Mickey Arthur - Walks the talk

Arthur feels Indian ODI skipper's decision to skip Tests will set a wrong precedent

Wednesday, July 30, 2021
Shocker from Dhoni

What a shock! While South Africa's progress in England has been tremendous and has been commanding most of my attention, it is fair to say that cricket lovers around the world always take notice of the fortunes of other teams and I wasn't the only South African to be shocked by India's defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test in Colombo.

Every team is entitled to lose – nobody can win all the time. But it was the manner and size of India's defeat at the SSC which made us catch our breath. Most people thought South Africa and India would lead the way in trying to catch Australia, and that might still happen, but India would have expected to win in Sri Lanka.

I'm reluctant to judge from so far away and I know from personal experience that there are many, many factors behind the scenes which contribute to a team's performance which the public never get to know or hear about. It may have been something as simple as a stomach bug which laid the Indian team low. But I doubt it!

But are two things which we can say with some certainty. The first is that MS Dhoni's decision to skip the Test series and play the one-dayers was an extraordinary one which may set a dangerous precedent for world cricket. I believe the BCCI would do well to make it clear that, in future, 'rested' players will not be allowed to stand down from Test cricket in order to be fresh for other forms of the game. Perhaps his absence had an adverse effect on his team mates.

And second, it seems obvious that India have some very hard selection dilemnas and some very hard decisions are going to have to be made. I realise that is hardly 'breaking news' to Indian fans, but results like that at the SSC in Colombo made it near-impossible to keep delaying the hard choices and the unpleasant, sometimes unpopular selection decisions.

As for the Proteas, we have a golden opportunity to kill off the series against England at Edgbaston in Birmingham over the next five days. We made a terrible start to the series and were completely outplayed for the first three days of the first Test at Lord's. Even though we batted exceptionally well to salvage a draw, we were lucky to escape and the boys knew it. It was a frightening wake-up call. Many of us were first-timers at Lord's and we were distracted by the occasion. If we had lost it would have seriously hampered our chances of fulfilling what would be amongst all our career high achievements, a series win in England.

All the frustration of the first Test was channelled in the right way at Headingley and the result was an emphatic win in four days.

England are now desperate and we will be amazed if they don't bounce back strongly, but the confusion over their selection policy has surprised us and there appears to be a lack of leadership and accountability which must be unsettling for the players.

Nonetheless, we will have to play some outstanding cricket to secure the series and, if we do, we will have gone a long way to establishing ourselves as the credible number two challengers to the Aussies.