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Kirsten the magician

On a high India’s body language is encouraging and the players’ heads don’t drop under pressure.

cricket Updated: Feb 18, 2010 00:57 IST

On a high India’s body language is encouraging and the players’ heads don’t drop under pressure

Whatever happens on the final day of the second Test, it has been a wonderful series — a pity that there wasn’t time to play three or even four Test matches between the world’s top ranked teams.

If the weather does play a part in helping the Proteas get out of jail, then Graeme Smith and his boys may well feel that it was their turn for a bit of luck. We squared the T20 series against England when rain gave the tourists a highly dubious D/L victory and then lost the ODI series 2-1 with two matches washed out.

Although rain played no significant part in the Test series, it still felt like the elements were conspiring against us with England twice hanging on to draws with nine wickets down. So, while nobody can doubt that India have played better cricket in Kolkata, there is no reason for South Africa to feel embarrassed if they have a bit of luck in winning the series.

I reckon Hashim Amla and Alviro Petersen were about an hour away from batting South Africa into a near invincible position on the first day. Not only were they scoring quickly, had they batted until 40 minutes before the close of play, there wouldn’t have been time for the collapse which saw India turn the match on its head.

As much as South Africa failed to capitalise on a fantastic platform, the home side deserves the highest praise for fighting its way back from what must have felt like an impossible situation.

As always, it is the players who have to perform and they are the ones who deserve the credit, but I can see how positively the Indian players are thinking — their body language is constantly encouraging and their heads don’t drop when they are under pressure. I hardly need to state the obvious but that wasn’t always the case and much credit should be given to Gary Kirsten and his (South African!) assistants, Paddy Upton and Eric Simons.

Zaheer is a world-class performer and it must have been encouraging to see Ishant bowl a couple of tremendous, aggressive spells of fast bowling — including one of the spells of the match to Hashim Amla on either side of his century — a period in which the Test was turned upside down.

But equally important, yet again, was the pace at which Viru scores his runs. Dhoni would never have been able to declare at the end of the third day had Viru not scored 160 at anything like a ‘normal’ rate. I believe his innings earned his team an entire session of extra time in which to try and win the game.

As far as my personal situation is concerned, I have to confess that the novelty of being at home all the time — and being happily unemployed — is beginning to wear off. I have started considering all the offers and proposals I have received and some of the challenges are mouth-watering. I may even reappear on the international circuit in one capacity or another, sooner than most people might have thought. Including me.