Harbhajan consistent

Harbhajan Singh wasn’t the threat one expected him to be at home, but the off-spinner out-performed his colleagues.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Virender Sehwag’s triple hundred defined the course of the first Test. The batsman struggled thereafter, but the epic innings had done its bit, writes Nandita Sridhar, while reviewing the Indian players’ performance in the series againstSouth Africa.

There were three matches played on three different wickets, which determined the nature of the contests. After the draw in Chennai, India succumbed in Ahmedabad, before Kanpur allowed it a chance to redeem itslef. After Virender Sehwag’s triple hundred in Chennai, the side was plagued by inconsistencies which made the win at Kanpur more a relief than an achievement worth celebrating. A progress report.

Harbhajan Singh

The off-spinner was named Man-of-the-Series largely because of what he managed in Kanpur. The five-wicket haul in the first innings in Chennai came at a cost. The wickets he managed in Ahmedabad were rendered ineffectual by the side’s poor batting. Harbhajan wasn’t lethal, but was the only consistent performer in the side. South Africa’s improvement against spin meant he needed to trap them in defence. His captains, Anil Kumble and M. S. Dhoni, supported him with attacking fields. Harbhajan wasn’t the threat one expected him to be at home, but out-performed his colleagues. Better support in the first two Tests might have helped.

Rating: 7/10 Virender Sehwag

Only Virender Sehwag could’ve approached South Africa’s 540 in Chennai with such clarity. After scoring 50 runs in the last session of day two, he revealed that his mission was to guide India past 700 despite the team being in danger of following-on. Having dreamt audaciously, he set about fulfilling the team’s requirements. His triple hundred defined the course of the first Test. A loss in Chennai would’ve made it tough for India to engineer a comeback in Ahmedabad, even if one would have seen a different wicket from what one eventually saw. The batsman struggled thereafter, but the epic innings had done its bit.

Rating: 6/10 Sourav Ganguly

The left-hander’s 87 in the first innings in Kanpur was as critical as Sehwag’s triple hundred, when viewed in context. A deficit for India in Kanpur would’ve made batting fourth precarious. Chennai had little in it for him after Sehwag and Dravid had piled on the runs, while his 87 in Ahmedabad was a futile attempt at saving face. The wicket in Kanpur deteriorated from day one, which made gauging bounce tricky. With the ball going through the top and keeping low in equal measure, Ganguly was patient, but uncompromising in his intention to score.

Rating: 6/10 M.S. Dhoni

The wicket-keeper had a disappointing series, which he redeemed at the business end with the Kanpur win. His batting appeared to be in an identity struggle. Suspect in defence and denied the freedom to fulfill his erstwhile explosive capacities, Dhoni appeared uncomfortable. Anil Kumble’s groin injury offered him a challenge as captain. The pitch revealed its nature two days before the match, but despite that, his bowling changes and field placements brought about the three-day win for the side. Opening with Harbhajan Singh in South Africa’s second innings, with an attacking field was one such. As a ’keeper, Dhoni occasionally struggled in judging his takes, but was up for the challenge in Kanpur.

Rating: 5.5/10 Anil Kumble

The captain had a flat track to bowl on and manage his bowlers, in Chennai. Kumble did well in restricting the South African batsmen and bowling probing spells there. A groin strain impaired his bowling and captaincy in Ahmedabad, keeping him from meeting his own high standards at home. Some of his plans didn’t work, and a chance to gesture his intent with the ball was denied to him by his injury. A fully-fit Kumble would’ve had it much better.

Rating: 5/10 Rahul Dravid

A personal milestone was reached in Chennai, when Dravid crossed 10,000 runs in Tests. Dravid’s century was crucial in reassuring Sehwag to proceed with his scoring rate. In itself, the innings guided him out of a difficult period, and helped India to a substantial lead. He played a crucial hand with V.V.S. Laxman in Kanpur, but disappointed like the rest of the batsmen in Ahmedabad, when his powers of sustenance were needed the most.

Rating: 5/10 V.V.S. Laxman

Before Ganguly played his match-winning 87, Laxman had survived crucial sessions in the company of Dravid in India’s first innings. The batsman briefly managed subliminal excellence despite being denied consistent bounce. A wicket at that stage could’ve pressurised Ganguly into circumspection. He was lucky when a few balls missed the stumps by the closest of margins. Save for that knock, Laxman would have been less than satisfied with his batting in the series.

Rating 5/10 Sreesanth

Sreesanth would occasionally retreat into being the wicket-taking bowler India needed him to be. The only fast bowler to have played all three matches he struggled with consistency. An emotional outburst was just a boundary away. Batsmen weren’t intimidated, but the bowler persisted. A good partner in Ishant Sharma helped his case in Kanpur.

Rating: 4.5/10 Wasim Jaffer

Jaffer was lucky to make it to the squad after a torrid time in Australia, and luckier still to have survived the course of the series. The featherbed in Chennai allowed him room to construct a half-century, but his dismissals thereafter in Ahmedabad and Kanpur reflected poorly on his technique against the moving ball as an opener.

Rating 4/10 R.P. Singh

R.P. Singh played his first ever Test match at home, in Chennai, which would unfortunately go down as forgettable.

Coming off an injury, the left-arm pacer never threatened to take a wicket, neither did he seek restriction.

Virender Sehwag… a classy triple hundred in the Chennai Test.-V. GANESAN

His bowling distinctly lacked substance, which made it a relief when he was dropped for the final Test.

Rating: 2/10

*Ratings have been done for players who played a minimum of two Tests in the series.