The experts review the action

Manjrekar: 'India's batting set this victory up'

India win despite a heroic effort from Hashim Amla, but both teams have a few weaknesses they need to work on (08:42)

February 18, 2010


India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 5th day

Manjrekar: 'India's batting set this victory up'

February 18, 2010

Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan leave the field after sharing seven wickets, India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 2nd day, February 15, 2010
"If you look at it without any bias, there is scope for India to bring some potency in their spin attack and in their seam attack as well" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: A thrilling victory for India in Kolkata and with me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on the action.

Sanjay, the series is drawn 1-1 and India have retained their ranking as the No.1 Test side … a fair reflection of the ability of both reams?

Sanjay Manjrekar: First of all, what a Test it was and what a Test series it has turned out to be. South Africa dominated the first Test and this second one had a really interesting and thrilling finale. Though this was a hurriedly arranged Test series it turned out to be one of the more memorable series that we have seen in recent times. I feel tempted to start believing that CSA and BCCI might wonder whether the ODI series to follow will add to the drama we have seen or whether it is worthwhile to have another Test to decide who the ultimate winner in the series. The danger of having a two-Test series is that at the end of two weeks of hard cricket you really don't have a clear winner. With one-all as a score, you don't really have a winner. But well done India, purely because of the way they came back into this Test after they got beaten in the first and they have continued to remain the No.1-ranked Test side. So that is a huge achievement for them.

AR: But South Africa really don't have anybody to blame but themselves do they? They came into this Test on a high, following their victory in Nagpur, won the toss and then had that superb partnership between Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis. But what followed after that was wickets falling in a hurry. That capitulation in the first innings really cost them this Test didn't it?

SM: Absolutely. I don't think they will need anyone to tell them where they lost the initiative. It was the post-tea session on day one. You can't lose seven wickets in the final session. When you have two guys making hundreds and the team making 300, then you know the other have really struggled.

But that partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in the first innings, after they lost Gautam Gambhir and Murali Vijay was also critical. Had India also got just about 250-300, South Africa would have come back and India would have been under pressure. But that partnership took the game away from India. The reason why India is No.1 was seen when India showed its batting depth with VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni both getting hundreds. India got the opportunity to show the world why they are the No.1 ranked team because of the batting ability and depth they have, especially in these conditions.

AR: One of the stars for India was of course Harbhajan Singh. He looked lacklustre in Nagpur but was on song in Kolkata. What was it that he did differently that made the difference?

SM: The first thing that went right for him was that South Africa for a change was under pressure. In Nagpur, South Africa batted really well on a good pitch and that is when the Indian bowlers were under pressure. Here, in Eden Gardens, the pitch was rougher and there was more turn for the spinners and also South Africa were under pressure. Harbhajan is great when his team is on top. He is one guy who will keep going after the batsmen then.

I believe the win is purely because of the India's batting effort. Although Harbhajan got five wickets in the second innings and the spinners did the job in the end, I thought there was still some room for improvement for them. Let us not forget that the last-wicket partnerships lasted for more than 20 overs and who knows, another three to four overs and South Africa would have drawn this Test. And then the spinners would have got criticised for their performance. So Dhoni and Gary Kisrten would, deep down, believe that the spinners could have done better in this series especially when bowling in home conditions.

AR: Let's spare a thought for Amla. He batted for what seemed like an eternity and has been South Africa's star batsman in this series. He displayed incredible powers of concentration …

SM: Incredible. Just watching his facial expressions and the way he carries himself when he is batting is just tremendous. It just shows that under the helmet there is a really calm serene mind. He has got decent technique and there is some class in his stroke-making. But the key was the way his mind functioned. He was calm, balanced and in control. When you have a batsman in form and he carries his form through the series, you see how the team benefits. He almost pulled off a draw for his team here. He got a big double hundred in the first Test that allowed South Africa to dominate; in the second Test though the opposition was on top he got two hundreds. And the final hundred was under different circumstances where he was playing for a draw. So that shows the different shades of Amla.

"You can't lose seven wickets in the final session. When you have two guys making hundreds and the team making 300, then you know the other have really struggled"

I am very impressed with him and the way he bats. When you carry your form innings after innings that is when the team benefits. And South Africa needed Amla to bat well because four of their batsmen let them down badly in this series and was one of the main reasons why they were not able to topple India from the No.1 position. Graeme Smith, AB deVilliers, JP Duminy and Ashwell Prince all struggled and that was real setback from them.

AR: Looking at both teams now, South Africa are struggling with their inconsistency; they won in Australia then lost to them at home, were excellent in Nagpur and struggled in Kolkata what can they do to overcome it? And what do India now need to build on to ensure they remain the No.1 Test side for some time to com?

SM: Both South Africa and India have weaknesses that need to be strengthened. Only then can they claim to be the undisputed No.1 team for a long time. In this series South Africa were a team of just a couple of batsmen. A lot of their batsmen struggled in this series failing to get starts. You can't have that innings after innings. On flat pitches, their spinners do not create as much pressure as they like. Dale Styen was their stand out bowler but overall South Africa need consistency in their batting, more variety in their bowling attack.

Clearly the bowling is an issue with India and it will keep testing their ability to stay at the top. The spinners managed to win the game in the second innings in Kolkata, but if you look at it without any bias, there is scope for India to bring some potency in their spin attack and in their seam attack as well. When Zaheer Khan is not playing for India that seam attack looks quite ordinary, and not like a seam attack of a team that is No.1 in the world. So both South Africa and India have some major issues to tackle before everyone can view one of them as the undisputed No.1 team in the world and as a team that has the right to be the No.1 team and one that will able to stay at the top for a while.

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