I am writing this in the backdrop of the on going cricket series between India and SA. Things have gone beautifully for India, and although it could have been so much better, i still feel very pleased that our team has not succumbed to the pressure of their horrendous past performances in South Africa.
Notice how i did not use any other factor when mentioning the ghosts of what India has underachieved in South Africa in all of their previous tours. We were so used to hearing “They are a bunch of very talented players, but …..”, and the ‘but’ inadvertently was about embarrassing losses on the foreign soil. In the past few years, specifically in the Ganguly and the post Ganguly period, Indian cricket has evolved big time. One of the factors why things have worked out well for the Indian cricket team has been an excellent mix of experienced and good young players, but more than that its been the victories on the foreign soils that have made the team confident, resilient and very competitive. Sure there have been incidents where the team has gone down like a house on fire, but they have been way less in numbers than what it used to be.
That is precisely the reason why i find it surprising when the rest of the cricketing world, especially the part which considers its teams to be the best, has a hard time coming out of the past. A certain Mr. Shaun Pollock , now a part of a very biased South African commentary team absolutely gave no chance to the Indian team post their massive loss in the first test in Durban. It looked like the South Africans had already assumed that they will win the series hands down. Throughout the first game i was hearing the splendid team of Protean commentators harp about the excellent bowling attack they have, and the so called “bounce” factor which the Indian batsmen wont be able to handle. I used to think that it was the Aussies who were the most touchy feely about losing in their own backyard, but to my surprise the South Africans are probably a notch higher. Without exception, a stroke from the SA batsmen was the classiest shot, and the best shot from an Indian was a loose ball from the SA bowler. A huge nick from the SA batsman was “maybe out”, but an LBW shout from the SA bowler “had to be out”. It looked like the commentators wanted the SA team to win more than the 11 players on the field did.
More than enough reason why i got a bit of “wicked” satisfaction, when India absolutely plastered SA in the second test match. The infamous “bounce” and the solid “batting line up”, just did not work for the Proteas, and neither did the blatantly biased commentary from the Jackmans and Pollocks on air. The third game, was farcical. The South Africans, with the help of some pretty inept bowling from India, kept batting on and on until the game almost lost all its meaning. I would have expected a team which was so sure of “sweeping” the series to be a bit more confident in their own bowling, but that was not to be. SA gave India less than a day to chase more than 300 runs, and absolutely killed the spirit of such a wonderful series. So much for having the best bowler in the world in your team.
After all this i would have assumed that the commentators must have learnt that playing against the number 1 test team and the number 2 One day team in the world is no joke and cant be taken for granted, but to my surprise even the One-Day International series is following a pretty similar pattern. India lost the first game, and it made the SA commentators think that their team (number 4 in ODI rankings) is suddenly the best one day team. What they forgot was how cool a game cricket is and how quickly does it leave you flabbergasted on your knees. Game 2 and 3 of the ODI series were a clear indication, that accompanied with a bit of luck, and lots of resilience you can win from almost any situation. India proved that they are worthy of all the rankings they hold currently. A team of very good players will not alone win games for you, its how long you can hang in there, and keep fighting even when the circumstances are against you, that will do the job. I am not saying that India does it all the time, but i am sure that South Africa practically never does it in pressure situations, which has earned them the infamous “Chokers” tag.
An incident in the 3rd One Day game absolutely proved how biased these SA commentators are. At one point in time, when India were pretty much in an advantageous position, they flashed a statistic about the ODI rankings of all the countries. Here is how the dude explained it “If South Africa win the series 4-1 they will replace India and become the number 2 ranked team, but if they win 3-2 or if the series is drawn, no change of positions will happen”. I mean what the heck. They did not even bother to consider a scenario where South Africa could lose this series, by any margin whatsoever. Dumb confidence or just plain idiocy.
The One Day series is still wide open. India do have an advantage, but its still ‘game on’. As much as i like to see a great game of cricket (which India wins 🙂 ), i would also like to have an unbiased team of commentators providing their thoughts on the television. That has been the only sour grape for me in this otherwise wonderful contest between 2 very good teams.