India’s reputation as the No 1 Test team stood exposed as second ranked South Africa beat them convincingly on a bouncy track in Cape Town.
It wasn’t that India did badly in the Test. The difference between the two sides was the application shown by the players.
The South African quicks did not get carried away by the bounce and swing offered to them. They managed to bowl with controlled aggression against an Indian batting side boasting world-class players.
Lions at home, the Indian batsmen were made to look like lambs as they ducked, stuttered and gave in to a strong bowling attack. The Indian bowlers had a great chance to restrict South Africa when they had them reeling at 12 for three. But after a disciplined start, the pace bowlers began to lose patience and began to dish out rubbish.
They began to bowl short or too full and the South African batsmen capitalised and reached a decent total of 286. There were two options with the Indian players – attack and perish or grind it out with patience.
India opted for the latter approach but didn’t make much headway. However, Hardik Pandya attacked despite being dropped early. His aggressive 93 finally helped India reach a respectable total.
Shortfalls in technique were cruelly exposed. With the ball swinging and bouncing, The Indians played across the line of the ball or edged to the keeper and slip cordon.
Pandhya chanced his arm and luck and it repaid handsomely. He is a fearless cricketer and must be nurtured by the team.
Fortunately for India, the bowlers seemed to have learnt their lesson in the second d innings and they managed to restrict South Africa to a paltry 130. The target for victory was an achievable 207. India started well enough but the collapse happened and India lost by 72 runs.
Where does the blame lie? Fingers must point to a selection blunder in the first place.
Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane should have been in the side. Picking Rohit Sharma over him was a huge mistake. Agreed Rahane was out of form but it did not merit a sacking. Sharma averaged around eight in South Africa and as expected failed again. Rahane has great technique and patience and he would have definitely performed.
Sharma did well against a weak Sri Lanka recently but that was no criteria for picking him ahead of Rahane. Shikhar Dhawan deserves another chance. He has the right attitude if he stays aggressive. But K L Rahul comes into the reckoning if he fails again. Jasprit Bumrah was really a good choice and he must be guided through by the seniors. Umesh Yadav would have thrived in such conditions but now he will have to work hard for his chance. His speed would have been a bonus.
The South Africans must be saddened by the injury to Dale Steyn. He bowled beautifully and lost none of zing after a long layoff. But Vernon Philander was back at his best. He sealed India’s fate with his clever use of seam and swing. The return of A B de Villiers has bolstered the batting tremendously. He probably played the two most crucial knocks in the game.
India head into the crucial second Test tomorrow with their confidence dented a bit. A change of attitude may be required.
Pandya may have given them a solution. Aggression is the best option.
#The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.