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Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have with me former South African batsman Daryll Cullinan to look back at India's victory in the third Test in Kanpur against South Africa.
A comprehensive win for India. You had said that this match would come down to the way both sides approached their second innings. Is it fair to say India outplayed South Africa there comprehensively?
Daryll Cullinan: I think it is a fair assessment. It was almost unreal to see how convincing their performance was today. All credit to them, they deserved the victory. Harbhajan Singh was unplayable and they got some breakthroughs at the right time. I thought Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy was [exceptional], especially when he gave the ball to Virender Sehwag and they got the crucial wicket of Graeme Smith and suddenly they were on a roll. Sadly for South Africa, they just couldn't respond. It all got a bit too much for them.
AR: Some crucial mistakes made by South Africa today, but perhaps, the one that will hurt them most will be India adding 46 for the last wicket. South Africa looked strangely off-colour in that first session and that trend continued for the rest of the day?
DC: Yes, and those can be telling blows. I had said yesterday that South Africa would have managed if they had conceded a lead of 20 or so, but going into the start of an innings, having forfeited that lead, especially with a couple of chances going down would have been tough for them. But that is the nature of Test cricket. I think a couple of the youngsters in the South African side will have come to understand how fragile things can be and how things can turn, especially in these conditions. And sadly, that trend continued throughout the day. It was an opportunity lost for South Africa and that is what will really trouble Mickey Arthur and Smith. There were opportunities lost in the World Cup in the Caribbean, in the ICC World Twenty 20 and here again an opportunity to make a statement and go to the next level, something that they had been striving for, was there for the taking and once again it eluded them.
AR: It was always going to be tough batting on this pitch. But do you think South Africa were overly defensive, playing for time rather than runs and that was their undoing?
DC: They probably couldn't find the balance between attack and defence. But you have to give credit where it is due. India were the side I expected them to be and it's taken them two and half Tests to get going. When someone like Harbhajan finds the correct length and gets bounce, it makes things really tough. South Africa won the toss, but missed an opportunity in the first innings [by not putting up a big score], and then once again, allowing India today, to get a 60-run lead. This is virtually how tough Tests are. An hour or two can make a difference, a couple of dismissals can - there were a couple of rash shots played by the South African batsmen in the first innings - all those things add up in the bigger scale of things. It will be a great learning experience for the younger players, but having said that, this is the most experience South African Test side in a long time. They will have mixed feelings, but once they were under it today, they were unable to respond, and the way things were out there, I don't think any side would have been able to respond.
AR: It was a pitch that helped the spinners, but how did you view the performance of the pace attack on this pitch? The Indian pacemen had been struggling to get breakthroughs, but they played a crucial role in this Test.
DC: It was a mixed bag [the pace attack of both teams]. But what I can say is that Ishant Sharma makes a big difference to this Indian attack. They look a different side. They believe that they have someone who can match bowlers in the other teams. His extra height helps, as does his ability to bowl a good line and bowl those really unplayable deliveries. He is a key player and I think India have to ensure that he goes from strength to strength and gets stronger and becomes a formidable force.
AR: How crucial were the knocks played by VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, especially their approach, where they played their shots freely?
DC: Ganguly is a tough player and he mentioned that it was one of his finest knocks. Just looking back on his innings, it was really an exceptional knock. He negotiated what was on offer, and mixed defence and free-flowing strokes superbly. He played Paul Harris superbly, outside the off stump. I think it was a great learning experience for Harris and hopefully he will be a better bowler for it. Yes, it was one of the defining moments of this Test as well as his career and also in terms of Indian cricket - they wouldn't have wanted to lose a Test series at home.
AR: You spoke about Dhoni's captaincy - he was captaining his first Test - but what did you make of his aggression and positive attitude?
|South Africa failed to grab that elusive opportunity to make a major statement about their team and its leadership. But overall I think they can be very proud of the cricket that they played and what they have achieved.|
DC:I think Dhoni is always impressive. I saw him Ireland a while back and I think he's a very smart cricketer. I think this is the dilemma that faces Indian cricket at the moment. You have got an aging captain with an aging side on the one hand and you have got a young captain with an emerging side on the other. Just looking at it from the outside, it looks as though the energy and force is moving with Dhoni. He is the face of Indian cricket I often hear rumours about the split between the juniors and the seniors and I feel that therein lies the major issue and India need to address it quickly. How much longer can they look to have an older captain with an older squad looking to preserve their places, when you have a dynamic, young, smart captain on the other side, who has got everything moving behind him? I think that is the conflict at the moment which is troubling India and I don't see how long they can continue having two captains. You also sense that the squad warms to Dhoni, they seem relaxed and happy to follow what he has to say. I don't want to be Gary Kirsten or the Indian selectors, but I am sure, in time, and looking at the circumstances of this victory will mean that Dhoni will become captain in both forms of the game.
AR: Finally, what do you think South Africa can take out of this 1-1 scoreline?
DC: I think South Africa can go back with their heads held high. If you had offered them a drawn series in India before they came here they would have grabbed it. It has been a successful tour, they have gained in experience, they have fought hard and probably a couple of hours in this Test was what undid them. Yes, they failed to grab that elusive opportunity to make a major statement about their team and its leadership. But overall I think they can be very proud of the cricket that they played and what they have achieved.
AR: Daryll, thank you very much for your views.
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