One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

Patience and Discipline

Patience and discipline. These are the keywords that have marked the Indian performance thus far, in the First Test Match of the 2006-07 Indian tour of South Africa. Batsmen showed these qualities in ample measure right from the word go, on a doctored pitch that was difficult to bat on. Sourav Ganguly, making a comeback to international cricket, displayed a keen sense of discipline as he consciously (he admitted this in an interview after the close of day's play on the third day of the Test) made an effort to play in the straight V, rather than rely primarily on the slash-drive that he had come to make his own. And in Sourav's effort was encapsulated the Indian batting performance in the first innings. The bowlers, too, joined the party and stuck to the basics of seam/swing bowling by pitching the ball in the right areas with an exquisite seam position and let the ball and the pitch do the rest as South Africa crumbled like they never have, since their re-admission into international cricket. Once again, a normally fast but wayward Sreesanth kept it together for one of the best swing bowling exhibitions by an Indian bowler in recent times. And when their turn came to bat once again, the Indian approach was typified by the partnership between Laxman and Zaheer (who in my opinion is having one heck of a Test Match)... which showed the virtue of patience and discipline in frustrating the opposition.

And now, as the task of finishing the job lies in the hands of the bowlers, one can't help but feel that the qualities that the Indian team has shown right through this match, will be the ones that will win them the match.

Yesterday, towards the end of a day, it was clear that the day belonged to India. However, the bowlers look worn and tired... and were bowling way too short. In fact, they seemed to be in a hurry to run through the South African side once again and when a partnership or two blossomed, the Indian bowlers seemed a little out of sorts. True, it would have been because the ball was nearly 60 overs old and the pitch had eased out a bit. But then, that was all the more reason to fall back on basics and discipline and maintain a tight leash on the batsmen. In the end, India ended up giving around 20-30 runs more than they should have by the end of Day 3.

However, the situation is still heavily in the favour of India. Five good wicket-taking balls are all that remain between India and their first ever Test triumph on South African soil. And I dare say that if the bowlers keep on bowling in good areas at a decent pace, chances are that those five wicket-taking deliveries will come about much sooner rather than later. And unlike most experts, I feel the men for the job are Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth... rather than Kumble. Kumble will have to recognize this and keep up a relentlessly tight line of attack from one end while Zaheer and Sreesanth alternate in quick, fiery spells from the other end. However, the keywords still remain... patience and discipline... if India have to win.

And they sure as hell deserve to win this one!

Update: Anil Kumble has made me eat my words. He did prove to be the man for the job for India... rather than Zaheer or Sreesanth. His strikes to get rid of Pollock, Nel and Prince drove the nails into the South African coffin!

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