February 19, 2010

Incredible India somehow overcome all obstacles to retain top ranking


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I incline to agree with all those experts and critics who believe that India won’t be able to retain the number one ranking in Test cricket. Not because the Indian team carries any real weakness or lacks depth and character.

The reason why they would find it tough to be top ranked side is simple. They have to overcome far too many obstacles than any other team to continue their winning streak despite being in the possession of the best outfit in business.

We have already witnessed how difficult it has been for them to register victories even after dominating the rivals. They were threatened more by the weather in Bangladesh than the team they were confronting.

The weather very nearly ruined their chances of squaring the just concluded Test series against South Africa. It’s quite extraordinary how the Nature comes to halt the Indian progress so frequently. No other team has to be wary of such factors.

Yes only weather could have saved South Africa in the Kolkata Test after they had a conceded a monumental first innings lead with over two days to spare. Obviously Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra were to be deadlier with men round the bat on a pitch offering them more assistance than in the first innings.

There was only one result possible, unless outside factors intervened, once Mahendra Singh Dhoni had declared the innings in the closing stages of the third day’s play.

The first sign of the outside factors came into the equation right away as the light faded dramatically after just five deliveries of the South African innings and the Indian bowlers were deprived of the opportunity of a crack at the batsmen who must have been fatigued after having done leather chasing for almost two days.

Then the heavens opened and considerable amount of time was lost on the fourth day. There had not been any signs of rain in the earlier part of the series but it just came when the South Africans needed to get some relief.

India had to take seven wickets on the fifth and final day to translate their dominance into victory. The morning was bright and sunny but the injury to their spearhead Zaheer Khan meant the quarter of their bowling power had been lost before taking the field.

Not surprisingly the Indians were frustrated by each and every player who came into bat. Even last man Morne Morkel batted with the steely determination of Geoff Boycott while Hashim Amla appeared to be in greater control of the situation than even Don Bradman would have been at any point of his career.

History is witness to the fact that the oddest things have happened against India. It would have had come as no surprise if the South Africans had escaped with a draw even after having been outplayed in every department of the game.

Well India just managed to take the last wicket that helped them win the Test, level the series and retain the number one rank. Dhoni was obviously a very relieved man when Harbhajan took the final wicket with barely a few minutes play remaining.


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