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India proved that they deserve to be called the best

As I reflect on the India-South Africa Test series that enthralled all those who enjoy the subtle, nuanced skills for which the game of cricket is known, many doubts have been removed, though some questions still remain. Pradeep Magazine writes. Testing times in South Africa

columns Updated: Feb 10, 2011 14:03 IST
Pradeep Magazine

We are prisoners of our own prism. As I reflect on the India-South Africa Test series that enthralled all those who enjoy the subtle, nuanced skills for which the game of cricket is known, many doubts have been removed, though some questions still remain. The first doubt that has been removed by this resolute, skilful and extremely motivated Indian team is that they deserve to be called the best team in the world. If the dismal surrender in the Centurion Test had almost vindicated those who predicted a whitewash in the series, the subsequent stirring fight-back was an affirmation of their self-belief and a befitting answer to all the sceptics to shut up.

This Indian team has in the cricketing crucible of the past decade passed many searing tests to have now become so battle-hardened that no amount of pressure breaks them. Now a question, which needs to be raised if we have to earn greater respect worldwide is why did the Indian Board not agree to the UDRS? In the Durban Test, the three LBW decisions that went against South Africa were so horrendous that even the naked eye could detect them.

Imagine, if India were at the receiving end and had lost, what kind of a reaction there would have been in the media? Just remember the Sydney Test, where umpiring errors had outraged us so much that we even threatened to withdraw from the tour. The reaction of the South African media, especially of their commentators on television, was very balanced and instead of harping on it, they put it in a cricketing perspective and carried on with the game, as it should be.

I must add here that the commentary of messers Donald, Pollock, Wessels, Jackman, Haysman and our own Shastri was fair, insightful and enjoyable, complementing the high quality of cricket we witnessed.

The series also left me wondering why is Kallis not being talked about in the same breath as Tendulkar? There are two passages of the final Test, which are memorable and underline the breathtaking skills of these two.

One is the Tendulkar-Steyn dual on the third morning of the match. Steyn in that spell was almost unplayable and his pace, bounce and the prodigious out-swing, bowled at varied angles would have tested even the gods that day.

It required the masterly skills of Tendulkar to withstand his fury and give India the hope of a series win. And when Harbhajan was using a crumbling surface to make the ball bounce, turn and skid on the fourth afternoon, India appeared well in sight of a famous win. Kallis showcased his genius that day by challenging the grammar of batting --- resorting to reverse sweep with amazing ease and defending with breathtaking control --- to break Harbhjan's stranglehold and provide South Africa with an escape route. Take a look at Kallis's career record, almost 12,000 Test runs, an average of more than 57, the highest among the top-10 run-getters in the world, add to it his 270 Test wickets, and he is still not finished!

In times to come, this series will be remembered as much for how Tendulkar, the greatest batsman in the world, tamed the fury of Steyn and Morkel as it would be for how Kallis, the greatest cricketer of our time, mastered a diabolical pitch and a rampaging Harbhajan.

Testing times in South Africa