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Just how useful is the ODI series in South Africa?

By Pradeep Magazine
Monday, January 17, 2022

After getting mentally drained watching the stirring Test series, the one-day contest now on in South Africa, in comparison, appears almost pointless. Before knives are out and outraged fans accuse me of blasphemy, let me make myself clear. I do know that this one-day series is the final testing ground for the Indian team and should provide, as many would have us believe, a perfect build-up for the World Cup. Since the opponents and the conditions are so difficult, it is an ideal preparation for the sterner test ahead.

On the face of it, no one should have any problems with this line of thinking. All one has got to do is to remember the Indian build-up for the 2003 World Cup, where we were mauled by New Zealanders in their own home on wickets where to put bat to ball was an achievement in itself. We went into the tournament mentally scarred, yet in the end made the final. On hindsight, the nightmarish performance in New Zealand was of tremendous value.

Now back from where I began. The bored response to these one-dayers is largely to do with being forced to taste an insipid dessert after being served a sumptuous feast.

From a cricketing logic, I may be inclined to agree with those who feel this is the best way to prepare for the World Cup, though there are equal number of voices who fear a burn-out due to excess of cricket and a threat of injuries to key players.

Already, India's pace arsenal is on the casualty list and two of our main stalwarts --- Sehwag and Gambhir --- are already down with injuries even before the one-dayers began.

The other point raised by those who believe India should not have been playing this series is that the World Cup will be played in different conditions than what prevail here. The bouncing ball, which is a big threat in South Africa, is of no consequence in India, therefore all that this series will do is to undermine the confidence of those batsmen who fail to score. They will have to unlearn the "bad habits" formed in alien conditions fast, so that they don't lose the home advantage.

Since sport, more so a game of cricket, lends itself to differing theories with equal facileness, there is no way of finding out which line of thinking is sounder. As most of us are adept at making hindsight our best tool to dissect the past, let us wait for the World Cup to get over and lend our weight to that argument which would justify the end result. After all, not for nothing is it said that, "of all the forms of wisdom, hindsight is by general consent the least merciful, the most unforgiving."

Isn't it better to be clever after the event, than to appear foolish before it!

HT Content & Syndication Services