|South Africa is the real litmus test|
|by Gulu Ezekiel|
|Nov 18, 2005|
The trouncing at the hands of South Africa in the
opening ODI at Hyderabad on Tuesday must have come as
a rude wake-up call to the Indian team.
Captain Rahul Dravid may have felt comforted by the
fact that the match almost went down to the last over.
But such apparent close finishes can often be
misleading in ODIs. Certainly in this game the South
Africans were on top from the very beginning and even
Yuvraj Singh's masterly century did little to faze
The visitors are without leading batsman
Herschelle Gibbs and left-arm spinner Nicky Boje who
have refused to tour India since their role in match
fixing was uncovered by the Delhi Police in 2000. They
are in effect fugitives from the law. But that is
The South Africans are now on the verge of equaling
Australia's world record of remaining unbeaten in 21
consecutive ODIs, though this includes a tie and two
"no-results". They will be hungry to take a 2-0 lead
in Saturday's match in Bangalore.
There is no need for the Indian camp to press the
panic button. But they will have realized after the
Hyderabad defeat that they are up against a formidable
Fresh from their 6-1 rout of Sri Lanka, the Indians
would have been buzzing with confidence. But unlike
the Lankans, South Africa have proved there are
equally formidable abroad as they are on their own
With their pace bowling attack firing on all cylinders and
a formidable batting line-up led by skipper Graeme
Pollock and the hugely talented Jacques Kallis, they
have crushed England, Zimbabwe, West Indies and New
Zealand as part of their winning streak that has
extended from late last year.
It has been quite a reversal considering they were
trounced 5-1 by New Zealand just 18 months back and
then routed 5-0 by Sri Lanka following which they had
sunk to eighth in the ICC ODI table.
Currently they are second only to world champs
Australia who have consistently got the better of
It took the South Africans almost a full year to
recover from the ignominy of their shock early exit on
their own soil in the 2003 World Cup. The sacking of
captain Shaun Pollock and the appointment of the young
Graeme Smith as his replacement was the first step in
the rebuilding process following that setback.
Dravid in particular will be feeling the heat as his
appointment as captain extends only till the end of
this current series. Whether he retains the captaincy
or not will be known at the end of the month when the
selectors name the team for the Test series against
Sri Lanka who return in December for three Test
Board president RS Mahendra has been sending out
signals that Sourav Ganguly may be back for the Test
There has been speculation for some time now
that India may finally use the system of different
captains for the two versions of the game.
The final result in this current ODI series could thus
have long-term implications for Indian cricket. It
should make for a gripping battle.