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The naked and the dead: Part 2

January 10, 2007

'It was not all bad', a few readers said of the South African tour - and they are right enough in a sense. After all, India did win its first ever Test on South African soil, and maintained its relatively recent habit of winning away from home.

For a team tagged the worst travelers in international cricket, that is clearly a step in the right direction - but surely, that step was taken three years ago, when India fought Australia to a standstill on Australian soil?

Surely, having accomplished the seemingly unthinkable, and then gone on to defeat Pakistan on Pakistani soil, the team should be in a position to consider that first step officially taken - and be ready for the next one, namely, a series win against one of the top teams in the world?

The reason why the just-ended tour ranks as a failure in my book is because the team was uniquely placed to accomplish that feat: It had an array of batsmen capable, at least on paper, of putting runs on the board; more importantly, it had bowlers who could give back as good as we got.

There is one other very good reason why this tour ranks as a failure: South Africa was uniquely vulnerable. Consider its Test record: In 2006, it lost seven of the 11 Tests it played, while winning only three and drawing one (this includes the first and second Test against India).

Parse that record further: the team lost four Tests at home and won only three (one drawn). Away from home, South Africa lost all three Tests it played, but that doesn't really concern us here, except as another pointer to the team's lack of form.

Surely a team on such a low, a team what is more that had been demoralized in the first Test and exposed as a side with no batting of quality against the swinging, seaming ball, should not have been allowed to get away to a series win?

It is here that the Indian team collectively failed; it is for this reason that the rare away win on Proteas soil cannot be allowed to make the glass appear full to the brim.

The list of `failures' that follows is written from that perspective - of a team that did not take its chances, cash in on its opportunities. Here goes:

Photographs: AFP/Getty Images
Text: Prem Panicker

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