India’s consolation victory on a really tough pitch in Johannesburg in the final Test of the three-match series against South Africa cannot hide the fact that the tour was disappointing.
The tour selection committee made some major blunders which they must be held accountable for. In retrospect it was sheer stupidly on their part or some bizarre logic which only made sense to them.
The dropping of Bhuvneshwar Kumar after the First Test was the most shocking selection blunders in recent times. Kumar’s fantastic performance in the opening Test was totally ignored and a new bowler in Ishant Sharma was picked.
Shikhar Dhawan was unceremoniously dumped after just one outing and an out of form K L Rahul was preferred. He failed miserably as expected. Then Ravinchandran Ashwin was dropped after a fine all-round display in the Second Test and Hardik Pandya retained his place despite four other pacers.
Pandya’s inexperience was exposed by the nagging South African pace attack after his hit and miss 93 in the First Test.
The biggest surprise was the inclusion of Rohit Sharma at the cost of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. Sharma is a king on home soil but a lamb in overseas conditions. His Test average in South Africa is just around seven.
Rahane, on the other hand, has performed well overseas. His lack of form in the preceding home Tests was used as a reason for dropping him.
As veteran Sunil Gavaskar rightly put it, “Form is temporary while class in permanent.”
Rahane proved the point when he top-scored on the dangerous Wanderers pitch which proved instrumental in India’s victory. On the other hand, the Indian think-tank must be congratulated in giving Jasprit Bumrah a go in South Africa. He performed admirably and must be persisted with in the future.
Sadly, Kohli despite all his greatness, loves to tamper with team selections. In Shastri he has found an ally. By resorting to wild hunches, India’s ranking as the world’s best team has taken a hit. By the end of the series, they still hadn’t learnt their lesson. But hopefully better sense will prevail in the future.
It abundantly clear that a player must not be chosen on their form alone in home conditions. Class must be given its due. Kohli himself is a shining example of this. He played so beautifully in South African conditions while others struggled to find their feet there. It was no surprise because he has class. He, along with Australian captain Steve Smith, can be ranked as the best batsmen in the world.
At least the Wanderer’s Test proved one point. The Indian team can do better if they apply themselves. The bowlers, led by Kumar, did a great job and gave away nothing. South Africa were made to struggle every inch of the way in every Test. India can take away some good points from the last Test but it was a case of too little too late.
Sometimes set pieces are better than experimentation on alien ground.
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