What is it about `fragility'?

Dilip Doshi with Harbhajan Singh. Asish Ray, the famous media personality, is of the view that a left-arm spinner of the quality of Doshi would have helped India win the Test in Newlands.-N. SRIDHARAN

Team India is enveloped in darkness following its defeat in the final Test; even a meaty spell of rain could not save it. The journey back to light may not be easy, writes S. Dinakar in his diary.

India and South Africa are off to Cape Town, the decisive stretch of the African Safari. The South Africans had partied long the previous night after overcoming India and the weather at Kingsmead. Many of them are, predictably, bleary eyed while boarding the aircraft. The Indians slept well, but the disappointment of the defeat in the second Test shows on their faces.

Santhakumarn Sreesanth and Dinesh Karthik are seated next to Sachin Tendulkar. Karthik is chirpy. He is also in the scheme of things for the decider. Cape Town is already swinging, anticipating the New Year. The cricketers travel to the waterfront, where the celebrations are on. Some of the South Africans have a quieter night at Newlands, under the African moon, gazing at the Table Mountain. What would the fresh year have in store for them?

In the morning, the mountain, with clouds swirling around it, appears even more beautiful. It also looms over the Newlands cricket ground; there are tales about cricketers finding the sight inspirational.

Cape Town moves at a relaxed pace, but there is a vibrancy about the place. This is a city of boulevards and bistros, sea and sunshine. And of course, the Table Mountain.

The journey up the mountain is breathtaking, with the driver negotiating the bends with finesse. There are spectacular views of the city, the coast and the silvery waters.

The mountain is flat at the top. The wind really blows and you can almost touch the clouds. Africa does enchant. The tension leading to the Test is palpable.

Former Zimbabwe all-rounder Neil Johnson faces another challenge — to get his left-arm back in shape. The friendly Johnson says he fell off a bike. He winces even as he says, "It will take eight weeks for the fracture to heal and this is the first week."

Johnson marvels at Sreesanth's swing. "He is achieving it so late. Some of the South African batsmen told me they were not able to pick him."

When the Test gets underway, Dinesh Karthik is in the thick of action on day one, opening the innings. "The kid has heart," remarks a South African scribe. He is not wrong.

Karthik and the Indian team's video analyst S. Ramakrishnan are dinner partners on the tour. Most of their evenings have been quiet. This time it is different; Karthik is swarmed by admirers.

Asish Ray, famous media personality, is covering the series for `The Telegraph'. He is impressed with Karthik's technique. "In Test cricket, there is not much to choose between him and Dhoni," he says.

Mr. Ray, settled in London, has completed his book, `One-day cricket — The Indian Challenge.' It looks at the history of one-day cricket from an Indian perspective.

The conversation with Mr. Ray is an engaging one. He remembers the genius of Salim Durrani, the technical excellence of Sunil Gavaskar and the match-winning ability of Bhagwat Chandrasekar and Gundappa Viswanath. He is also convinced that a left-arm spinner of the quality of Dilip Doshi would have won the third Test for India in Newlands. "He was past his peak when he played for India and still got over 100 wickets. He could really give it a rip."

Mr. Ray then narrates an interesting tale. "You know he took his son, a budding spinner, to Lord's and then demonstrated to him what accuracy was. He kept a handkerchief on the good length area and then bowled. He had not bowled for years. Still four of his six balls landed on the handkerchief. Dilip (Doshi) called it `muscle memory.'"

The Indian batsmen still have memories of Kingsmead. They re-enter the self-destructive mode. The Test turns South Africa's way.

Meanwhile, Sunil Gavaskar is not happy with the words "Indian fragility" in the Barry Richards column in a local newspaper. The South African was referring to paceman Dale Steyn's bowling in his subsequent spells.

"What does he mean by that?" Gavaskar asks the media. The little master goes on. "Look at the World Cup. The South Africans have been fragile in the World Cup. We have at least won it once."

The clouds have now cleared and the mountain basks in the golden hue of the evening. But Team India is enveloped in darkness; even a meaty spell of rain cannot save it. The journey back to light may not be easy.

One dream ends and another will begin. Life goes on.