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Munaf was certainly a wrong choice
January 08, 2007
The Indian slip-ups in the third and deciding Test against South Africa were so glaring that some explanations being sought are in fitness of things.
Harbhajan Singh, never mind if he was bowling bad or trash, should have been played in this game. He has been a class performer for India and preferring Munaf Patel ahead of him in this game, given how it transpired for the lanky fast bowler, was certainly a wrong choice.
Patel to my mind was not fit for this game, never mind if he ever was in the series. Looking at the way he went about his business, it surely appeared a wrong choice. It told on India's bowling in this game.
Indians can still hold their heads high as they leave for home. After being smashed in the one-day series it was one heck of a statement to win the first Test and even in this last game, they did the front-running all the time.
A look at Rahul Dravid's face when the winning run was scored showed how much it hurt. The expression in a strange way reflected the belief that has begun to take roots in this extremely watchable team.
The situation was compounded by the manner in which Anil Kumble bowled in the second innings. It was a kind of wicket where you expect Kumble to finish with a four-for haul at least and not the solitary wicket that came his way.
He is a performer who knows his stage and today was certainly right up his street. But strangely he was listless and India never got the thrust which it expected to emerge from its premier bowler's flanks.
Much of the ground for the visitors though was lost on the fourth afternoon when a terrible start of six for two had been repaired by the Ganguly-Dravid duo and South Africa had begun to feel the wall on its back.
But suddenly the innings stagnated and a defensive mindset allowed the hosts to squeeze the life out of Indian batting in the second knock. It was a kind of stretch where Test matches are won and lost.
Indian batting, to my mind, was the reason they finished on the runner-up's podium. They asked all the right questions with the ball and were extremely competitive throughout the series but the batting never really came together as a unit.
Some knocks had the promise and Wasim Jaffer hit a hundred but really as a batting group, the Indians were found wanting. I guess the seniors ought to own up blame for the same.
Sachin Tendulkar, a magnificent player, never really fired but then one man really cannot run the show. To me the biggest disappointment was Virender Sehwag who appeared to have an attitude to hit a few boundaries but never the application to give his side a solid contribution with the bat.
I have rarely seen a man as talented as Sehwag behave as poorly as he did in this series. His strokes in both the innings in the final Test was a huge let-down for his team. In the first, he swept against the spin of a left-arm spinner bowling in the rough and in the second he chased a hugely wide delivery with the innings only a few balls old.
India would be happy though with the return to form of old warhorses such as Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly. Both finished strongly which was a reflection on their appetite as well as their resourcefulness.
Zaheer finished with four wickets in the last innings of the series and it was a great testimony to his fitness and single-mindedness. Ganguly showed no rustiness from his absence in international field for nine months and for him, it simply was a case of putting mind over matter.
I also cannot help but mention Dinesh Kaarthick as the surprise package of this Test. He appeared a very confident young man and he played and kept as well as Mahendra Singh Dhoni could have done. His two innings from this Test portrays him as a player who can mix with the best and who is not scared at all. He appears to be a young man who can be a face of the future for this Indian team.
Allan Donald is a former South Africa fast bowler
India's tour of South Africa 2006: The Complete Coverage
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