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Mickey Arthur - Walks the talk

Australia's dominance in world cricket may be drawing to a close, and India and South Africa are ready to step ...

Sunday, December 28, 2021

Cricket world is changing

I write this column after one of the most incredible day's Test cricket played in recent memory. Not since India defeated Australia after following-on in Kolkata seven years ago has a Test match changed so dramatically in one day as it did on the third day of the second Test between South Africa and Australia at the MCG on Sunday. And only three or four times in the history of the game has such a massive change happened.

It was difficult to see how we could get back into the match when play started on day three, with South Africa on 198-7, still 196 in arrears. We set ourselves an optimistic (but realistic) goal of batting for 30 overs in the hope that J-P Duminy could look after the tailenders.

As it turned out, that was a third of what we actually achieved and J-P, in just his second Test match, took his overnight score of 34 to 166. Instead of being 100 behind, as we had hoped, we took a lead of 65 into the second innings. It was a dream day and we took inspiration from what India did in achieving the 'impossible' seven years ago.

India's Sachin-inspired run-chase in Chennai also inspired us last week in Perth when we chased down 414 to win the first Test. Word reached me that the Indian team had a second television set put in the change room during the second Test against England so they could keep an eye on proceedings in Perth, and that was special.

There's no point in being 'against' Australia for the sake of it – they have been the champion team for over a decade and deservedly so – but there is good reason to celebrate the way the cricket world is changing now. Test cricket has once again thrown itself into the spotlight as the greatest form of the game and India, and South Africa I hope, are at the forefront of the 'new era.'

Australia will always be defending or challenging for the number one ranking but India and South Africa are now very, very close. England will be close, too, and a tight bunching at the top of the rankings will give hope to Sri Lanka (look out for them over the next year!), Pakistan and even a resurgent West Indies. For that matter, New Zealand have a bunch of talented cricketers and, even in eighth place, will be inspired by a closing of the gap at the top.

Coaches form just part of the overall structure of an international team – it is the players who get the job done and, mostly, take the praise and criticism for success and failure. So while I can't help marvelling at the job Gary Kirsten (and his assistant, Paddy Upton) has done since taking over Team India, I agree entirely with Gary's philosophy that MS Dhoni and his players should take the credit.

Graeme Smith has been a colossus here in Australia and was instrumental in laying the platform for victory in Perth, but every player in the squad has contributed, too. As excited as I am about the rest of this Test, and the tour, I am equally excited about the future of Test cricket.


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