Indian batsmen showed just why they're tagged the 'best players of spin' in world cricket.

Saturday, April 12, 2022

‘Princely’ runs see India edge ahead of South Africa

Arun Gopalakrishnan

Runs were supposed to be difficult to come by on a dusty Kanpur track. But the Indian batting lineup, with a total aggregate of 32,954 Test runs before the start of this Test, showed that they had all the requisite skills to conquer the bowler-friendly conditions.

Sehwag’s cracking boundary off Ntini through covers in the very first over set the tone for India’s reply to South Africa’s 265. That clearly indicated that the Indians were in the ‘go-get-them’ mode; things would only become difficult if their batsmen got into a defensive mindset.

The Dravid-Laxman association once again prospered for India in the first session; Dravid as solid as ever, and Laxman wristwork taking the attack to the Proteas. But after Dravid and Laxman were both done in by snorters, Ganguly came out and took center stage.

On a crumbling wicket, where any rookie left-arm spinner would have been difficult to tackle, a bowler as tall as Paul Harris, with 12 Test matches behind him, should have definitely asked many questions of the Indians. But the Indians were unperturbed, and they brought in all their experience to master the conditions that aided the lone South African spinner.

While the South Africans devised their own strategies to successfully see off the threat posed by the Indian spinners – they would go onto the back-foot and work the ball to the on side – the Indians stuck to the time-tested technique of stretching forward and playing the ball off the front-foot. Getting their front-foot to the pitch of the ball, the Indian batsmen would generally find gaps in front off the wicket.



SA Batsmen Vs. Indian Spinners         Indian Batsmen Vs. SA Spinners
Behind the wickets – 61 runs (35%)   Behind the wickets – 13 runs (15%)
Front of the wickets – 114 runs (65%)   Front of the wickets – 75 (85%)



As is evident from the table above, the Indians scored a lot many more runs in front of the wicket – a total of 85%, while the South Africans scored more than a third of their runs against the Indian spinners behind the wicket.


‘Princely’ innings under trying circumstances

© Getty
While there was every reason for Sourav Ganguly to be a worried man when he walked out to bat with his team in a spot of bother at 113 for 3, not withstanding the fast-crumbling pitch at Kanpur that has been widely reported by the media, and the rough outside his off stump, he looked a pretty relaxed man from the outset. His first scoring shot was a boundary off Morne Morkel, nicely worked off his legs backward of square leg.

The South African seamers tried every trick in the book to unsettle Ganguly, including bowling round the stumps, bowling short stuff and bowling yorkers, but nothing would unnerve him. Such was his domination at the crease today, in a phase of play between the 46th and 63rd over, when Graeme Smith tried all his bowling options, Ganguly edged a delivery or was beaten, only four times in 47 deliveries. He was in absolute control over spin and seam; his driving through the covers, which fetched him 36 runs, were just as good as they were in his heydays, while his determination was such that he even made his on side strokes look quite natural.

With a hundred there for the taking, but fast running out of partners, Ganguly decidedly took the charge trying to help India to a reasonably healthy lead and to his century, but luck deserted him for the second time in two matches, as he holed out to Amla at covers.

The damage was done and Ganguly was last man to be dismissed today. But in trying circumstances, Ganguly’s princely knock, meant India finish the second day with their nose ahead of South Africa.