By Gulu Ezekiel
India were always expected to win both Test matches in Bangladesh. After all, it was a case of the world number one side taking on the side at the bottom of the list.
But there was an unmistakable air of lethargy and listlessness about the Indian team even though they won the series with ease.
The lack of intensity may have been due to the Indians realizing they did not have to be at the top of their game to come out winners. There were times when the champions simply appeared to have taken their foot off the pedal.
In the end there were plenty of questions but few answers as the world number one prepares to take on the world number two next week.
Is Ishant Sharma back at his best or will he lapse into bad habits once again against the mighty South Africans? Is Zaheer Khan back in form or is he still struggling with injuries? And can S. Sreesanth ever shake off his bad-boy image and constant fitness problems? Will Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ohja fit into their roles as frontline spinners?
As for the batsmen, is it now a given that Yuvraj Singh is a notch below Test class and that he will never again regain full fitness?
Some of these questions may well be answered during the South African visit. But even on home tracks, the Indians will face their sternest test to hold onto their ICC world number one Test ranking.
The South Africans certainly have problems of their own. Ever since their re-entry on the international scene in 1991 after the lengthy apartheid ban, there has been a churning in their cricket set-up as they strive to right historic wrongs. Whether that will put them under additional stress is another question that should be answered soon.
Injuries to Yuvraj, Rahul Dravid and Sreesanth have given some new faces a golden opportunity to have a crack at international cricket. And the most exciting prospect is undoubtedly Karnataka’s new pace sensation Abhimanyu Mithun.
Two Test matches is like throwing crumbs to hungry fans. But something is better than nothing. And it must be remembered that South Africa readily agreed to play these Tests when it suddenly dawned on the BCCI late last year that India could have rapidly lost their top-dog status if they did not play more Test matches this year.
There are still two blank spaces in India’s Test record and that is their inability to win a series in Australia and South Africa.
Until that is achieved, the biggest question mark will remain if India deserves to be ranked world number one.
[This article was originally published on ButJazz.com.]