I am sure the cricket fraternity is disappointed with India’s loss to South Africa in Nagpur. But I am surprised with the reaction, which has gone through the roof. Everybody seems to be giving explanations and I do not understand why. India has been outplayed by a very strong team, which bowled and batted superbly.
Winning the toss is very important in India and the South Africans not only did that well, they also executed all aspects of the game superbly. After losing two early wickets, Kallis and Amla batted superbly under pressure and put SA in command on the first day.
I have not seen Sir Don Bradman and think Sachin is the best ever player to play the game and that includes Sir Garfield Sobers. To me, the one next after Sachin is Jacques Kallis, considering the impact he has in a Test match both with the bat and the ball.
The Indian bowlers had a poor game. Ishant Sharma’s form continues to be a worry and somebody needs to sort him out as quickly as possible. There has been a lot of criticism of Harbhajan Singh and I am sure he knows it. He is a match-winner and I am sure he will turn the table around for India once again. There has been talk about selection and how an extra batsman should have been picked as cover for Rohit Sharma. But these are useless talks. Who would have imagined that two batters would get injured 24 hours before the Test? It is easy to jump to a conclusion once the event is over. But unfortunately the captain and the selectors have to take the decision before the game and not after it.
Could an extra batsman have prevented the loss? There is no guarantee. So let’s stop this nonsense and focus on the next Test. We have to accept that a good team has beaten us and we have the ability to beat them.
The selectors also have panicked, which is surprising and uncalled for, by making four changes in the squad and particularly with players who have not played the game. It is sad to see Wriddhiman being left out after one Test. I think he showed a lot of character in the second innings. One must remember that not many people get a 100 on debut. Even Sachin Tendulkar took nine Tests to get to his hundred. What message are they sending out to other players by doing this? Dinesh Karthik, who, to me is a quality player, might not even play the Test after Laxman recovers. Dinesh comes back after a one-Test absence. Does he become a good or a bad player in one game? He had a fair bit of opportunity before this Test. Though it was always in the form of a replacement for Dhoni, he has not capitalised on that.
If the selectors have to build the team, they will have to be consistent and apply the same rules for everyone. That will send a quiet and strong message of confidence in the dressing room. The selectors need to identify players who play fast bowling well and back them in order to get players of the calibre of Sehwag, Dravid, Sachin and Laxman.
For the selectors, the most worrying part will be India’s performance in the last eight months against quality fast bowling, and that includes the T20 World Cup, the Champions Trophy, the one-day series against Australia and this Test against SA. Probably there is a riddle to be solved here.