India have already lost the three-match ODI series against South Africa with one match remaining © Getty Images
India have already lost the three-match ODI series against South Africa with one game remaining © Getty Images

India’s defeat in the second One-Day International (ODI) at Durban halts their victorious run in 2013. Nishad Pai Vaidya argues that this experience may actually help India learn a lot and put their plans in place for the ICC World Cup 2015.

 

The year 2013 has been a remarkable one for India in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Having struggled post the ICC World Cup 2011 triumph, a relatively younger unit regained its winning mojo under the cool leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Not only did they win the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, but also maintained a remarkable winning streak of six consecutive ODI series. However, the defeat in South Africa comes as a wake-up call. There is no need to be an alarmist, but the message is clear — there are chinks in the armour that need to be addressed.

 

If there is anything the defeat has exposed, it is the want for practice. The Indians arrived in the country a few days before the first ODI after a long run at home. They did not have the necessary time to adjust to the conditions and acclimatise accordingly. The way some of the batsmen were dismissed during the two ODIs bears testament to the fact that the Indians were short of practice. Through the last two months, they got away by playing through the line on those batting friendly Indian surfaces. The same shots have a higher risk factor on South African pitches as there is more movement and bounce on offer for the bowlers.

 

When Dale Steyn welcomed Rohit Sharma with a barrage of snorters at Johannesburg, it was just a microcosm of a larger picture. Rohit, India’s best batsman this year, looked ordinary and it wasn’t so much about skill as much as it was about practice. Then Virat Kohli was squared up by one that left him as he was readying himself to flick it through the leg-side. Had they played a game or two before the series, they would have dealt with the situation a little better. Of course, they wouldn’t have faced the class of a Steyn in a practice game, but it would have helped their confidence.

 

Some may say that these are ODIs and one may not really require a warm-up, which is imperative before a Test series. Even before the Champions Trophy, they had their warm-up encounters in place and that did serve them well. However, losing an international contest always has a demoralising effect and India have to bounce back from here. This may have a psychological impact on them ahead of the Test series. It is not the fact that they have lost, but the huge margins with which they conceded defeat.

 

The batsmen do have some introspection to do though. In England, they applied themselves very well and fought out the testing periods to help India score big. The bowling in South Africa was more hostile and they could have tweaked their approach accordingly. Execution of strokeplay wasn’t perfect and there was a lot more they could have done.

 

Compare this performance to the one in England earlier this year. Astonishingly, it is the same unit that won India that tournament that has struggled in the Rainbow Nation. The batting line-up hasn’t changed, barring the No 4 slot as Dinesh Karthik isn’t in the side anymore. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin continue to be the main spinners. But, the fast bowling has seen numerous changes with India circling back to Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. That is an area of instability as India’s main fast-bowlers keep changing. Earlier, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the leading bowler and now it is Mohammed Shami. No one has taken on the mantle in the long-run.

 

So, it is just a confluence of all those small chinks that have led to this defeat in South Africa. The batting that had done so well this year ends it with a dampener. The frequent chopping and changing in the fast-bowling hasn’t helped; but the bowlers themselves have pushed the team management to make those changes due to their inconsistency. All in all, this could prove to be an important experience for India keeping in mind the ICC World Cup 2015. The tournament is still some time away and India would travel to New Zealand and England before setting foot in Australia in 2014-15. By then, they would have a side that would have adjusted well to foreign conditions and would have vital experience behind them. In defeat, there is a lot to learn and India could still benefit from this experience in South Africa.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)