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Indian middle-order vulnerable

Dale Steyn led the South African attack as well as any number one rank bowler has ever done in the history of Test cricket, and he deserves the highest praise, but if the Indian middle order represents the next generation then the current number one ranked team have problems for the future. Micky Arthur comments.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2010 23:08 IST

Graeme Smith and his team arrived in India full of confidence despite the potential upheaval of my last minute departure from the set up. But he and the senior players, along with new coaches Corrie van Zyl and Kepler Wessels, showed their professionalism and probably even exceeded their own expectations during a magnificent victory in Nagpur.

We came so close to winning the series two years ago before falling at the final hurdle and I know from my correspondence with the players how determined they are not to let the same thing happen this time.

Dale Steyn led the South African attack as well as any number one rank bowler has ever done in the history of Test cricket, and he deserves the highest praise, but if the Indian middle order represents the next generation then the current number one ranked team have problems for the future.

They looked vulnerable at all times against pace bowling and, apart from imperious Sachin Tendulkar and the unique Virender Sehwag, never looked likely to offer any sustained resistance. It looked like the India of old — easily bullied and intimidated by the quick men.

The lack of penetration in the Indian attack must also be a huge cause for concern. Zaheer bowled well but lacked support while Harbhajan, who has in my opinion be below his best for several years now, must be questioning his future. His bowling lacked the zip and sting that was so characteristic in the early years of his career. He must be honest with himself and the management and selectors must be honest too. There is no place for sentiment in Test cricket — reputation and history should count for very little when selecting your best XI. Mishra bowled well but even he didn't look likely to bowl South Africa out.

Hashim Amla was amazing for South Africa and has now established himself in the very highest echelons of the world game, a place occupied, of course, by Jacques Kallis for over a decade, if Jacques keeps batting as well as he has in the last year, and at the same tempo, then I know for certain a maiden double century is just around the corner.

I would also like to mention Paul Harris because he was under pressure before this test match but responded with several tremendous spells which did exactly the job for the team that he has always been selected to do. Steyn and Morkel will be the first to admit they owed a couple of their wickets to the control and pressure applied by Harris at the other end.

Finally I have been deeply touched by all the messages of support that I have received from friends and opponents alike around the cricket playing world.

They provided plenty of comforting reassurance that I made many good friends and even earned some respect in my five years in charge of the Proteas. And if it needed saying again then I will — my reasons for resigning were entirely off field rather than on field.

I am still weighing up a number of work opportunities both in a hands on and consultancy capacity but right now I am still enjoying the novelty of waking up at home in my own bed for more than a couple of days at a time!

However,I have lost none of my passion for the game or for coaching and when the time is right I will throw myself in to my next assignment with all the determination and drive that I gave to the Proteas.