin Tendulkar, there has to be a mention of the eagerly-awaited 50th Test ton also. Another feather in that cap, which must weigh a ton now!

On that note, I end this preview... and lets hope that we witness a cracking start to the blockbuster contest tomorrow.

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