Thursday, December 30, 2010


It felt nice to see India bounce back from their SuperSport nightmare at Centurion to win at Kingsmeade, Durban against South Africa. The loss at Centurion had deflated a lot of hopes... and most of those are back high again.

A lot of us already feel that this win, though special, is not an oddity. No away wins are oddities now. India's performances at the Test level over the past few seasons have given us all a reason to expect something more out of the team.

While I do hope that India should win the next Test at Cape Town and seal the series, I also do know that it will be a huge task for them. India have not won two consecutive Tests in an away tour since 1986 against England (Test tours of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have been excluded here). In India's entire Test history, such occasions of 2 successive Test wins on away tour against the top-8 Test nations have occurred only thrice.

So it would be apt to say that the Indian team is up against it. But then, they have been up against it many times in the recent past... and still come out trumps. They have been up against it every time they have lost a toss in the recent past and still win the Test. They were up against it when Zaheer was ruled out at P Sara Oval and yet managed a win to level the series. They were up against it when almost a 100 runs were needed at Mohali against Australia with just 2 wickets in hand and yet managed to squeeze out a 1-wicket win. They were up against it when Dale Steyn demolished the batting lineup at Nagpur and still managed to come back with an innings win at Kolkata.

If any Indian team has given its fans reason to believe that they can challenge history and change it, this one is it. They have conquered peaks that no Indian team of the past has... and they have set their sights on new peaks that the Indian teams of the past didn't even know existed!

Before winding up, I have to mention a word for Zaheer Khan. I know that VVS Laxman won the Man of the Match, and deservedly so... but Zaheer's performance was more special to me than all the other performances put together by the Indians. He came back into a bowling unit that had managed to take just 4 wickets in the previous Test. The lowest score amongst the South Africans who batted at Centurion had been 62 by skipper Graeme Smith. And as if by magic, Zaheer's entry almost changed the entire character of India's bowling unit.

Suddenly, Smith decided to make Peterson take the first strike when it was their turn to bat. The innings started on this negative note... and never had anything positive about it through to its end. Zaheer eventually got a go at Smith... and had him. After that, he took 5 more wickets in the match... and helped his mates pick up the rest by creating pressure on the batsmen. If his first spell of the second innings is excluded, Zaheer's economy rate was 2.56. His second spell in the second innings had the figures: 3-2-1-0. That pressure created at the end of Day 3 was sustained by Sreesanth and Harbhajan at the end of Day 4... and India was rewarded.

Though I may not approve of his continuous chatting with thee batsmen, but to his credit, he never looked like he had overstepped the mark... and he got the results almost every time. There was a stark contrast in that Zaheer of World Cup 2003 finals, whose first over yielded 15 runs including a first-ball no-ball and yet he had the audacity to stare at the batsmen... and this Zaheer, who stared, chatted and got under the skins of the batsmen and also delivered the goods for the team. Truly, Zaheer Khan has come a long long way and has been one of the most instrumental figures in India's continual journey to and through the No. 1 spot in Test cricket.

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