The long wait isn’t over yet

This was perhaps the weakest South African team with an inexperienced batting line-up and a bowling attack that was handicapped by the absence of Anrich Nortje.

Indian captain Virat Kohli congratulates Rassie van Der Dussen after South Africa beat India 2-1 in the Test series.   -  AP

India lost a golden opportunity to complete the circle of winning a Test series in all the Test playing countries when it went down to South Africa recently. This was perhaps the weakest South African team with an inexperienced batting line-up and a bowling attack that was handicapped by the absence of Anrich Nortje. Yes, the pitches had something in them for the bowlers every day, but they were by no means difficult to score as was shown by the South African batsmen in the two wins they secured batting fourth, losing only three wickets each time in achieving the target.

The old saying that to win a game a team needs to take 20 wickets is only true if the batting side scores runs. India’s wins in Australia last year came on the back of solid batting performances that gave the bowlers enough runs to keep fielders in wicket taking positions rather than run saving ones.

The Indian middle order’s ordinary run of form was seen once again as there were just three scores over 50 by the experienced batsmen. It meant that with Rishabh Pant batting at No. 6, the pressure was on him and R. Ashwin to hold up the batting. Pant played a superlative knock in the second innings of the final Test where he scored 100 out of the 140 runs made after he came in to bat. That wasn’t enough to get India to a total that it could defend even though the bowlers tried their best. The part hard to swallow was the way India came after lunch when there were still 41 runs needed and gave up without a fight. It would have been good to see a fight till the end as we saw the earlier Test at the Wanderers ground in Johannesburg. However, there was no Bumrah, no Shami the two most potent Indian bowlers, nor even Shardul Thakur, who has the knack of picking wickets and breaking partnerships.

Even as India lost at the beautiful Newlands cricket ground in picturesque Cape Town, the final Test in the Ashes series between England and Australia in Hobart saw 17 wickets fall on day two of the day-night pink-ball Test. The pitch was so grassy that it would have been difficult to distinguish it from the rest of the outfield. Granted that the pink ball swings far more especially when the lights are switched on, the question is whether the pitch would be criticised like the ones in the sub-continent if a similar number of wickets were to fall in a day. If that happened then all hell would break loose. It’s quite amazing how a pitch where the ball turns but is not dangerous for batsmen is invariably criticised, but not a grassy pitch where the ball flies around the batsman’s helmet.

It’s pretty similar to judging batsmen only by how they play on fast, bouncy pitches but not on pitches where the ball is turning. To face fast bowling, a batsman has to either go forward or play off the back foot, while to play spin, apart from the above, the feet have to be used to go down the pitch to try and smother the turn or go deep in the crease to counter the spin.

Speaking of spin, the turn of the visa controversy with Novak Djokovic’s entry into Australia did no good to the game of tennis nor to Australia. Firstly, why was a visa given to the world No. 1 if he was going to be stopped at the entry point on arrival. Secondly, why have a court hearing if the concerned minister had the power to overrule the court. He could have said earlier that whatever the court ruling, he was going to exercise his powers to send Djokovic back.

Djokovic also did not win any admirers when it was revealed that despite having Covid he had attended functions where there were other people, especially unvaccinated youngsters. That the accuracy of his declaration on his visa application forms about his travel prior to Australia was far from correct can be blamed on his management staff, but not his mingling with people despite having the virus the world has come to dread.

The last few days have seen some great sporting action, but also some pretty disappointing behaviour from icons on and off the sporting arena.

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