Let the skullduggery of those busy in trying to put up and simultaneously destroy the IPL not distract a cricket fan's focus from what he is eagerly looking forward to: India's Test series against South Africa.
It is a clash whose outcome would decide whether India deserve the official status of being the No. 1 team in the world. Not just the fans, the players themselves are eager and keen to exorcise the past demons and put up a show which would leave no doubt in anyone's mind that the Tendulkars, Dravids and Laxmans of this world are the stuff dreams are made of.
That these three men are made of steel is not in doubt. And their recent form augurs well for the team, but if lingering doubts still remain, that may have more to do with the fact that age is not on their side. They are all on the wrong side of 30, an age when reflexes slow down and the body may not respond as well as it used to in very testing conditions. On fast and bouncy tracks and against genuine pace, the three will have to summon all their experience and skill to give India a chance to do something which no Indian team has done so far.
Watching someone like Tendulkar take a knock on his head on a slow track and against a benign New Zealand pace attack, did not make a pleasant sight. Nor did watching Dravid lose his moorings in the corridor of uncertainty make one feel comfortable.
The good part was that Dravid fought doggedly and made plenty of runs which should make him believe that he is ready for the challenge.
The third cog of this wheel, Laxman, is a player whose timing rarely deserts him and the greater the pressure, the better he performs. So, it is to be hoped that the three come good, not just for India's sake, but for their own as well, for they will feel something important missing from their career if they return defeated from South Africa.
There is one batsman in the team, the young Cheteshwar Pujara, who I think should be part of the playing XI right from the start. His batting against the Australians in the only Test he has played, was nothing short of sensational. He seems to possess almost everything which promises a bright future ahead. Most importantly, he has faith in his abilities and did not get intimidated by the quality of the opposition nor did the pressure get the better of him. He is a man in form and it would be a waste if he has to cool his heals in the dressing room.
I think the series would be decided on how well the India seam attack bowls.
They need to restrict the South African batting each time within 300-350, as it is hard to imagine India making the kind of scores they do on Indian tracks, unless of course, Virender Sehwag has different ideas.