IN any sport — be it cricket, hockey or football — success and failure depends on how a team or an individual plans for the contest. The team and the management do a lot of homework on how to tackle the situation and that includes the knowledge of the opposition, fitness of the team and tactics to be used for a favourable result.
So far in the series whereas I notice the South Africans taking the field as a well knit, positive-minded outfit in every way possible, when it comes to assessing the body language and decision making of our lot, I find something always missing there, that is picking horses for the courses, deciding to take the DRS or for that matter opting to bat or field first.
Professionals of any sports would tell you that these are the basic ingredients for any team to get the desired result.
For instance, I would not have dropped Yasir Shah for Shadab Khan for the mere fact that he remains the most successful bowler in the team with over 200 wickets in the bag with the others trailing far behind.
Having played two Tests already he was in rhythm, whether successful with the ball or not, and who knows his inclusion could have been lot more useful than Shadab who also is a fine bowler but with little experience.
I must say, however, that Pakistan medium-pacers did a fine job to bring the team back in the reckoning in the last two sessions when they skittled the hosts for 262 after they had appeared set for a big total early on.
Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Abbas bowled with a lot more accuracy than I saw them do in the series.
If not for Aiden Markram’s 90 and Hashim Amla and debutant Zubyar Hamza’s contributions, the South Africans would have been struggling for a respectable total.
The Wanderers also reminds me of my first visit here in 1991 as a guest with Sir Garfield Sobers and Sunil Gavaskar. This is the first ground in this country that I visited during ‘Apartheid’ and was shocked to see a barbed wire cage where the Blacks were locked when they were brought in to watch the match. That was inhuman to say the least.
On one of the tours in 1998 under Rashid Latif’s captaincy, our two players Mohammad Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq were allegedly mugged and ended up in their hotel bruised and with torn clothes. The police however had their own story to tell about their injury.
The Test was delayed for that reason for a day.
Thankfully, nothing of that sort on this ground or any incident so far with the touring team this time.
With the bowlers having done their job admirably, I desperately want our batsmen to perform and match the South Africans’ total and try and hold on to the game for more than three days. Let’s hope for the best.