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India v South Africa, 3rd Test, Kanpur, 3rd day
Daryll Cullinan: 'Ganguly's innings the defining moment'
April 13, 2008
An opportunity lost for South Africa as India convincingly wrap up the Test
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Daryll Cullinan: "Ishant Sharma makes a big difference to this Indian attack" © AFP

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.

Comments: 20 
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Posted by jimmy on (April 14, 2008, 18:02 GMT)

SA have a lot to learn from this tour that can prepare them for Aus series. 1st test: SA were under pressure after Sehwag blitz,India collapse saved them a lot of trouble though Aus may not be so lenient 2nd test: end of story within 2 hrs..70 odd all out..cant expect this from the contest after such a show 3rd test: 130 odd for 1 and then the collapse...had they gone on and scored 350 odd it might have been a different story..cant let this happen against Aus if they wanna win Best of luck to them for the Australian challenge,hope they finish India's unfinished business out there. As for the pitch, I fully agree with Dhoni...Indians guaranteed get greentops whenever they tour so why be so defensive if a rank turner was produced

Posted by Grudge on (April 14, 2008, 17:51 GMT)

If not India, I would surely like to see South Africa as the best test team in the world in the near future. Sure Aussie team has some spectacular players, but they are not good champions or sporting losers. This is seen in the SA team. Smith hats off. Arthur did most of the talking (unlike ponting, smith was a good leader & an honored guest). Steyn was superb and it would be a good fight between him and Ishant in the near future. Hope that will be a healthy one unlike Warne and Murali.

Posted by Saptarishi on (April 14, 2008, 15:28 GMT)

Whenever India wins a match everyone has only praise for M. S. Dhoni. But all the wins are crafted by the other players. Dhoni has never played a captian's knock to win any game for India as captain, neither did he do anything special as a captain. He is just plain lucky that players in his team plays the right game to win the match for India. In that case it is unfair to give most of the credit of the win to Dhoni alone. Any other captain would have won the game when Ganguly played such a splendid innings.

Posted by janet on (April 14, 2008, 14:44 GMT)

India have had a very good start to 2008 as have South Africa. However India played the world's strongest team away and South Africa have played mediocre teams at home and away until this tour. A drawn series was perhaps the fairest result especially given the injuries to key Indian players. More importantly how will South Africa play in England in the summer? Yes they have some new young fast bowlers(who are playing in the County teams before the series) but they are still vulnerable to spin and almost all the batsmen's best figures are against the lower order teams in the world rankings.

Posted by Prasenjit on (April 14, 2008, 14:12 GMT)

I applaud the spirit of the South Africans and the friendly manner in which these three tests were played. Yes there was the occasional friction (like Harbhajan patting Prince in the South African second innings) but that is bound to happen in such a hotly contested match. Thank you SA for keeping the spirit of the game alive and we would love to host you anytime. That said, please bring Dada back to our ODI team.

Posted by Navya on (April 14, 2008, 14:09 GMT)

Well done to India most of the members did extremely well. I would like to say well done to Sreesanth and Ishant most people forgot that they are the ones who stayed on batting even though they are tail enders they did superb. Well done to Dhoni for his captaincy. I would also like to congratulate SA for making India struggle for runs

Posted by Madan on (April 14, 2008, 13:33 GMT)

I disagree with VMSDAN. Dhoni's keeping has improved by leaps and bounds where Kartik seems to be losing confidence. In Aus, Dhoni was showing up an aging Gilchrist. I wonder why people criticize Dhoni's keeping, is it because we in India are not used to seeing hefty, well-built keepers and so feel it is something wrong?? Again his batting is unorthodox but he reads the game well and bats to the situation. He was defensive in Australia where he had to bat with the tail. At Kanpur, he attacked alongwith Ganguly because positive batting was the way to go. Above all, the team plays superbly as a unit around him and that alone is a good enough reason to keep him in the team. Didn't we stockpile Ganguly all the time when he was captain and struggling with his batting just because the team did well under him?

Posted by Adrian on (April 14, 2008, 11:48 GMT)

Well played to India - Especially the old timer batsmen !

I am afraid that number 3,4 & 5 batsmen of SA were never going to handle the conditions like the veteran 3,4 and 5 of India - maybe an extra innings might have helped.

Then SA chose to bowl leg stump against India (who are so strong on their legs) instead of starving the runs half a foot outside the off side and lets face it - India have 4 or 5 better spinners in their team than our spinner.

Maybe the pitch was a little too much but the cricket was exciting and the bowlers deserve some fun too .

Posted by MADHUSUDAN on (April 14, 2008, 11:15 GMT)

One point to note is that we are being obsessed with M.S.Dhoni. Agreed, he has shown results as a captain in the shorter form of the game, but in the process we are ignoring one thing and that is he is not the best keper that the country has, nor is he a good test batsman. A youngster like Dinesh Karthik, who is any day a better wicket keeper than Dhoni and is a better test batsman is gettign ignored. Besides, Dhoni seems to have his own ideas of whom to play and whom not to play, despite repeated failures. Yuvraj Singh, is a classical example of a poor test player but he is being given too many chances, while players who have been performing consistently in the domestic circuit like Mohammad Kaif are forever outside teh team.

Posted by MADHUSUDAN on (April 14, 2008, 10:34 GMT)

So, India has won with a fair bit of help from the pitch and pof course the performance of the seniors. But,one thing will always rankle and that is it took India almost three tests to come out with something resembling the side that played in Australia. And this while playing in India. What should be made of this, is it going to be easier beating India in India? Maybe, our team is starting to lose focus while playing in India.

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