India, South Africa Have Inside Track at World No. 1 in Cricket

Sab MuthusamyContributor IFebruary 17, 2009

Australia knocked of the mantel piece at last, as an ardent cricket fan I will be honest and say that it is a good thing for the game that now teams are challenging for the coveted No. 1 status in the world.

But I’ll be the first to admit it is sad to see the pundits question the spine of the Aussies. Have they really gone bad?

This had been my first article in a long time, I have been biding my time and I think it has come. Cricket is reaching a pivotal part with so many things happening all at once.  Australia’s slump in form is no more of their own doing than other teams playing extremely well against them.

The picture above reads “R.I.P AUSTRALIAN CRICKET, SLAUGHTERED BY SOUTH AFRICA.” It then gives out a few reasons as to why this happened, such as “inept batting” and “poor selections." It’s doubtful to see them openly admitting that they were outplayed, but in all honesty they were.

With this poor run that the Aussies are experiencing, it paves the way for teams to challenge their status as world No. 1's. But just who are these teams?

There are two standout candidates—South Africa and India. Both teams have played Australia recently and have beautifully exploited problems the Australians have had after the departure of their great players.

India always plays well in their backyard but they really stepped up a gear against the Aussies revealing a new, aggressive and never die attitude to them. Remember Ishant Sharma’ sensational delivery that flattened Ricky Ponting’s stumps? That really summed up the dominance the Indians had over the Aussies.

Then facing England, M.S. Dhoni’s team destroyed the English in the one day series with Yuvraj Singh hitting form at the right time for the Indians. With the form they displayed , India could have won 7-0. The shocking and tragic incidents in Mumbai threatened the tour but all credit to England for coming back and playing.

The first test in Chennai produced a truly memorable game, with India being set a mammoth 387 runs to win on the final day. The great master Sachin Tendulkar put a smile back on everyone’s faces with simply one of the best centuries in the modern game, a treat and a privilege to everyone who saw that game.

India is displaying a new approach to their game which had attributed to their rise. Winning so convincingly, they came so close to being defeated by a spirited England side. The English commentators—David Lloyd in particular—said that England did well to get a 1-0 defeat against who they felt were the best team in the world.

A few years ago, it’s difficult to see India actually winning the game but such a “keep going” attitude has been installed into the team along with fantastic youth talent that is knocking on the door.

Many were worried about what would the state of Indian cricket after the big guns Dravid, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laxman and Kumble would to retire. Yet the emergence of the likes of Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Robin Utthapa, Yuvraj Singh to name a few has put India on the map as a serious force to be reckoned with.

They dominate matters off the field with regards to finance and power, but now it is happening on the field. The England victory was backed up by another fine showing in nearby Sri Lanka with a 4-1 victory in the ODI series there.

What India have is special, with the big guns still going strong along with their youthful talent, India certainly have the credentials to become the No. 1 side in the world. The only worry for the Indians is winning key games abroad, something they have struggled with in recent times.

Yes, one may point to the Sri Lankan series as an indicator, but after all Sri Lanka is a country with very similar conditions playing to India.

India also played England and Australia in India, which is not taking anything from India’s fine performances of late, but the favourites tag was with them from the start. Yes in the last year and a half things have begun to click.

In England they won 1-0 in the test series, albeit with some bizarre captaincy from the at-the-time captain Rahul Dravid who chose not to enforce the follow on in the final test with England still some 300 hundred runs behind India, but they lost the ODI series 4-3.

In Australia they fought credibly, losing the test series 2-1 when one thought Australia’s second victory was dubious to say the least, then going on to win the CB series.

A test will be in New Zealand, not happy hunting ground for the Indians in the past. If India can win there, then it will confirm they are here to stay. If India can go to such places and achieve series victories and assert their dominance, then attaining such an acclaimed status is very much achievable.

However, South Africa pose the bigger threat to Australia’s title. They have hit cruise control and you needn’t look no further than their utter dominance down under winning the test series and ODI series quite comfortably in the end.

The reason they pose a bigger threat is because of the way in which they have won in recent times. They won in England, drew 1-1 in India, and then went on to beat the world champions in their own back yard—something that has not been achieved in 16 years.

A day after India’s remarkable victory in Chennai, I watched South Africa’s stunning victory against Australia chasing four hundred plus runs on the final day to take a 1-0 lead in the series. They exposed Australia’s weaknesses to full effect and as a result have become the No. 1 ranked team in the world in one day cricket.

The form of such players as Graeme Smith, A B De Villiers, Jaques Kallis, and Dale Steyn are key to the South Africans who have jumped from a country banished and hidden away from sport to being potentially the best side in the world.

Again I keep talking about South Africa beating Australia but the magnitude of their victory should be understood. Winning 4-1 was something unheard of and game by game the Aussies looked increasingly average.

The form that the South Africans are demonstrating bodes well for them when the Australians arrive in South Africa very soon. In fact the entire series is key not just to the teams, but to world cricket.

A series win for South Africa will be confirmation of them being best side in the world and further confirm Australia’s dramatic slump in form. However should the Aussies record victory in South Africa it will prove to us that they are still top dogs in the game.

I feel India will have their eyes firmly on events in South Africa, for they will need to beat New Zealand to continue their challenge. How interesting would it be to see India and South Africa lock horns at the moment?

’m not saying that India are not going to become best team in the world, that is far from what I am saying. South Africa are just in a better position to overhaul Australia, but no doubt it is between these two teams. I feel not many will argue with me.

England were once in my thoughts, but their recent troubles has really put them out of the picture, even if they win the Ashes in the summer, they are not in the equation for me.

Sir Ian Botham’s claims that England will win convincingly annoyed me a little considering they lost the Stanford Super Series, lost to India, and then were bowled out for a miserable 51 recently against the West Indies.

Of course he has been knighted, so he knows better. Great form leading up to the tournament eh Ian?

It is only a matter of time before Australia’s dominance fades away, and a new era will begin soon, its just a case of who and when?

Only time will tell.


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