It has hardly been a few days since India have arrived in South Africa, but they have already lost the one-day series. Of course, India have only played two games in South Africa so it would be unfair to be very harsh on them. But, remember this is a short series, just as the BCCI wanted it to be, so there can be no excuses for India’s performance. Pakistan also arrived in South Africa having faced the same opponents in UAE, but managed to overcome the Proteas challenge despite going down to them in more familiar conditions earlier.
The problem for India in the series has been pretty straightforward, at least on paper. Their batting, which was their main strength before they arrived in South Africa, has just not stood up to the challenge. To be more specific, for India to compete in the one-day series, they needed their in-form top three to stand up and deliver. That has not just happened. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, all of whom have had a sensational 2013 have been undone by the extreme pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel while Lonwabo Tsotsobe has walked away with the wickets.
India’s middle-order was struggling even back in India so there weren’t much hopes from them when they arrived in South Africa. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have continued their poor run, and by the time MS Dhoni has come in to bat in both the matches, things were all but over. As for Ravindra Jadeja, he has tried his bit but his limitations under the conditions have been evident. Also, at number seven, he cannot do much. In short, India’s batting overall has been a flop, and that will need to change if they want to reverse their fortunes at Centurion.
So, can the Indians do anything different in the final match? Possibly, the top order can change their approach. One is not saying that they shouldn’t be aggressive for that is the only way they can succeed under the conditions. But, unlike in India, the likes of Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli must try and get their eye in before going after the bowling. In the earlier two games, they looked to attack even before getting their eye in, and had to pay with their wickets. Also, skipper Dhoni could come up at number four considering that he has been India’s most comfortable batsman in the series so far.
Unfortunately, India do not have much options in the bowling department. Mohammed Shami apart, all the other pacers have been ineffective. If anything, India might bring back Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place of Umesh Yadav, who was completely pedestrian at Durban, in the hope that he provides some much-needed control. Ishant Sharma’s comeback was also a failed one, but Mohit Sharma was worse in the opening ODI, so it would be interesting to see what India does here. Given the conditions, whatever they get out of the spinners would be a bonus.
The series is out of India’s reach, but they would still love to win the Centurion, and take some confidence into the Test series.
--By A Cricket Analyst