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South Africa’s tour of India: Fifth ODI, Mumbai (Politics, Sport and Batting first)

An MSD special at Indore. A Kohli masterclass in Chennai. Raina striking form. AB de Villiers cracking hundreds at will. Ashwin, Duminy and Morkel out with injury. Shikhar and Miller continuing to struggle.

With the scoreline at 2-2, two evenly matched teams have all to play for in Mumbai.

Speaking of Mumbai, Pakistan-born umpire Aleem Dar was forced to withdraw from officiating the final game of the series hosted by India’s most “cosmopolitan” city. Sharda Ugra, a respected cricket writer, wrote a very interesting article on Cricinfo on this. She also mentioned that Chennai, whose “knowledgeable” crowd applauded the Pakistanis players in 1999, could not guarantee the safety of Sri Lankan umpires and players in their city.

When did we become such an intolerant people? The shame of it.

I can’t help but agree with Ms. Ugra about stopping Mumbai and Chennai from hosting international cricket matches – no normal sport in an abnormal environment, as she eloquently puts it. Mixing politics with sport comes with a price and, sadly, the ordinary fan must pay it.

Coming back to the cricket at hand, interestingly, each of the games has been won by the team which has batted first. Both teams have threatened while batting second, often appearing in control of the chase, but have fallen away towards the end.

Have the teams been choking? Have the bowlers just bowled really well towards the back-end of the innings? Has the extra fielder outside the ring brought “scoreboard pressure” back in fashion? Is it a combination of all three?

Hopefully we will see a sense of normalcy restored to scores with the change in ODI regulations. How can it be fun watching Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson get put into the stands repeatedly? If you only want to see only sixes and fours/ bowlers being treated like cannon fodder, please watch the IPL. Cricket matches are a lot more interesting when a score of less than 300 will win you the game 9 times of out 10.

Just when we thought that that South Africa’s tour of India had already seen it all, the most watchable ODI series for a long time remains balanced on a knife edge.


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