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India vs South Africa 2013: India need to alter the tide in the Test series

India's lack of match practice, prior to the ODI series, became a crucial factor in their 0-2 loss © Getty Images
India’s lack of match practice, prior to the ODI series, became a crucial factor in their 0-2 loss © Getty Images

 

By Madhav Sharma

 

The three match One-Day International (ODI) series between South Africa and India turned out be a one-sided affair. Before the start of the series, there were at least 100 articles warning Team India about the challenging conditions in the Rainbow nation, and now, the same warnings will be repeated for the Test series. Honestly, it was much worse than what people were expecting from the number 1 ranked ODI team.

 

 

Batting- From strength to weakness

 

Talking about the batting-unit, the reliable trio of Shikhar-Rohit-Virat failed miserably, and the speed and swing of Dale Steyn and co. was too hot handle for them, after a sequence of home series. Although the Indian team have played a lot of ODI cricket, off late, yet they were looking under-prepared, as far the fast and bouncy conditions of South Africa are concerned. You have got to play more tour games, and if ”bad weather” is your excuse, than the captain needs to talk with the board and plan the tour games, accordingly. And since a lot has been said about the careless approach of the BCCI, especially regarding this tour, I will just keep it to cricket.

 

“Negotiate the new ball without losing too many wickets,” is an old cliché, but the path of this cliché becomes difficult when you are chasing a score in excess of 300. Both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were looking very unsettled, and Shikhar in particular was committing too early into his shots, and rather than buying his time in the middle; he was trying too many things. Now, many are saying that the “flat-track-bully” mentality is responsible for this failure, but it’s not a fair assessment of the situation.

 

In ODIs, most of the Indian batsmen (in the current team) have performed well outside India too. The only reason behind this failure is the lack of confidence and self belief, which in turn, is a result of lack of preparation.

 

 

MS Dhoni was trying to revive careers

 

India’s middle-order did not contribute, at all. Both Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, looked completely out of touch, and the failure of the reliable top-order, exposed the weakness that prevails in the current set-up. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has always had his favourites, and he has always preferred them above those who aren’t. Yuvraj Singh struggled throughout the ODI series against West Indies, yet he got selected, and played as the first choice number 4.

 

In the first match of the ODI series, Yuvraj got out second ball, and was dropped due to some “illness” reasons. Ajinkya Rahane, who’s known to have a good technique, was picked for the second match where he got unlucky and was given out, when the replay showed he wasn’t. It would be just fair to add that Rahane looked very promising during his little stay on the crease. He was just unlucky. In a very shocking move, Yuvraj, who struggled throughout the series against West Indies and got out without scoring in the first match of this series was picked and Rahane dropped for the third and final ODI. I am still struggling to find any cricketing reason behind this move. Rahane, who is also a part of the Test squad, deserved another go in the middle, especially after that wrong decision. It was a regressive and biased move by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

 

I would not like to suggest any major changes in the batting unit, but Yuvraj needs to be dropped, and Raina must not take his place for granted. Many jokes regarding Rohit’s struggle against Steyn were making rounds on Twitter and Facebook, but when Dale Steyn bowls like that, even the greatest of batsmen struggle.

 

 

Bowling- Lack of experience and no one to spearhead the attack

 

After Mohammad Shami’s brilliant debut against West Indies, many believed that Indian bowling contingent was capable of doing well in South Africa. But, it wasn’t to be. South African batters showed no mercy, and absolutely demolished the Indian bowlers, in all the three games. From new balls to the death overs, there was no one to rescue the team. During pressure situations, Indian bowlers had no answer and the lack of experience was clearly visible. This has raised some concerns for MS Dhoni and Team India, because Zaheer Khan is the only option available, as far as the experience quotient is concerned, and his performance in the Test series will answer a few questions that need to be answered.

 

All in all, it was a series that Team India would like to forget, but what they take back from this series will have a big impact on the upcoming Test series.

 

(Madhav Sharma wanted to be a cricketer. Unfortunately, he has today more words than runs to his credit! He blogs at http://madhavsharmacricket.wordpress.com/ and tweets at https://twitter.com/HashTagCricket)

 

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