They did it on the seaming tracks in England, bouncy wickets in Australia, and now the dusty bowl of Kanpur. True, a victory is a victory, but a bad pitch produces bad cricket. The 22-yard strip at the Green Park can't be termed a Test wicket.
Who benefits from a three-day Test? Not the administrators, not the spectators, and certainly not the players. India ended up squaring the series, saving face in a home competition, but honestly would you really like to remember this victory?
Credit to the batsmen, especially Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman; credit to all the bowlers; but little credit to the curator. You must have a wicket that suits your requirements, certainly have a wicket that assists spinners, but pray, do we need a `doctored' wicket.
We certainly do not need such wickets to showcase our cricket. The Indian team has been winning matches and series overseas with greater consistency than anytime in the past. Who needs such wickets to win a TesT? I had argued the same point in my last column - that we don't need to alter the wicket-preparation policies of the past.
Please look at the cricket, and not the wicket. It should help the spinners after the third day because of the wear and tear and not from the first session. I don't have to say more now on this subject because it was for all to see.
South Africa paid the price for being overcautious. Time spent at the crease should have reflected in the runs on the scoreboard. But their approach only exposed their mindset when confronted with such a wicket. The South Africans just played into the hands of the Indians.
The Test should be most remembered for the two splendid knocks by Ganguly and Laxman. Every time he is under pressure, Ganguly hits back with a vengeance, trying to prove a point or two to his detractors. In the process, he takes his batting standards a notch higher.
Ganguly also underlines the importance of seniority; and the importance of experience. There can be no substitute for experience and it was also evident in the manner in which Laxman batted, with consummate ease, making stroke-making look such an easy task. Youth has its place but this team is a nice blend of the young and the experienced.
The more I see of Ishant Sharma the more I am convinced that he is going to develop into a terrific fast bowler but it would all depend a lot on how we treat him, how the team management controls his approach, how the captain handles this fantastic find. Ishant would need to understand his physical limitations and improve his endurance because in the years to come the load on him is likely to increase.
Now to Harbhajan Singh, the man of the series. It is always difficult to bowl well on a bad wicket and here Harbhajan did a stupendous job. On a bad wicket it is tough to control the turn but Harbhajan has come to master this art. He did not get carried away by the helpful nature of the wicket and was well complemented by Virender Sehwag, who bowled a line that any off-spinner would be proud of.
Finally, a word on M. S. Dhoni, a cricketer with amazing self-belief. In his first Test as captain, he led brilliantly, effected some tactical changes, remained cool and calm and displayed remarkably controlled aggression. He is ready to step into the shoes of Anil Kumble whenever the situation arises.
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