In a two-match series, when you are 1-nil down, it is next to improbable to make a comeback. But, the present Indian team, under MS Dhoni has made it a habit of constantly delivering the goods when the chips are completely down.
And the second Test against South Africa at Eden Gardens was no exception. India had been humiliated at home in the first Test, a rarity in itself, and two of their main batters weren’t fit for the Kolkata challenge. There was extreme pressure on Harbhajan Singh, in particular, to perform following the team’s miserable bowling effort at Nagpur.
Add to it, there was hardly a few days’ gap between the two Tests and there was plenty of pitch talk, pertaining to the grass on the wicket. Yet, when the moment arrived, Team India stood up to be counted.
The South Africans, who were ruthless in the opening Test, floundered with their batting after winning the toss, and it was just the window of opportunity India needed to comeback into the game.
Zaheer Khan, who unfortunately could not bowl much in the second essay, was brilliant in the first innings and set up the game nicely for India. He has had the knack of grabbing the big fishes, and did exactly that at the Eden Gardens.
For the other experienced bowler Harbhajan, it was almost like a do-or-die game. He hadn’t performed well in the recent past and was severely criticized in the media, some of it was fair and some rather derogatory.
But, the offie took things in this stride and answered the critics in the only way a cricketer can. He must thank his stars that he was playing at Eden Gardens, without doubt his favourite ground. Once he got a wicket, he was a different bowler altogether.
The manner in which he foxed Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy on the final morning reminded one of the carnage the Aussies were subjected to by the Turbanator at the same ground 9 years ago. Of course, he has lost a lot of the zip he possessed in those days, but if he can come up with more such performances, there is no reason why he still can’t remain India’s number one spinner.
Harbhajan’s lack of success has been attributed to the absence of Anil Kumble, who retired two seasons. While that’s a pretty fair assessment, the good news for him is that Amit Mishra proved he can be quite a potent weapon.
I am in no way comparing Mishra to the legendary leg spinner, but the delivery with which he took out Jacques Kallis was hint enough to suggest that he could be the next special thing in Indian cricket. That’s still a long way away though. For starters, he needs to maintain consistency over a reasonable period of time, and provide the requisite support to Harbhajan.
And while it wasn’t surprising that India put up an exceptional batting performance, they still need to be credited for it. After Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar played their part, India still could have been in trouble.
But, VVS Laxman demonstrated why he was so sorely missed at Nagpur. It was his and Dhoni’s ton that buried the Proteas. And though Hashim Alma and the tail kept India at bay till the closing moments, the magic of Eden had the final say.
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