'Newcomers' helped India win

The presence of 'newcomers' Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman had a huge bearing on the outcome of the first Test, writes Barry Richards.

india Updated: Dec 21, 2006 00:11 IST

Hats off to India for posting a wonderful victory that has forced sceptics, including yours truly, to eat humble pie.

However, and though I have said enough on this issue, I would like to hand out a warning amidst the euphoria, and ask the Indian team not to let a single victory paper over the cracks that need mending.

For now, it is time for Rahul Dravid and his men (not to forget Greg Chappell) to bask in the afterglow of India’s first ever Test victory on South African soil.

It was a moment to savour and as the Indian players jubilantly hugged each other, all of us joined in the celebrations.

What produced the turnaround? Answer: the presence of “newcomers” Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, who as a trio had a huge bearing on the outcome.

All of them, in their way, produced enough to win a session or two at vital times. That was what ultimately swung the match away from South Africa, whose experienced players were not able (or allowed) to do much.

India’s real hero, however, was Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who produced his best-ever effort in any form of cricket.

He bowled superbly with good pace and troubled even the best of the South African batsmen. The seam position as he releases the ball is one of the best I have seen and in replays the ball is perfect on its way to the batsman.

I have no doubt that even senior Indian players must have been surprised at how quickly Sreesanth adapted to South African conditions, and particularly to the Wanderers’ length.

As a result, the youngster and his senior colleague Zaheer Khan completely overshadowed South Africa’s much vaunted pace attack (Shaun Pollock apart) and showed them how to bowl when there’s some help from the wicket.

Talking of Zaheer, let us not forget that it was he who made the initial breakthroughs and who on this tour has gone from strength to strength.

And so it is now South Africa who are under pressure. Another poor performance in the second Test could see the axe descend on some household names in South African cricket.

The captain himself is under extreme pressure and with Ashwell Prince getting 97, there’s a readymade captain in the wings.

“Aaya India” went the chants in the Indian dressing room, and it could probably be heard all the way to Kolkata. Rahul and his men have indeed, and finally, arrived at the party.

First Published: Dec 20, 2006 23:43 IST