Humbled at Home

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Defending the bowlers who leaked a lot of runs in the decider, Dhoni said, “We have tried fast bowlers in the past, but realised that they were giving away more runs. We are better off playing with people who bowl line and length.”

It is true that Wankhede was a belter of a track and it did not offer any assistance to the bowlers, but on the same surface South African seamers showed that with discipline even the best batting attack can be contained. Rabada and Dale Steyn bowled excellent spells and made it very difficult for the Indian batsmen to score. Both were pitching the ball at good length and extracting bounce, whereas Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were guilty of spraying the ball all around the wicket.

The series was all about Kohli versus Steyn but it was Rabada who troubled India the most with his impeccable line and length and judicious use of short-pitched deliveries. The 20-yearold lanky pacer proved to be the unlikely hero for the Proteas in the end. It is time that the Indian think tank takes a serious look at the bowling resources. The current crop of bowlers is incapable of posing a tough challenge to even a school team.

Coming down hard on Indian bowlers, former India batsman Sunil Gavaskar said, “Bowling is a major worry for India now. The Wankhede pitch had turn and good carry, but the Indian bowlers did not bowl accordingly. The fast bowlers were constantly using short-pitched deliveries but at 135 kmph you can never trouble South African batsmen with that pace.”

To give credit where it’s due, Indian batsmen bailed out India most of the time in the odis. If it was Rohit Sharma, who almost pulled it off in the Kanpur face-off and the highest run-getter for India, then Dhoni and Kohli came to India’s rescue in the Rajkot and Chennai encounters respectively. Rohit is the highest run-getter for India in both the formats amassing 128 and 255 runs in T-20s and odis respectively. His talent was never in doubt but the problem has been consistency, which has never been his forte. Hope he continues in the same vein in the Test series as well.

Another plus for India has been the revival of the Virat Kohli of the past. With scoring 245 in the odi series, Kohli is India’s third highest run scorer. Unarguably the lynchpin of Indian batting, the Test skipper has been going through a lean patch as a batsman for a while. However, the Chennai odi changed all that. He came into his element with a blistering 138, which almost drowned de Villiers’ majestic 112 in the same game. Kohli’s comeback is crucial considering the sterner tests Proteas would pose in the remainder of the series.

However, Ajinkya Rahane showed his class in the odis by scoring 247 runs. Unlike Kohli and Rohit, Rahane has been very consistent throughout the series. Inexplicably left out of the T-2Os, Rahane gave a befitting reply to those who doubted his ability in the limited overs format. At the Wankhede it was his knock of 87 provided a glimmer of hope to those expecting a miracle. However, lack of application from the other batsmen and the insurmountable required run rate cut short his brilliant stay at the crease.

Though Dhoni showed flashes of brilliance in the ODIs, the finisher in him was missing. Apart from the match-saving 92, his other knocks fell way below the standards he has set for himself. Now, it’s up to the selectors to decide whether he is better off as a player or a captain, for we saw a skipper who was battling the devils in his mind rather than the South African bowlers.

Time is clearly running out for Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina. Failure of both the batsmen has put extra pressure on others, especially the middle order. Again the onus is on the selectors to decide whether the long rope extended to a select few is getting frayed or not.

Undoubtedly, Indians are being subjected to big test by the Proteas. Their near impressive record at home faces a big threat. India in the past had faced such situations when the invincible Aussies toured the country. Barring the 2004 series, when Adam Gilchrist, in the absence of an injured Ricky Ponting, led Australia to a rare 2-1 victory over the hosts in a Test series, India have always had an upper hand against the Kangaroos. South Africa with a different captain, Hashim Amla, in the Test matches will be licking their lips in anticipation after the ODI and T-20 triumphs. It’s up to Kohli & Co, to stop this juggernaut. Will they be able to stop the rampaging Proteas?

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