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Aayush Puthran explains why the criticism Team India is facing after just one defeat in South Africa is harsh and unjustified.
Bubblegum —a form of pure South African pop — can’t be too pleasing to the Indian ears as of now. Their welcome to the country, purely in cricketing terms, hasn’t been very pleasant. The visitors were made to smell the leather a little too closely for their comfort in the first One-Day International (ODI) at Johannesburg. The Indian batsmen looked as graceful as a cat on a hot tin roof. On a track that seemed flat and easy, just one innings before Indians went out to bat, suddenly seemed to have demons creeping out of terra firma. But all said and done, the avalanche of criticism the team has been copping with after just one match is unjustified and unfair.
It wouldn’t need statistics to question the difference in performance by Indians at home and abroad. Yet, their rise to the top of the One-Day International (ODI) rankings is not simply because they have mastered home conditions. They come to South Africa on the back of seven One-Day International (ODI) tournament wins of the last eight they have played, out of which three were won at home and four away.
India didn’t play even a practice game to familiarise themselves with the conditions. And since the tour to Australia, nearly two years back in 2011-12, India haven’t played in favourable conditions for fast bowlers, except in England during the ICC Champions Trophy.
The home side is well aware of the threat that the Indian batting line-up can pose and have ensured that their weakness is fully exploited. To call Indian batsmen flat-track bullies at home just because in one match they looked out of sorts against bounce and swing of six fast bowlers would be unfair. I really wonder if something similar would be said about touring batsmen if India prepare rank turners and deploy six spinners against them. That time the questions won’t be raised against the ability of batsmen to play spin, but about the ‘unsporting pitches’ that India prepares.
Unlike the usual warm-up matches, India would be going into the Test series with just the experience of having been acclimatised to the conditions during the 50-over series.
Dale Steyn put the Indian threat across well when he said in the pre-match press conference on Saturday, “They are not the No 1 side in ODIs for no reason. Like MS Dhoni said pre-match, they have been to South Africa a few times, and they have played all over the world. So give them a few matches, they should be able to play well and perhaps get ready before the Test matches begin.”
How well do they come out of the litmus test of playing on tracks with pace and bounce should be judged at the end of the series. Commenting now is too premature.
The journey might have a few tough turns, but the MS Dhoni-led side would know well that it is all about ‘finishing off in style’.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)
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