Blog by: Sharaddha
In cricket, a team’s ranking often tends to become relative varying with performances of teams in the short-term rather than on a long-term basis. The miserable performance of India in the ODIs against South Africa is an example of this disparity that has allowed several questions to be raised about the Indian team’s credibility while playing on foreign shores.
Prior to the start of the series, Dale Steyn had referred to the series as being a watershed test for India with increased expectations from the in-form Indian cricketing squad. Looking at the performance of the Indians though, the aura of superiority that the team had about it seems to have been completely obliterated.
The severity of the 2-0 loss was further exemplified given that it had been the batsmen – the stronger link of the entirety of the Indian team strength – who failed rather than the bowlers who managed to rein in the South African juggernaut as best as they could.
The 141-run and 134-run losses in the first and second ODI respectively were the result of the inability of the Indian batting order to come up with an adequate defence plan against the lethality of the South African bowlers. Or, to emphasise more pointedly, the lethality of Dale Steyn who was the pick of the Proteas’ bowling attack picking three wickets each at Johannesburg and Durban at an economy of slightly over three runs.
At both Johannesburg and Durban, India decided to field first having won the toss. The rationale behind that decision – after evaluating the pitch factor – was simple enough pinpointing towards the ease with which the Indian batsmen had chased down huge targets in tournaments prior to their South African tour. But on both occasions, India had to face a huge reality check as their openers lost their wickets cheaply and the middle-order crumbled without leaving any impact. Barring Dhoni and Kohli in the first ODI and Raina in the second, there wasn’t any Indian batsman – despite the changes to the squad – who looked like he could take the fight to the South Africans.
India’s decision to field yet again at Durban after sustaining a mammoth loss at Johannesburg also spoke about the Indian team’s underestimation of the opponents. The struggle that the Indian batsmen had to endure at Johannesburg was the tipping point that India failed to heed, even as the fate of the series hung in the balance.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma fell miles short of what was needed of them even as Dhoni was reduced to giving platitudes about the obvious shortcomings of the team. But even though the defeat in the first ODI could have been viewed a bit more kindly given the team’s lack of preparation, it’s the manner of loss in the second ODI that grates on perspectives far more harshly.
But where the Indian team’s fortunes have been largely in doldrums, the South Africans have made merry with the gamut of opportunities that have been presented to them. Quinton de Kock name is the first that comes to mind considering that the 20-year old proved his worth to the team beyond any doubt. Three centuries in three matches not only proclaimed him to be a good batsman, but also effectively went on to seal the wicket-keeper batsman’s place in the squad for the near future.
Contributions from captain Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy sealed the batting deal for the South Africans with Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel complementing Steyn in the bowling department whose efficiency promises to be more ruthless in the forthcoming test matches.
South Africa’s win over India also raised a very significant point about the aspect of advantage that home sides are said to have over visitors in cricketing tournaments. For in each way that the rationale is deliberated upon, taking into account South Africa’s most recent home series loss to Pakistan, it only talks about the incompleteness of the Indians rather than press or negate the so-called advantage of South Africans over them which, in turn, further moots out the ranking system.