The first Test of the series between India and South Africa at Johannesburg had everything -- drama, lots of emotion and great fight backs from both sides. And, as the great game headed towards an enticing draw, most fans were left with one big regret, that this will be only a two-Test match series. It is a real pity since two Tests are unfair on any side to prove their superiority. And here, we are actually talking about the top two Tests in the world. Thus, having only two Tests is a travesty for the game and the teams in question.
The BCCI is in a major way responsible for this situation. In an ideal scenario, India and South Africa contests deserve a five-Test series, but the BCCI for some reason did not feel so. They preferred to call a weak West Indies to India for a two-Test series, for known reasons of which enough has been spoken. But, after the manner in which the first Test panned out, it is obvious what genuine cricket fans are going to miss. If not a five-Test series, the India-South Africa contest at least should have lasted four Tests to give everyone a decent indication of which is the better side.
In the current scenario, whichever team loses the second Test will have lost the series. That however doesn’t mean that the best would end up winning the series. Any team is bound to have one bad game, and in this case it can either be India and South Africa. The beauty of a five-match Test series is that it allows both sides to make a comeback if they are off to a poor start. But, neither India nor South Africa would get that chance. A loss and the series is over. Even a draw would leave the teams as well as the fans with an unfulfilled feeling.
Looking at the recent past, there has been nothing to choose between India and South Africa in Tests -- so much so that the last three Test series’ played between the two sides have all been drawn. Two of them were played in India, in 2007/08 and 2009/10. One of them was a three Test series and the other a two-Test encounter, and both ended with similar results 1-1. The last time India visited South Africa in 2010/11, three Tests were played, and again the teams shared the series 1-1.
The above results were all the more reason why India and South Africa should have battled it out in a five-match series. That is the only way we can figure out which of the two sides is better. But, that definitely isn’t going to happen during the current series. Whatever the result, both sides would remain unsure of their standing when they face each other. Hopefully, in the near future, we will have a five-match contest between the two great sides. India-South Africa contests warrant the same for the quality of cricket and entertainment they provide.
--By A Cricket Analyst