By Gulu Ezekiel
India can thank their lucky stars that they have managed to cling onto the world number one Test ranking.
But a mere two-Test series against South Africa has left cricket fans crying out for just one more match. Nothing less than three Test matches would have been a true test of the relative strengths of the two sides.
Even these two Tests were a late after-thought on the part of the BCCI who scrambled to alter the visitors’ itinerary from seven ODIs to three to squeeze in the series. Or else India’s number one ranking would have been lost due to paucity of matches this year and nothing else.
How much this ranking means to the Indian team was evident by the joy and relief they showed when Harbhajan Singh claimed the last wicket at the Eden Gardens with just minutes to go for the end of the match.
Of course it could well have been over midway through the final day if so much play had not been lost on Wednesday due to the weather. Then again, the nail-biting finish was a great advertisement for the unique thrills that only a Test match can produce and the enthusiastic crowds backing India throughout the match was a joy to witness.
India were also severely handicapped by the absence of spearhead Zaheer Khan on the final day and the constant fitness issues plaguing the pace bowlers continues to pose problems for the selectors and team management.
Even though both the Tests ended in innings wins, they produced plenty of thrills and some outstanding individual performances.
The standout undoubtedly was South Africa’s middle order hero Hashim Amla. That he was dismissed just once in three innings for 490 runs and occupied the crease for a shade under 24 hours in all is a tribute to his powers of concentration and commitment. And how close he came to denying India victory on the final day in partnership with last man Morne Morkel.
Despite Harbhajan’s match winning bowling at Kolkata, it was fast bowler Dale Steyn’s tremendous spell of 7 for 51 in the first Test at Nagpur that stood out in the short but sweet series.
What an irony it is that in this day and age of 50 and 20-over thrills, it is the Tests matches that have captured the imagination. And the three-ODI series that began in Jaipur on Sunday now appears anti-climatic.
Then again, that is what makes Test matches so magical to true cricket lovers. And no amount of hype and hoopla can erase 133 years of history and tradition.
[This article was originally published on ButJazz.com.]