It happened once again, only the margin of defeat got wider-from an achievable 72 runs to a yawning 135 runs, the twin defeats not only cost Indian Cricket team a chance to win a series abroad, but also raised questions about the team’s ability to perform outside its comfort zone of home turf. Adding trouble to the woes, it was not the expert pacers Dale Steyn or Van Philander who did the damage but relative newbies like Rbada and Ngidi who ripped apart the much famed Indian batting line up.
Now fans have always enjoyed the dominance of India over Sri Lanka in the repetitive home and away (in Sri Lanka) series, but some of them have always questioned about the ability of likes of Rohit Sharma and Ashwin to prove their mettle abroad. Their doubts just proved to be true.
The consecutive, convincing test defeats handed the second overseas series defeat to captain Kohli besides putting question marks over team selection along with individual performances. Ajinkya Rahane, who has pulled India out of unpleasant situations more than once, was dropped unceremoniously even after Rohit Sharma failed in first test. Cheteswar Pujara, normally a solid middle order player found himself struggling under new conditions, while the openers Vijay, Rahul and Dhawan never looked comfortable against the opposition attack.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took five wickets in first test and faced more balls than any other batsman was dropped for Ishant Sharma, someone who did not had a great time in recent past with the ball. Also, Saha was replaced by Parthiv Patel (due to injury) who let some chances fly past him.Hardik Pandya, dismissed by ridiculous mistake, and was left wanting with his role with bat and ball. Only Kohli managed to avoid a complete whitewash with his innings of 153.
India now have not won against South Africa, Australia, England or New Zealand since 2014.The fact that India did not arrive early enough in South Africa to play practice matches and get acquainted with the pitches does speak of the confidence of the team, but it is now turning out to be cocky confidence instead of pragmatic confidence. Also, the ability to bowl long spells accurately by Indian seamers seems to have been paled by better performance by their counterparts.
With the troika of Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar gone India seemed to have found able replacement in likes of Kohli, Pujara and Rahane along with having a bench of good seamers and spinners-Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya along with Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav. But the best performance of these people have come at docile, friendly pitches and a big series win overseas still remains a distant dream. For Both captain Kohli and Coach Shastri the third test at Durban will be an acid test.
A win will at least validate their point regarding team selection and tactics, a defeat will once again put the tag of paper tigers abroad on the team. At the moment, the hands of these two men are full-they have to not only select the right team, but to make sure that the boys gather back their self-belief and fulfil their roles with more than expected commitment.