With the ODI series tied at 2-2, the decider at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium promised to be a high-octane thriller. However, the finale turned out to be quite anti-climactic. There were threats of rain playing spoilsport in the last ODI , but the carnage unleashed by AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock at Wankhede forced the rain gods to stay away from the venue. Such was the effect of the disaster triggered by the trio that even a boisterous Mumbai crowd was stunned into silence. By the end of the South African innings, it was very much evident which way the match was headed. Chasing the impossible target of 439, hopes of a humdinger finally faded and the prospect of an insipid one-sided encounter loomed as India began. The agonising moments of Mumbaikars finally ended when Kagiso Rabada dismissed Amit Mishra with the Indian score line reading 224. As a result, the host went down to South Africa by a huge margin of 214 runs and lost the five-match odi series to the Proteas.
India’s defeat reaffirmed the fact that the South Africans were more determined to win the series. Proteas have shown more grit than their Indian counterparts in all the matches from the start of the Gandhi-Mandela Series. On the other hand, Indians were always trying to catch up with the visiting side since their first defeat in Dharamshala. This has eventually made all the difference with South Africa pocketing both T-20 as well as odi series. The theory of different captains for all the three formats is also working perfectly for the Proteas.
India have always been poor travellers with a dubious record outside the subcontinent. A rare overseas success for India came against England in 2014, when they beat the host 3-1 in the odis. After that, India have struggled against almost all the top-ranked teams away from the comforts of home conditions. However, their record at home has been very impressive as they haven’t lost any tournament except for the Test series against England in 2012. But this time they had to swallow the bitter pill of being defeated in their own courtyard. Now, their superiority in home conditions has also come under cloud.
The results (2-0 and 3-2) in T-20 and ODI won’t give a clear picture of what really transpired in the series. India might have been defeated but they were not humiliated or outclassed by the Proteas barring a few occasions. Except for the Cuttack T-20 and the Wankhede ODI, India have given South Africa a run for the money in all the games. However, the difference in the bowling attacks proved to be crucial in the end. India have not had a well settled bowling attack for a while. Absence of Mohammad Shami due to an injury and the loss of R Ashwin, the sole wicket taker, midway through the series to an abdominal strain was a huge blow for India.
However, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose to blame the flat surface for their downfall. “Today the wicket was on a flatter side. I thought maybe with spinners, with that extra fielder outside, we can exploit it, but the wicket was a bit too true to stop the opposition, who were scoring at a very brisk pace,” said Dhoni.