Even as the world gets up bleary eyed in the southern part of the hemisphere with New Year dreams still sparking in their eye, a bunch of determined Indians is likely to be seen practicing at a battle ground in Cape Town, preparing for that final go for glory.
And the two A's India will require to win this contest will be aggression and application.
Nothing symbolises more than the antics of Sreesanth, which, at times spoke as loud as his laudable actions and exploits on the field. Be it waving of the bat, or, what SA skipper mockingly called ''a little bit of acting,'' the maverick Malayali has shown single-minded determination to get India a win, or at least a honourable draw.
In this endeavour, Sreesanth has been ably supported by Zaheer Khan - another left armer who has been a revelation after an inevitable 'banvaas', which led to much of soul-searching and rediscovery of his lethal swing.
If we take our two top Indian pacers in tandem in series outside the subcontinent, excluding Zimbabwe, it should be interesting to note that their averages and strike-rate (in combination) has been the highest. And at 12 wickets per match so far, they have been as good as any other pace bowling trio in the nineties and this decade.
Indian pacers in tandem in an overseas series
|Sreesanth||Zaheer||v SA in SA*||2006-07||24||22.79||38.45|
|Srinath||Prasad||v SA in SA||1996-97||25||26.91||46.31|
|Balaji||Pathan||v Pak in Pak||2003-04||24||29.62||60.00|
|Kapil||Prabhakar||v Aus in Aus||1991-92||44||30.11||73.34|
|Srinath||Prasad||v Eng in Eng||1996||26||31.07||68.00|
These two spearheads will need to keep up the same level of performance in the final test. Considering the resolve they have shown so far, this is something not too difficult to achieve. VRV or Munaf, whoever makes to the team for the final Test, will have to show similar will to succeed, to make things even better for India.
The failure of VRV or Kumble to chip in with substantial contribution in the second test was a major factor in South Africa escaping with a win. In fact, it was the host's final two partnerships in both the innings, which took the match away from India's reach.
In the second innings, seventh and eighth wickets added a staggering 40 per cent to their total (from 143 for six to 265 for eight), making a win for India almost impossible.
Application from other batsmen
Dhoni is a destroyer while Zaheer is just about a filler in an experienced Indian batting line-up. But they delivered more than what their captain had asked for. Much against his character, in making his first 10 runs at Durban in final innings, Dhoni took as many as 37 balls.
The Indian keeper was determined to stay and gave all indications initially. His knock should be a lesson for other batsmen to play according to the situation, and curb their natural instincts if the situation does not warrant that.
Dhoni batted for over 100 minutes, the longest by an Indian batsmen in the second innings at Durban, and 67 balls, most consumed by an Indian bat. Some others can surely do better the next time round!
Dhoni's progress in Durban
But even better lesson in application can be learnt from Zaheer. He was banking on light as much as on his staying skills. Before his departure off a very good delivery, the left-hander had helped India waste 79 minutes and consume 56 balls.
Interestingly, batting icons Sachin, Dravid and Sehwag (in combination) had spent fewer minutes and consumed fewer balls than him!
Zaheer in comparison with Indian top-order batsman
(In fourth innings at Durban)
Correcting last innings blue
In 2006, India won three matches and lost three. However, most disturbing were the last innings collapses in all the three lost matches. India crumbled between 45 to 60 overs at Durban, Mumbai and Karachi.
India failing to play even 90 overs in fourth innings
So, the mental pressure does tend
So. The mental pressure does tend to disintegrate the Indians in critical situations. At least the opposition believes so.
This is something, which the visitors will have to think about seriously, especially if they are forced to field first at Cape Town.
At one-one, India are still in with a good chance to get their hands to this elusive away trophy. But they will need all their aces to fire.