takes a look at the Indian performers who did duty in the three Tests against South Africa...
The man they call the ‘Nawab’ in the maidans of Mumbai did not quite set the world alight in this series. But he came into it under pressure, his place in the team under scrutiny. Jaffer, once again, did just enough to keep his place. He made 73 on a batting beauty in Chennai, sharing in a 213-run stand with Virender Sehwag, but otherwise had a poor series. He got starts but did not go on to convert any of them and was dismissed poking outside the off stump more than once.
No one in the team can take more from this series. He scored a record second triple ton and contributed in the other Tests too. While he suffered just as much as anyone in Ahmedabad, Sehwag showed his all-round skills in the last Test. On a pitch that was taking turn he found the perfect rhythm and picked up a Test-best 3-12. Sehwag’s ability to pick up key wickets while still keeping things tight made Mahendra Singh Dhoni's job as stand-in captain that much easier.
By the high standards Rahul Dravid sets for himself and given the torrid time he faced when India toured Australia last, Dravid will be a touch disappointed with what he achieved in this series. The fluency that has been a trademark of his batting has not yet returned and even a century in Chennai, during which he notched up 10,000 Test runs, will not have appeased Dravid. At times he appeared too keen on merely staying at the wicket. On a tough pitch in the final Test, Dravid scored crucial runs, sharing in a vital partnership with VVS Laxman that laid the base for India after the fall of early wickets.
A duck in one of his favourite grounds, the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, and an injury that forced him out of the rest of the series meant a forgettable series for Tendulkar. The rest he got will be crucial when he leads the Mumbai team in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
On tough pitches, when the ball is turning square, VVS Laxman unfurls strokes that other batsmen don't even contemplate. In Kanpur, Laxman showed that supple wrists and sensible shot selection can tame even the most spiteful of pitches. His half-century was the calming influence the dressing room needed. With plenty of talk around the importance of fielding and fitness and the need for youth, Laxman showed there were times when experience and sheer batting class count for more. Laxman averaged just over 30 in the series, but the value he brought went beyond statistics.
An indifferent showing on a flat batting track in Chennai was followed by consecutive innings of 87, both of which deserved to go on to three figures. In Ahmedabad, after playing his part in the collapse just as everyone else, Ganguly batted quite beautifully in the second innings. It was his knock in the first innings at Kanpur, however that will be remembered for some time to come. Using his feet magnificently he top-scored, and only the threat of running out of partners forced an over-ambitious shot that cost him his wicket. On a surface that was more akhada than Test pitch, Ganguly showed that it wasn't always orthodoxy or the best technique that produced runs.
Home series normally mean wickets by the bucketful for India's current Test captain. But for once Kumble was not as effective. Blunted by a sleeping beauty of a pitch in Chennai and then troubled by a groin injury that did not allow him to bowl long spells in Ahmedabad, Kumble finally ended up sitting out the final Test.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Dismissals to rather ordinary shots in the first two Test matches meant that Dhoni, when asked to lead the team in place of Kumble in the final Test, had plenty to think. His wicketkeeping was of a high standard in trying conditions. And everything Dhoni touches seems to turn to gold, as in the final Test. His captaincy was innovative, adaptive and imaginative. But it’s early days yet to judge Dhoni's ability to lead in Tests.
For a few years now Harbhajan Singh has been a shadow of his old self, bowling flat and on a defensive line on middle and leg stump. But in this home series he will point to 19 wickets at an average of just over 26 and the Man of the Series award. The five-wicket bag in the first Test came through dint of bowling plenty of overs and was nothing special but it seemed to give Harbhajan the confidence he needed. In spells after that, both in Ahmedabad and Kanpur, he was unlucky at times and could easily have ended with even more wickets.
While he only played one Test, Yuvraj managed to chip in, pickling up a crucial wicket and following it up with an attractive cameo. But he will admit that more solid performances would give him a greater chance of cementing a place in the Test team.
Only fit to play in the final Test, Ishant's extra pace and variation of attacking deliveries helped India hugely. He bowled with intensity and gave Dhoni a genuine quick option. He was sorely missed in the first two Tests where the likes of RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth failed to impress.