Was Bhuvi the best cricketer of the series from either side? He was definitely India’s best. © AFP
Was Bhuvi the best cricketer of the series from either side? He was definitely India’s best. © AFP

India were outplayed at Cape Town and Centurion but came back in splendid fashion to clinch the Johannesburg Test. It was an amazing turnaround — albeit in vain, since it was merely a dead-rubber Test — masterminded by Virat Kohli with two gems, supported well by Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, and the fast bowlers. India took two major risks, in fielding five fast bowlers and opting to bat first despite the team composition, but they emerged victorious in the end. In the process India also ensured they would hold the mace for the top-ranked ICC Test side. Here are marks out of 10 for the Indians in the series:

Bhuvneshwar Kumar: 9.5/10 (101 runs at 33.67, 10 wickets at 20.30, 2 catches)

Was Bhuvi the best cricketer of the series from either side? He was definitely India’s best. He gave India a serious chance on the first morning of the series with 3 wickets in his first 17 balls. He took 3 more wickets in the Test and scored 38 runs on a difficult wicket. At Johannesburg he

batted even better and was as good with the ball too. Exactly why he was left out at Centurion despite such brilliance will probably remain unknown.

Mohammed Shami: 9/10 (72 runs at 14.40, 15 wickets at 17.06)

Shami seemed erratic at times, perhaps because he strayed down leg too often. Nothing could be far from the truth: his 15 wickets were the joint-most in the series; his average was only behind Vernon Philander’s 15.86; and his strike rate was the best. It was only fitting that he would provide the decisive burst at Johannesburg. He also played two delightful cameos.

Virat Kohli: 8.5/10 (286 runs at 47.67, 3 catches)

Kohli was the leading run-scorer in the series by far: nobody else got more than 211, and no other Indian went past 119. Kohli scored the only hundred of the series, and a big one too (153), and added 54 and 41 to that on a difficult wicket at Johannesburg.  He was by far the finest batsman on the tour, and fielded to live up to his reputation. He loses half a point for some questionable selection policies at Centurion.

Ishant Sharma: 8/10 (14 runs at 7, 8 wickets at 18.75)

Ishant continued with his fine form from the Sri Lanka series despite fans finding reasons to criticise him. He was the most economical bowler (2.17) from either side, often holding up one end as wickets fell at the other end. He also got his wickets, and his average was behind only Philander, Shami, and Lungi Ngidi.

Jasprit Bumrah: 8/10 (4 runs at 1, 14 wickets at 25.21, 2 catches)

Bumrah took 2 Tests to settle down before finding his mojo at Johannesburg. With the ball taking off and jagging around, Bumrah kept coming at the batsmen at awkward angles, bowling quick in the air and off the pitch and hitting them all over. He took 14 wickets when nobody got more than 15, and 12 of those 14 wickets were of top-order batsmen. He came hard at batsmen with infixes, getting AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, and Quinton de Kock thrice, and fielded enthusiastically. Whether he will bowl as well on unhelpful pitches is something time will tell.

Ravichandran Ashwin: 6.5/10 (90 runs at 22.50, 7 wickets at 30.71, 1 run out)

Ashwin toiled hard on pitches that had nothing for him, but delivered when he got a chance. He cleaned up the tail in the first innings at Cape Town, and at Centurion he bowled as well as he could have. He also put some of the top-order batsmen to shame: other than Kohli, he was the only Indian to cross 35 twice in the series — this, despite missing a Test. He gets half a point for the run out of Keshav Maharaj.

Wriddhiman Saha: 6/10 (8 runs at 4, 10 catches)

Saha failed with bat but was exemplary in his primary role, that behind the stumps. He broke a number of records with his 10 catches at Cape Town, and was missed in the next 2 Tests as one chance after another flew by without anyone making attempts.

Ajinkya Rahane: 5/10 (57 runs at 28.50, 2 catches)

Rahane played a gem in the second innings at Johannesburg. His counterattacking 48-ball 68 probably turned the Test on its head. He should have got more, but he failed in his other innings.

Hardik Pandya: 5/10 (119 runs at 19.83, 3 wickets at 54, 3 catches, 1.5 run outs)

Hardik played an outrageous innings, one that can safely be put in the league of Kapil Dev’s 129 at Port Elizabeth or Mohammad Azharuddin’s 115 at Cape Town. Unfortunately, he did little else of note with bat, and did not take a wicket after the first Test. However, he was dazzling on the field, picking out Hashim Amla for special treatment.

Rohit Sharma: 2/10 (78 runs at 19.50, 1 catch)

Rohit reached double figures every time but went past 11 only once — and that was during a counterattack in a hopeless cause. He looked at sea when he tried to defend, and though he was the part of at least decent partnership every time he batted, it was never going to be enough.

Murali Vijay: 2/10 (102 runs at 17, 4 catches)

Vijay hung on grimly (he faced 60 balls per dismissal), but he simply could not get the runs. He got 47 at Cape Town and battled tooth-and-nail for his 25 at Johannesburg, but could neither force proceedings nor play sheet anchor.

Cheteshwar Pujara: 2/10 (100 runs at 16.67, 1 catch)

Pujara adopted an approach similar to Vijay’s: he faced 57 balls per dismissal, almost the same as Vijay did, and scored almost exactly the same number of runs. He looked assured every time he batted, but he never gave any indication of getting on top. The run outs at Centurion were, at best, unprofessional.

Shikhar Dhawan: 2/10 (32 runs at 16)

Dhawan was criticised for his cavalier approach at Cape Town (he was subsequently dropped). He was probably overaggressive, but as was expected, some of his defensive teammates did not fare much better either. Perhaps Dhawan’s methods could have yielded better result.

Parthiv Patel: 2/10 (56 runs at 14, 10 catches, 0.5 run out)

Three of Patel’s four innings were in excess of 16, but none of them ever made it to 20. He looked decent till he lasted, but he did not live up to the unverified myth of being better with bat than Wriddhiman Saha. He took 10 catches but did not go for another four or five, which will push his case down even further.

KL Rahul: 0.5/10 (30 runs at 7.50, 1 catch)

Rahul looked mostly at sea against a quality fast bowling attack. Even the only catch he took was an easy one that he nearly grassed.

Dinesh Karthik: special mention (1 catch)

Karthik got a catch as a substitute wicketkeeper, forcing people to look up laws. He also helped Kohli with a crucial review.