| Mahendra Singh Dhoni en route to his 47 in Durban on Saturday. (AP)
Durban: Soothsayers in this part of the world better watch out. If Mark Boucher decides to open shop, they could be quickly out of business!
After Day IV, Boucher predicted South Africa wouldn’t need more than 50 overs to bowl India out and make it 1-1 in the three-Test Castle series. That turned out prophetic. In fact, no more than 42.1 overs were required on Saturday.
Indeed, the South Africans won by 174 runs despite the absence of No. 1 player Jacques Kallis, who is recovering from a back problem. Driven by a mission, to draw level before Cape Town, they were brash and bold.
Very effective as well.
Nobody expected India to score 354 and pocket the series at Kingsmead. Equally, after the fantastic win at the Wanderers, nobody expected such a capitulation. Now, Rahul Dravid and Co. are back to searching for answers.
“Stoppages don’t help batsmen, but the Indians weren’t aggressive... Their approach should’ve been different,” former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, a witness to the spineless show, told The Telegraph.
If MoM Makhaya Ntini (five for 48 in the second innings) was the hero on the last day, the biggest culprits were former captain Sourav Ganguly and Wasim Jaffer. After spending time at the wicket, both got out to terrible shots — steer and pull, respectively. Earlier, Sachin Tendulkar was clueless and fell for a duck.
The Indians, it seemed, were banking on the weather. The 55-minute delay at the start probably encouraged them even more to look for relief from elsewhere. No strategy could’ve been weaker and more poorly thought.
In cricket, you trust your ability, not keep casting a glance heavenwards. Actually, towards the end, Sreesanth put on an ‘act’ worthy of an Oscar. Umpires Asad Rauf and Ian Howell weren’t impressed. Neither the small turnout, which resorted to barracking.
Eventually, Sreesanth was the last out. Rauf erred, yet again (as the ball hit the right shoulder), but that’s another story. The quick, though, ought not to have remonstrated and may land in trouble.
In early February, the Indians couldn’t save the Karachi Test. The script got repeated in Mumbai, against England, some six weeks later. Well, it didn’t change in Durban.
Of course, we haven’t become the worst team in business. Just as we didn’t become the best after the first Test. The lack of fight, except from top-scorer Mahendra Singh Dhoni (47), is what hurts.
“The top-order didn’t cope well (seven down for 101) and we paid the price... It’s disappointing... With light being a factor, we couldn’t have gone for the target and it was a question of playing out overs... Conditions in the morning were challenging and the South Africans exploited well... For long periods, however, we’d been competitive,” Dravid remarked.
The Indian captain added: “We’ve got to come back and fight hard... The good thing about back-to-back Tests (the final one begins on Tuesday) is that there’s little time to brood over what has gone... We’ve got to pick ourselves and do better...”
Dravid declined to confirm whether former vice-captain Virender Sehwag’s position was finally under threat. “It won’t be proper to talk of selection matters at a Press conference... As after every Test, there will be discussions (in general)... Whether to change or give players another chance to get better...”
He praised Dhoni who took a blow on his “badly bruised” finger on ball No.1 itself. “He has shown a lot of improvement... Today, he showed pluck and fight... He’s trying to curb natural instincts and is going to read situations better...”
South African captain Graeme Smith, who’d got much stick after the Wanderers thrashing, was over the moon. And, why not'
“I’ve been part of some great victories, but this stands out because of everything that had been going around... We were honest after the first Test and realised serious work had to be done... It helped that we largely stayed away from the junk (criticism in the Media)... The team didn’t get enough respect... Right now, we’re pumped up... The adrenaline is flowing, but our feet are on the ground... It got fiery towards the end, but the boys wanted it badly...” he said.
Smith didn’t forget to take a dig at Sreesanth (and, to a lesser extent, Zaheer Khan): “A bit of play acting had been going on...” Ntini, who arrived for an interaction with a bunch of grapes — surely, they couldn’t have tasted sweeter before — also joined in.
“Sreesanth kept saying he couldn’t see the ball, but when I bowled a half-volley, he drove me for a boundary... If you can’t see, you must duck a half-volley, too... I didn’t understand,” he exclaimed.
The teams leave for Cape Town on Sunday morning.
THE DRAVID WAY
• The top-order has to perform
• Resources have to be managed well
• The bowlers, who have done a fantastic job, need to get a breather. So, the top-order must fire
• Decisions have to be taken based on what's best for the team