The South African team has been quite old school with their approach to test cricket even in the modern era. Their strategy: Brute force, and it has worked out very well for them. Number 1 test team, it doesn’t get any better than that. If you take a look at the top wicket takers of South Africa of all time you would see that all of them are fast bowlers. At the top we have Shaun Pollock with a tally of 395 wickets, followed by Makhaya Ntini with 390, Dale Steyn with 347, my personal favorite Allan Donald with 330 and Jacques Kallis with 292(as of November 2013). South Africa’s most successful spinner is Paul Adams at 134 wickets to his name. This piece of statistic gives an insight into the modus operandi of the South African attack right from the early 90’s. The South Africans have a simple yet effective strategy to get the job done and that is two front line fast bowlers clocking at around 140 kmph, 2 medium fast bowlers and sometimes when playing in Asia, a spinner.
The Fast Bowlers
The Medium Fast Bowlers
Now, you guys might be wondering what Vijay has to do with all this. I’ll tell you where he comes in. The strength of the Indian batting line up is not the openers, but the top middle order specifically Pujara and Kohli. The strength of the South African bowling line up is the deadly combo of Morne and Steyn. The safe thing to do for India is to not expose Pujara and Kohli to a fresh and steaming new ball duo of Steyn and Morne. Murali Vijay’s scores in the test series are 6, 39, 97 and 6. That doesn’t prove my point.
Vijay has only scored three hundreds in his test career with no overseas hundreds. Yet he was picked as an opener into the side. The reason being, his role isn’t to score a hundred or a double hundred. But to play off the new ball so that the strong middle order don’t have to face the swing and bounce. The minutes at the crease for Vijay on these series are 69, 155, 309 and 23. This gives us a better picture of what Vijay has done for the team. He has made sure that Kohli did not have to enter into the field before one hour from start of play. That means that the Steyn-Morne pair are one hour tired, the ball is relatively old and there isn’t much swing due to the old ball. In the last game Vijay left after 23 minutes at the crease this had its effect on Dhawan as he scored 19 off 87 balls which isn’t his style of play. In the first three innings Murali Vijay played selflessly and along with Pujara saw the team past the toughest phase of the game, the new ball.
Before I conclude, please don’t slam Dhawan for his performance. Poor guy has to replace Sehwag so cut him some slack. Team India performed better than what they were expected to. Dhoni shouldn’t have been defensive by delaying the second new ball. Rahane should have been pushed up the order after the first innings of the first test. The new Indian team has the potential to be number 1 but for now we’ll settle for number 2 work on our basics, improve our strengths and pounce on that number one spot soon.