Testing times

Australia and South Africa are fighting for the number one Test spot, while India are ready to take on England. It's going to be a testing winter for top notch Test teams

It's going to be a tale of three series and several cricketers. Some are big stars, some flirting with stardom, while a few are waiting in the wings, eager to grab the opportunity. Winter is here and so is big-time cricket. Australia and South Africa are fighting for the number one Test spot Down Under. India are ready to take on England on their home turf and after that series, the Aussies are coming for another high profile Test affair. We have our plates full and the connoisseurs are relishing.

In Brisbane, world's top fast bowlers are in action. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are making the ball rear on a typical Gabba wicket. It's a war out there and some of the finest cricketers in the history of the game are involved. Ricky Ponting is at the crossroads of his career and his performance in the series will determine if he will have any further part to play in Australian cricket. Out of the team's limited-overs scheme of things, Ponting is walking a tightrope. A mind-boggling 13,346 runs in 165 Tests notwithstanding, the 38-year-old needs to perform to prolong his Test career. If he fails, the world will see the exit of a master.

Jacques Kallis, however, is getting better with age. He has started the series with a bang and it's pretty clear that there is still a lot of cricket left in him. It's a good news for South African cricket, for the 38-year-old all-rounder is irreplaceable. Both Australia and South Africa are blessed with quality talents and their cricket boards must have some plans in place to fill the voids as and when the greats take their last bows. But the likes of Ponting and Kallis are once-in-a-generation cricketers and the game will be poorer without them. Eyes will be fixed on Steyn as well – the best fast bowler in the business at the moment. At a time when the odds are heavily in favour of the batsmen, the South African quick is like a breath of fresh air. He can make the batsmen hop, he can get them out bowled neck and crop. His form will be the key for the Proteas retaining their number one status.

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