South Africa were spot on with their bowling tactic and field placements for Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli. They applied the pressure and stopped free flow of runs on easy pace wicket. Result: Vijay gave his wicket away to left arm spinner Maharaj after doing all the hardwork. This shows our batsmen lack patience to slug it out in the middle and just want to hit boundaries. When unable to do so, gets out trying to hit shots rather than waiting for the loose ball to score, rotating the strike with singles by playing in gaps or just seeing off the good spell by a bowler.
In Test match cricket, you have to while away your time, alter your game plan, change your tactic corresponding to bowler's if runs don't come by. At international level, against top class teams, there are no easy runs. You have to strive hard, spend time on the wicket to earn them. This is when temperament more than your skill or technique is tested. Morkel bowled bodyline to Kohli keeping backward square-leg, midwicket, mid-on bowling shortpitch consistently enticing him to play the pull. Kohli did well not to fall for the bait and saw off the Morkel's spell. This is what Test cricket is all about. Situational awareness. If you are an aggressive batsman, curb your attacking instincts, show respect to the bowler if he's going through a good spell and play each ball on its merit rather than succumbing to your natural instinct and in this bargain getting perished. That's why Test cricket is so fascinating. It not only pits the skills of players against one another, but also tests players resolve, mental toughness, tactical acumen and situational awareness and temperament.
Test cricket allows for a lot of mini-battles within a larger contest. Kohli vs Morkel, Vijay vs Maharaj, Kohli vs Rabada. You come out on top only after winning these mini-battles. That's why I like Test cricket. It is not easy to score runs in Tests. You've to fight hard for your runs overcoming multiple factors - conditions, pitches, different bowlers, tactic, field placements, sledging, etc. You become great and a complete player only after succeeding at Test level. It is the ultimate test for a batsman or for a bowler's ability.
No wonder, Test cricket remains the pinnacle of cricket, a benchmark for judging the greatness of a player.
Long live Test match cricket!
January 14, 2018