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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

SA has priorities elsewhere ! and a brand new Captain in his debut TEst !!

In the recently concluded Test at Mount Maunganui,  New Zealand crushed South Africa – but that was no news !!    Do you remember Test no. 1308 played at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore in Oct 1995 between India and New Zealand ?  India won that Test by 8 wickets. 

Decades ago, we used to see every match with interest and so did the players.   In mid 1970s I went to Marina – there were hundreds of spectators – there were big names of Gundappa Viswanath, Parthasarathi Sharma, Syed Kirmani, Srinivasan Venkatraghavan who all played for India but were battling out a 3 day match !  

It was the  annual Buchi Babu tournament - the matches were played in Chepauk, Marina and University Union.  It used to be 3 day matches – and teams like SBI, Mafatlal (later Nirlans), Karnataka, Hyderabad played (some point of team there was team from New Zealand too)....... I remember seeing Krish Srikkanth hoisting Hoshidhar Contractor for a straight six – on another day closer to lunch, after a beautiful cover drive and one straight down, Cheeka pulling Sandhu in the hands of a lone fielder ........ and we all parting the ground sadly.  Apart from TN stars S. Venkatraghavan, Dalvi, Belliappa, TE Srinivasan, Kalyanasundaram, Mukund,  R Vasudevan, Arunkumar, Bharatkumar, Cheeka, VB Chandrasekhar, V Siva, CS Sureshkumar, B Arun, WV Raman - some names that readily come to mind are : Parthasarathi Sharma, Brijesh Patel, Kirmani, Rajinder Hans, Eknath Solkar, Ashok Mankad, Jyoti Prasad, Ramnarayan, K Jayanthilal, Shivlal Yadav, Dhiraj Parsanna, Sandhu, Ghavri .... and more ..... the tournament obviously has fallen to lesser grade in the days of IPL. Those days it was dominated by teams from Bombay and Ashok Mankad was hailed a shrewd leader bringing in youngsters, who went on to become popular later (Lalchand Rajput, Hattangadi, Jignesh Sanghani, Hoshidhar Contractor ....) 

The reference to Buchi babu match is while the players contested with serious interest, here is a Test match, where visiting South African team has shown no intent at all  and has a sent a team of freshers  !! 

On day 1 of the Test – there were centuries from Kane Williamson and Rachin Ravindra at entirely different stages of their careers - and both of varying styles - made South Africa pay for the lack of experience and pace.  The duo had put on 219 runs for the unbroken third wicket by the end of the first day to deflate a spirited South Africa line-up that had reduced the hosts to a tricky 39 for 2 in the first session.

In this Test – there were 6 new SA players making their debut :  Clyde Fortuin; Edward Moore; Neil Brand; Ruan de Swardt; Raynard van Tonder & Tshepo Moreki.   South Africa were fielding an all-pace bowling attack and six debutants in Mount Maunganui, including their captain Neil Brand. Since 1995, it was the first instance by a Test nation apart from Ireland and Afghanistan who had their captain on debut when the side wasn't playing its first Test.


Uncapped opening batter Neil Brand is South Africa's captain as South Africa travelled  with a makeshift squad, which features only three players who were part of the ongoing series against India.  None of the first-choice bowling attack are available for the series, which is part of the World Test Championship (WTC). 

Score card :  New Zealand 511 (Ravindra 240, Williamson 118, Brand 6-119) and 179 for 4 dec (Williamson 109, Conway 29, Brand 2-52) beat South Africa 162 (Petersen 45, Henry 3-31, Santner 3-34) and 247 (Bedingham 87, Jamieson 4-58, Santner 3-59) by 281 runs.  Kyle Jamieson's four-wicket haul backed up by Mitchell Santner's three-for helped New Zealand record a mammoth 281-run win over South Africa in the first Test in Mount Maunganui - their second highest in terms of runs. The margin of defeat would have been much more if not for David Bedingham's counterattacking 87 off 96 balls, where he took on the short ball with some aplomb. 

The main Q is why did SA play with such a weak team ? – were they not taking this Series seriously !?!?  

January is the window that South Africa have earmarked for their flagship T20 tournament, which kicked off to much fanfare in 2023. To ensure its success - which depended on their biggest stars being available for the tournament - CSA forfeited an ODI series against Australia even though there was a chance that might affect their qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Although they tried to reschedule the upcoming Tests against New Zealand, they were once again left with a decision to make. Long story short, the first-choice picks are  playing the SA20 while  newbies headed  out to the other side of the world.  Wrong priorities as it would appear to Cricket fans but not to their Cricket Board or Players !! 

Brand had not played  a Test but captained the Country in his debut appearance.   Brand is an experienced domestic cricketer, who spent some time at Cardiff MCC and has built his professional career in Centurion. He has also spent time with the Somerset and Glamorgan Second XIs.  He opened and failed with the bat but had some success with his bowling arm with figures of : 26-1-119-6  & 13-1-52-2 !!   

Coming back to Test 1308 in 1995 against Newzealand, Lee Kenneth Germon captained the Kiwis, making his debut in Tests.  Tony Lewis  led England on his Test debut against India in Delhi in 1972.  George Bailey,  also made his T20I debut as captain back in February 2012 against India in Sydney. It was a winning start for Bailey as captain as Australia won the contest by 31 runs. At the age of 37, Floyd Reifer captained West Indies in a T20I against Bangladesh in Basseterre in August 2009. It was also his debut in the format and the only T20I he played.

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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