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Batters show their self-belief of old

cricket Updated: Dec 20, 2010 00:28 IST
Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri
Hindustan Times
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Everything else can wait. A Test lost, a Test saved, positions on top in Tests swapped; all that critical, threadbare analysis of the Centurion Test-nothing must come in the way of rising in unison to salute a hero for all seasons.

Indeed, coming generations will pinch themselves in disbelief that a cricketer such as Sachin Tendulkar ever walked in flesh and blood on this earth.

The master kept appointment with his 50th Test century in a situation most dire for the visitors.

His seventh century of the year, with a mere three Tests in between his last two hundreds.

The man he anointed as his choice for skipper for the national team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, also played a most sterling knock to cause a most stirring fightback. Never mind if the result was inevitable.

Everyone agrees that losing the toss was a decisive moment in this Test for the visitors. They were caught on a hop on a difficult wicket. It eased out thereafter but the visitors, by then, had pushed themselves in a hole.

Still, Indians would be concerned by their bowlers.

The South African batting looked too strong for this attack minus Zaheer Khan. Jacques Kallis first hit the fastest century and then the first double century of his career; AB de Villiers struck the fastest ever hundred by a South African in Tests and Hashim Amla just feasted on the Indian diet he relishes going after with both hands.

Even if Indians were inept in the field, there was no escaping the sheer brilliance of the hosts with the bat.

Kallis, without doubt, has been the best cricketer of the last decade-as Wasim Akram was in the previous decade.

As a package, Kallis offers what nobody else does. Others may have been "Mr Wall" or "Mr Consistent" , but Kallis has been the "Mr Steel" of international cricket. Amla reminds me of Zaheer Abbas in his prime.

The same high backlift as he awaits for a delivery in his stance, the same keen yet languid eyes and the same appetite for runs.

He is extremely polite and humble and gods generally rewards these virtues.

It being so, India has warmed up to the challenge in the second innings. The openers gave them a good start and were even dominating for a long period.

There was no air of resignation to their fate; rather a belief that they are far better batters than was evident in the first innings.

There are small issues on which sometimes whole fortunes are built and lost.

In the case of world's number one Test team, it happened in damp and difficult conditions of the Centurion on the first morning of this Test.