November 29, 2001

Like lambs led to slaughter

Krishnamachari Srikkanth

The abject surrender of the Indians at Centurion has once again proved that our team are tigers only at home. Once we are on foreign land, we turn tail and become the tamest of lambs, willingly committing ourselves to slaughter.

On Tuesday, the Indian batsmen, expected to show commitment, crumbled again. That we lost seven wickets in under two sessions of play against an ordinary attack with only one great bowler -Shaun Pollock - eloquently conveys our frailty on alien soil.

The pitches in South Africa have all been good batting surfaces with maybe just a little extra juice in them. Conditions also seemed favourable at all the venues. If anything, the weather sided with the Indians, playing a big role in helping them save the controversy-ridden second Test and in stretching the final `Test' to the fifth day.

India getting thumped in spite of it all only reflects the lack of application on the part of our batsmen every time they were in the middle. And, mind you, it was not our younger batsmen who were guilty of this but the senior players, who were expected to know better. This indeed makes the loss all the more unpalatable.

Talking of younger players brings me to Virender Sehwag and Deep Dasgupta who, to me, were the finds of the series. Both Sehwag, who plays for Delhi, and Dasgupta, who was born in Delhi but plays for Bengal, displayed admirable ability and temperament, even when the chips were down. They surely made me wonder if there is something in the Indian capital's air these days that aids the players to feel at home anywhere.

Deep Dasgupta
Deep Dasgupta
© AFP
Dasgupta's achievements, which saw him play a central role in saving the Port Elizabeth Test, were all the more impressive considering the fact that he was the one player who did not have Indian captain Sourav Ganguly's backing. Almost certain to be left out of the Test series, he got his chance when Sameer Dighe injured himself at the eleventh hour. All credit to him that he grabbed his chance, literally, with both gloved hands. Dasgupta has definitely come on as a `keeper, and his performance with the bat too gives me, and I believe the millions of Indian fans, much heart. Now is the time to groom him and to ensure that he does not lose his way.

SS Das
SS Das
© AFP
Shiv Sunder Das too played a few good knocks to reinforce the feeling that India has at last found an opening batsman who can come good in all conditions. Now all we need is another equally good opening partner for him, and India's biggest woe in recent times will stand addressed.

I, for one, thought that Connor Williams, who played alongside Das in the final `Test' at Centurion, showed guts and gumption. It is time that he is rewarded with a place in the team at Mohali. The series against a weakened England side definitely provides us with the best chance of trying out the left-hander from Baroda. I hope he succeeds, for that will be a huge blessing for Indian cricket.

As for the Indian bowling, Javagal Srinath excepted, I do not think they did anything of particular note. It is sad then that India will miss Srinath in the first Test at Mohali. The pitch there is reputed to be friendliest surface for fast bowlers in the series, and Srinath would definitely have proved more than useful there.

India now will be redirecting their attention to what should be a relatively easy home series. It is time again for runs to be made, Tests to be won and champagne to flow. But how I wish that both the Indian Board and the team do not push away the unpleasant lessons that this tour has thrown up. For after home series against England and Zimbabwe, we will be abroad yet again.

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