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Fringe benefits

The likes of Avishkar Salvi, Gautam Gambhir, Alan Dawson and Jacques Rudolph may look back on the TVS Cup with some fondness, but for the vast majority, it won't even merit a place in the recesses of the memory.

Wisden CricInfo staff
The likes of Avishkar Salvi, Gautam Gambhir, Alan Dawson and Jacques Rudolph may look back on the TVS Cup with some fondness, but for the vast majority, it won't even merit a place in the recesses of the memory.
The timing was a major factor, as was the quality of the participating teams. Coming so soon after the overdose that was the World Cup, it was too much to expect players and fans - even journalists fell prey to fatigue - to get excited over a three-team tournament, especially when Bangladesh's participation more or less guaranteed an India-South Africa final.
Though India won three of their four league games with a measure of comfort, losing the other narrowly, there was more than a hint of the lackadaisical about the approach of some of the seniors. Sourav Ganguly, Mr Popular in these parts, seemed intent on hitting sixes for fun, while Virender Sehwag battered the bowlers without ever appearing overeager to last a full session in the stifling heat. And could you really blame then?
It's less than a month since both men played the most important match of their lives. They lost. Instead of time to reflect, take stock and apply salve to the wounds, what they got from the establishment were tickets for Dhaka and a tournament that was as insignificant as any ever played.
This isn't about players getting rest, it's about sparing them unnecessary strife. The Indian Board's apologists will no doubt point to Australia heading for the Caribbean just a week after winning the World Cup. But that's a Test series, and no matter how far West Indies have fallen, winning there still matters. The same cannot be said of a one-day tournament. You may release all the videos and DVDs you like of NatWest triumphs and the like but the fact is that, the World Cup apart, no one-day junket means anything. Not to the big boys anyway.
For Gambhir and Salvi, the absence of several seniors meant the perfect opportunity to get noticed. Salvi is very much the rough diamond, but there is a smoothness to his action and a gritty, flint-like edge to his demeanour that suggests he will last the distance. The Australian tour might be a bridge too far too soon, but once Javagal Srinath makes way, he should be ready to fill the breach ... seamlessly.
Gambhir looked exceptionally good in patches, but so did Sadagopan Ramesh against Wasim Akram not so long ago. Making cheap runs in the subcontinent in one thing, doing it on stickier wickets against genuine pace quite another.
For South Africa, this event was far more important than it might have been three months earlier. The World Cup debacle led to a proper clear-out, and watching the composure with which Rudolph and Dawson performed here, you had to wonder how clever the World Cup selectors had been.
Comparisons to a certain RG Pollock are fraught with danger, but there is a fluency and confidence to Rudolph's strokeplay that suggests the advance hype shouldn't be completely ignored. As for Dawson, he mixes it up almost as well as Craig Matthews, that line-and-length master whose parsimony made wicket-taking so easy for Allan Donald.
Graeme Smith learnt too, and quickly. Once Shaun Pollock was restored to his rightful place as new-ball bowler, South Africa found a sharpness that was noticeably lacking in the opening match thrashing at Indian hands.
And finally, Bangladesh, rock-bottom of the league table. Normally, that would be reason enough for the poison pens to come out, but for a change the team actually showed some fight. Their batsmen, who had shown the toughness of wet sponges at the World Cup, got past 200 twice, and there was a pretty decent blend of youth and experience in the side. Once Dav Whatmore takes over and starts kicking some complacent backsides, they may even pose an occasional threat.
This was strictly an outing for the benefit of those players - and teams - on the fringes. The rained-out final was somehow apt, because the sight of players celebrating such an inane success so soon after the World Cup would have stuck in the craw.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden.com in India.