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India win series against South Africa, but Test cricket loses out

All the India vs South Africa series did was show Test cricket at its worst, so one-sided were the contests.

India vs South Africa 2015 Updated: Dec 07, 2015 18:52 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Pradeep Magazine
Hindustan Times
India vs South Africa 2015,Ravichandran Ashwin,Ravindra Jadeja
The Indian team receives the Paytm Freedom Trophy after defeating South Africa in the fourth Test to claim the series 3-0 in New Delhi on December 7, 2015.(AP Photo)

A lot will be written about India’s magnificent and overwhelming 3-0 series win against the best team in the world and there will be celebrations at home. This has been an unqualified victory, where India has dominated throughout, putting up a display of spin bowling that has entangled the South African batsmen to their worst performance ever. For a team that has an enviable record away from home, this is a disaster they will find hard to explain and harder to digest.

As India pat their heroes and applaud the wizardry of Ravichandran Ashwin, the sharpness of the ebullient Ravindra Jadeja and the rare batting feat by the calm and self-assured Ajinkya Rahane and its overall bowling brilliance, one important thing that stands out for me, sadly, is that this series has been a poor advertisement for Test cricket.

This was a series that was billed as the contenders challenging the best team in the world, a team which has had the reputation of being the best travellers of the game in recent years. In a country where Test cricket is losing its pre-eminence and is in danger of being swamped by the glamour, razzle-dazzle and rapid pace of the IPL, this series was for many, including me, a chance to showcase the longer version of the game at its best. Alas, all it did was show Test cricket at its worst, so one-sided were the contests.

Throughout the four-match series, India was so dominating and the South Africans so timid and meek that they must have been an embarrassment for fans back home.

Read | South Africa’s mental disintegration evident in Delhi blockathon

The vicious turner in Nagpur which has come under a lot of scrutiny, including a reprimand from the match referee, may have dented whatever confidence the Sourth Africans had in themselves after their inexplicable rout in Mohali.

But champion teams don’t flounder like they have done against the wiles of Ashwin and even if the wickets were not to their liking, their batsmen were an epitome of ineptitude that contributed largely in turning this series into an insipid contest.

Read | Bad pitches have taken quality out of the Ashwin equation

The Indian performance, or to be more precise, its spin bowling show on tracks which were tailor-made for them, could have been better appreciated had they encountered greater resistance. One way at looking at their splendid bowling is that they were too good for the South African batsmen, who lacked decisive footwork and that intuitive ability to negate the purchase the spinners were getting from the track.

Whatever excuses the South Africans may have had to offer for their stunning capitulation, there is little doubt that without Ashwin’s fantastic control and variations that are becoming a part of his bowing armoury, this lopsided win would not have been possible.

The worries, and there are many for India as their batsmen fared slightly better than the South Africans, may not trouble the Indians much in the euphoria of this win at the moment. They may brush aside the criticism of those who would have liked the wickets to be more fair and not so overwhelmingly favouring spin, as the rant of those who don’t care for Indian cricket, as a win is a win, is a win.

As India celebrates a historic scoreline, the fears that this series may have done more harm to the already dwindling popularity of Test cricket and may have damaged the confidence of their own batsmen, is a thought best ignored at our own peril.

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First Published: Dec 07, 2015 17:36 IST