Paupers in technique

The Indian innings, shockingly, concluded in the 30th over. It was also India's 13th defeat in 17 ODI outings against South Africa in South Africa. These numbers tell a story. A report by S. Dinakar.

There are no short cuts for batsmen in international cricket. Perhaps, there are, on tracks where the ball rarely rises above the knee. Young Indian batsmen make a mountain of runs in the domestic competitions, often on pitches bereft of pace and bounce. These men get picked for the country, score runs for India in the sub-continent, and soon sign fat commercial deals. In the accompanying hype and hoopla, the real picture gets clouded.

Then they get exposed against lift and real movement.

The Indian debacle at Kingsmead in the second ODI was no accident. The Indians always had it coming.

Yet, more than the Suresh Rainas, it is the system that needs to be blamed. As one illustrious former cricketer put it, you just cannot graduate from primary school to higher education.

It was sad to see someone like Raina made to look like a schoolboy when Andre Nel got his deliveries to climb from short of a good length. He had little clue as the ball flew around.

He had been groomed on the flat pitches of the sub-continent. Now, he was struggling to cope.

India skipper Rahul Dravid had a definite point when he dwelt on the surfaces at home for domestic cricket. He is clear that the authorities need to prepare sporting tracks in India. Yet, despite bold talk, not much seems to be happening.

In such a scenario, where the domestic competitions hold little meaning due to the nature of the wickets, replacements are hard to come by. Consequently, Indian cricket lacks depth.

It would be grossly wrong to conclude that such pitches cannot be prepared at home. The surface for the South Africa-Pakistan duel at Mohali in the ICC Champions Trophy was as lively as they come. Even the South Africans conceded that it was one of the fastest wickets they had played on.

Why don't our budding cricketers play on such pitches more often?

Even in a flawed system, there will always be exceptions. Sachin Tendulkar is one, Dravid, another. It is no coincidence that these two, before they fell to sensational incoming deliveries, alone appeared to be confident against the South African pace attack in Durban.

The rest surrendered too meekly. Young Indian batsmen bring with them a flawed technique and they suffer. The support staff can bring about subtle and often critical changes in a batsman's technique, but he needs to possess the basics for the coaches to work on.

Well, India's 91, chasing 249, at Kingsmead was its lowest ODI score against South Africa. The innings, shockingly, concluded in the 30th over. It was also India's 13th defeat in 17 ODI outings against South Africa in South Africa. These numbers tell a story.

The canny Shaun Pollock, with his accuracy and seam movement, scalped two in his first spell. Then Nel, in a burst of sustained hostility, picked up four for very little in eight overs. Jacques Kallis nailed three batsmen for even less.

The shot selection of the Indians was forgettable. They were simply not getting behind the line. They, predictably, departed without offering a fight.

If the Indian batting can be destroyed in a manner such as this in one-day cricket, with all its restrictions on the pace bowlers, one shudders to think what could happen to this line-up once the Tests begin.

The Indian bowlers had earlier performed an honest job. The side left out Irfan Pathan, went in with four bowlers, and restricted the host to 248 for eight after Smith opted to bat.

Zaheer Khan struck early — the left-armer can be a handful if he lands the ball in the right areas — and Munaf Patel and Ajit Agarkar operated well. Harbhajan Singh — the lone spinner — was attacked by Abraham de Villiers, but Tendulkar bowled a tight spell and Dinesh Mongia chipped in usefully.

The South Africans were made to work for their runs. Not that Kallis was complaining. He was rock-like at No. 3; the South African think-tank had rightly decided to have its technically most accomplished batsman walking in, in the slot immediately after the openers.

Kallis' 14th ODI hundred — also the slowest by a South African in ODIs — served the interests of the team. He was able to string together partnerships and the innings revolved around him.

He was rightly adjudged the Man of the Match. And Smith was smiling.

The scores

Second ODI, Kingsmead, Durban, November 22, 2006. South Africa won by 157 runs.

South Africa: G. Smith lbw b Zaheer 1; L. Bosman lbw b Zaheer 22; J. Kallis (not out) 119; H. Gibbs c Dhoni b Patel 2; A. B. de Villiers st. Dhoni b Mongia 41; M. Boucher c Zaheer b Patel 23; J. Kemp c Dhoni b Agarkar 8; S. Pollock c Tendulkar b Agarkar 0; A. Nel (run out) 22; Extras (lb-1, w-9) 10. Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs) 248.

Fall of wkts: 1-3, 2-47, 3-63, 4-150, 5-196, 6-209, 7-209, 8-248.

India bowling: Patel 10-2-39-2; Zaheer 8-0-53-2; Agarkar 9-1-47-2; Tendulkar 9-1-33-0; Harbhajan 10-0-59-0; Mongia 4-0-16-1.

India: W. Jaffer b Pollock 0; S. Tendulkar b Nel 35; M. Kaif c Gibbs b Pollock 8; R. Dravid b Langeveldt 18; M. Dhoni c Boucher b Nel 14; S. Raina c Kallis b Nel 4; D. Mongia c Kemp b Kallis 1; Harbhajan lbw b Kallis 1; A. Agarkar b Kallis 6; Zaheer Khan c Boucher b Nel 1; M. Patel (not out) 0; Extras (w-1, nb-2) 3. Total (in 29.1 overs) 91.

Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-39, 3-62, 4-62, 5-82, 6-83, 7-83, 8-84, 9-85.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 7-2-17-2; Ntini 6-0-32-0; Langeveldt 4-0-26-1; Nel 8-2-13-4; Kallis 4.1-1-3-3.