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Post Match Review of Kanpur test

Defensive Dravid

By Thaleel Bhai
November 26 2004

Slow scoring at 2.5 runs an over for the first two days of the game, negative bowling following with no intention of winning ever coming into play, and then a useless bore of a fifth day to top it all.

If Australia are trying to change Test cricket for the better with their aggressive methods of playing, perhaps South Africa might be trying to nullify that change by still playing as if it's the 1980's, and batsmen like Chris Tavare and Geoff Boycott are the rule, rather than the exception to it.

It was a dismal test match, only brightened up momentarily by a typical devil-may-care innings from Virender Sehwag and an impressive knock on the third day from Gautam Gambhir. But not even the Delhi duo could give the match some sort of result, with the negative mindset it was played in. South Africa, from ball 1, showed a complete lack of intention to win, stacking the batting lineup as deep as possible and keeping a sparse bowling attack - even weaker than the one flown to India, by leaving out Alfonso Thomas, who may have given the attack additional bite, for more batting strength.

After winning the toss on a belter, most teams would cash in. Send a Sri Lankan, Indian, English or Australian team into bat on the first two days on the Kanpur wicket, and 600-700 runs would probably have been hammered by then. Instead the Proteas, led by Hall's vigil, grinded their way to a painful 510/9 on the third morning, before inserting India. After making the track look like a slow, difficult one to bat one where the ball wasn't coming onto the bat, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir reversed opinions with a blazing 200 run partnership. Once Gambhir fell though, Dravid came to the crease to provide his best impersonation of Hall as the run rate again slowed back down. What was disappointing though was South Africa's refusal to even play aggressively for more than an over or so. Hall played a couple of hard slashes on the fifth day, yet the bowlers were allowed to control the scoring rate as even with a loss out of the question, the tourists continue to block and bore.

Nevertheless, there were a few factors for India to take out of the game, despite their lone innings and the lack of a result. It's rare that the opening batsmen put on a partnership of the size which Gambhir and Sehwag combined for, yet the middle order completely failed to capitalize on the dominant start which had put the South Africans into even more of a defensive mindset. Rahul Dravid followed up some thrilling shots and unfettered strokeplay by offering a forward defensive to almost every ball he faced, Tendulkar scratched around briefly before losing his middle stump, Ganguly played a cameo that got entertaining briefly, before throwing away his wicket, and VVS Laxman's timbers were rattled for the umpteenth time.

The last 7 wickets fell for 72 runs on a track that was still good for batting, and no doubt, the Indian think tank will have cause for worry. Batsmen are looking out of form, and against a medium pace trundler attack, the inability of some of the classiest batsmen today to score will no doubt be raising John Wright's eyebrows. The fielding too was insipid - catches were dropped in the field and behind the stumps, and the bowling looked lackluster - none of the spinners bowled as well as they would have been expected to in the first innings, and in the second, only Murali Kartik impressed with a tight spell and good control, loop and turn.

The absence of youth like Irfan Pathan and Mohammad Kaif was felt in the side strongly and made the Indian fielding look as if it belonged in the same time period as the South African batting. Slow running to allow singles that shouldn't have been there, misfields all over the place and barely any effort from most of the fielders, barring Tendulkar and Sehwag. No doubt here - the lack of the youth hurt the fielding and conceded runs - yet another reason why the team management would do well to find a spot for both those talented youngsters.

And with the bowling, batting and fielding performances being of the quality they were this innings, the think tank will no doubt have some concern going into Kolkata. South Africa will have taken positives out of this game by not losing, but aside from the opening combination and some of the shots Saurav Ganguly played, India have very little to be pleased about. The think tank would be well served to bring back Pathan, both for his exuberance in the field and his batting, as well as his impressive swing bowling, and find a place in the side for Kaif - perhaps that of VVS Laxman, who's been the epitome of inconsistency for some time now. But if India are to win this series as the pundits predicted a few weeks ago, there's a good deal of work to be done after their lackluster performance here.

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