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With new supporters that is - of Team India. The team has dominated the 1st Test against South Africa from the time Sachin Tendulkar strode to the crease in the first innings. In the context of the match and taking into account the movement inherent in the surface, Team India has taken this match by the scruff of the neck and never really looked like letting go.
Strange things happen on a cricket field, and for all we know the remaining South African batsmen may conjure up the gumption to defy the Indian attack and take their team to a seemingly impossible victory - unlikely, but possible. In the meanwhile, those same "fans" who ridicule the team at the slightest hint of an unfavourable result, will have undoubtedly jumped on the bandwagon and proclaim themselves to be card-carrying supporters.
Back to the real action, has Team India put up a finer all-round performance in conditions that cried out for grit, application and courage? After the disgraceful pitches we were delivered in the first two Ashes Tests, it is a pleasure to watch a match where making runs is not a mere coincidence of walking out to bat. For this, the Joburg curator should be heartily congratulated.
It is an even more satisfying experience to see the likes VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly displaying the spirit and will that many of us thought had escaped them over the years. Maybe I am being a little harsh on Laxman, as he has performed quite creditably in the Test arena over the past year or so. However, the manner of his dismissal in the final ODI led me to prematurely believe that maybe even he was on a permanent wane. I was glad to be proven wrong on this front.
I have nothing but hearty congratulations for Sourav Ganguly. Although I was praying otherwise, I did not think he would succeed in this series. I realise it is far too early to label his performances a "success", he has started off on the right foot and I, and all other fans, look forward to being treated to performances that could have been relegated to a by-gone era. He has returned fitter (something that a certain V Sehwag should consider) and seemingly hungrier and all signals emanating from the camp lead to the conclusion that he is playing the role of a quintessential team man.
However, quite controversially, I'm sure, I still believe that his place should have gone to a younger player. Stop-gap measures may be great for the interim, but when the future of the team is at stake, the hard decisions need to be made and stuck with. There would not have been a better environment to test the temperament and talent of a younger player than the conditions being currently experienced by the team. Alas, I hope Ganguly proves me totally wrong and plays a crucial hand in winning the Test series for his country.
Furthermore, I hope the selectors who left who left Sreesanth out of the team for the past few tournaments are having nightmares. The man is in the Ganguly mould - feisty, talented and confident. Sure he has been bowling in helpful conditions, but he has been able to prove that he has grown and matured, and most of all, he belongs.
I cannot find a bad thing to say about Sreesanth, not even his send off of Hashim Alma. Siddhartha Vaidyanathan listed this moment as his "lowlight of the day". However, I disagree vehemently. Finally, we have a bowler who doesn't just bow his head and accepts his fate. Finally, we have someone who can sledge with the best of them. He should be given a free rein to indulge in "mental disintegration" to his his heart's content. I am sick and tired of the genial and well-mannered Indian "fast" bowler. Sreesanth is a real fast bowler with attitude. Let the kid have a good time, especially if he can shock the likes of Andre Nel into shutting up. Glen McGrath better watch out.
Like most Indian fans, I'll be in front of the TV when play starts today and will be praying for a swift and incisive display from Team India. Beat them and beat them well lads.
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