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Mickey Arthur - Walks the talk

India start as favourites but will have to tackle seamer friendly pitches



Tuesday, March 17, 2022
Firepower to succeed


South Africa worked relentlessly for two years towards earning a world title bout against Australia and, to a degree, we won it in Australia. The first team to win there in 16 years. But it wasn’t the real thing. Not quite.

Whatever you think of the ICC rankings (I happen to think they are accurate and plausible), they are the best way we have of measuring ourselves against each other in a global context rather than just head-to-head.

We needed to beat Australia at home as well as away in order to dethrone them and, when the chance came, we couldn’t take it. There is no hiding from that fact. We were good enough to beat the champion in his own backyard, but not good enough to beat him in our own. It hurts, but that is the nature of sport. We must start all over again and work towards another title challenge – unless India gets there first.

I have a very strong sense that the Indian team has embarked on a journey very similar to the one we started a couple of years ago. They are playing some awesome cricket at the moment and the positive vibe and energy amongst the players is obvious, even from the other side of the world.

Players like Sachin, Yuvraj and Viru can seem unstoppable on normal cricket grounds on a good day, but the oddly shaped boundaries of the small grounds in New Zealand made the game look like an exhibition. I’m surprised the match referee didn’t stop the contest!

The Test matches will be different, I suspect. Although India will start as favourites and should win, I’d be surprised if there aren’t a few difficult periods along the way. The pitches will offer something to the seamers, especially with the new ball, and India may have to dig themselves out of a couple of ‘holes’ – 30-3 or even 50-5!

And all along they will have in the back of their minds the thought that they are heading towards a showdown with Australia – a shot at the world title. If and when it comes, they must be more physically and mentally prepared than ever before because, as I can say from experience, there is nothing more frustrating than getting as close as we did and then letting it slip.

South Africa now has an eight-month gap until our next Test match against England at the end of the year. India could make enough progress to overtake us in second place. It’s a hard thought to stomach but, having started the year within touching distance of being undisputed Test champions of the world for the first time, we could finish it in third place.

But as Graeme always says, great teams are measured – and show their worth – in the face of adversity just as much as they are by the number of victories they produce. We will bounce back. Perhaps, in a couple of years time, it will be India and South Africa in the title match with Australia waiting for a turn at the new champions!

Ricky Ponting’s team here in South Africa has shown for the umpteenth time that you should never, ever judge an Australian team until after a match or a series. Many people thought they would struggle in South Africa. Instead, they have made us struggle. Victory in the third Test in Cape Town would, at least, provide us with some consolation.


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