“India won the match. Test series level 1-1. No. 1 in Test cricket,” said the giant screen at Eden Gardens on Thursday.
India will indeed have the top dog tag on April 1, the cut off date for ICC’s annual awards, but it will not hide some deficiencies in the team that stops it from being as dominant as Australia were till a couple of years ago.
Going by the ratings, India have their nose in front of South Africa and Australia. They are likely to play Tests in Sri Lanka and host New Zealand before leaving for South Africa this year, but because the BCCI mostly arranges bilateral series that are outside ICC’s future tours programme, it’s difficult to ascertain how long they will be No. 1.
More importantly, all three teams have unfinished business. India are yet to win an away-series against South Africa or Australia. And they have not beaten South Africa at home in their last two series.
South Africa have done well in the sub-continent, beaten Australia away but faltered against them at home last year, which cost them the No. 1 title. There was also the underwhelming 1-1 draw against England at home just before coming here.
Australia, on the other hand, have relinquished the Ashes and lost their last series here.
This India-South Africa Test series was hard fought, but it also brought out cracks in both teams that cannot be papered over.
South Africa’s main problem is the middle-order. India have a solid opening pair, but the middle-order is ageing and Murali Vijay and S. Badrinath’s failure was a disappointment.
They also need to figure out who will partner Zaheer Khan when the left-armer is fit and a pacer who can replace him when he is not. Harbhajan Singh’s brilliance, coupled with some good bowling by Amit Mishra and loose shots from the South Africans in the first innings, won India the Test here. But the attack needs more bite.