PARTAB RAMCHAND | 31 JANUARY, 2018
Win Will Boost Indians’ Confidence in Away-From-Home Games
Gutsy performance by India’s Batsmen in Johannesburg
So where does the victory at Johannesburg figure in the list of overseas wins?
Right away it can be said that it is something special and should rank pretty high even in the long list of such triumphs. It certainly lacks the historical aspects associated with Dunedin 1968, Port of Spain 1971, the Oval 1971 or Multan 2004 but that is about the only thing it lacks. From every other angle it will rank as very significant.
For one thing there was the opposition. The South African team is No 2 in the ICC rankings and though they were up against the No 1 ranked side playing at home is always an advantage. It must also not be forgotten that this was only the Indians’ third victory in 20 Tests in South Africa.
Secondly they were being written off after having lost the first two Tests. But perhaps the most notable aspect of this victory was that it was achieved in alien wicket conditions.
For long the Indian batsmen have been dismissed as flat track bullies, who amass runs and big scores only in friendly home surfaces and come apart on pitches abroad that are helpful to bowlers. At Johannesburg the batting of the Indians was the epitome of courage and rightfully they earned plaudits aplenty by displaying the right technique and unflappable temperament in adverse conditions.
Batting was anything but easy on a near treacherous track at the Wanderers with the ball flying about menacingly, swinging and seaming around like crazy and with the batsmen’s heads, hands, shoulders, ribs and other areas all open to danger. Indeed one lost count of the number of times the batsmen were hit. It was a controversial surface that almost led to the Test being called off midway through.
This was the supreme test for the Indian batsmen and they came off with full honours. They were up against a quartet of top class fast bowlers who made full use of the helpful conditions. They made the ball fly about disconcertingly, even dangerously but the batsmen did not flinch. Not only did they stand their ground but they also took every opportunity to score runs fully aware that on this surface every run was invaluable.
When the Indians did not exactly cover themselves with glory at Cape Town it was put down to the surface which was typically fast and bouncy. But when they failed at Centurion on a wicket that was brown and slow they were written off as no-hopers. And yet a week later they performed with distinction on a minefield of a track at the Wanderers.
The captain can certainly take some credit for the transformation. Virat Kohli led from the front as only he can befitting his stature as one of the leading batsmen in the contemporary game. His 153 at Centurion was superlative even by Kohli’s exalted status and must rank as one of his finest innings ever – and he has played several unforgettable knocks. The dual fact that the next highest was Murali Vijay’s 46 and that Kohli’s hundred was the only one in the entire series underlines the greatness of the knock.
Taking the cue from the skipper most of the other frontline batsmen showed the traditional qualities associated with Test cricket – dedication, determination and concentration – and all this allied to a new found quality, guts saw the Indians at least for now shrug off their flat track bullies labels.
The manner in which they got behind the line of the ball, the way in which they negotiated the rising deliveries and the judgement they showed in leaving the balls which deserved to be left alone was exemplary. In this context Ajinkya Rahane’s 48 in the second innings at Johannesburg as well as Kohli’s contributions of 54 and 41 were little gems especially when placed against the background of a match marked by low scores.
All in all a gutsy performance from the batsmen that will boost their confidence as they prepare to tackle the tough tests ahead in England and Australia.