PARTAB RAMCHAND | 27 FEBRUARY, 2018
Despite Some Glitches, the Records Do Register a 5-1 Victory
India vs South Africa, temper satisfaction with caution
The victories in the ODI and T-20 contests were well earned while it must not be forgotten that the Test series was lost narrowly and the first two Tests could have gone either way. India had their chances but South Africa came off better in the bigger moments and emerged winners.
However starting from the third Test at Johannesburg a 8-2 scoreline in India’s favour does say a lot about the high quality cricket played by the visitors.
India had not won a Test series in six visits to South Africa spread over 25 years. For that matter they had not won a bilateral ODI series in that country over the same period so at least that jinx has been broken.
And the emphatic manner in which they won it – catapulting them to the No 1 slot in the rankings – has already set off talk about the Indians doing very well in the 2019 World Cup to be held in England in about 15 months time. After all the triumph was achieved away from home and the tag of ``tigers at home, lambs abroad’’ can at least for the time being be placed aside.
There are many positives that the Indian think tank can take when looking back on the tour. From the Test series the batting of Virat Kohli and the bowling of the pace attack will be fondly remembered. The captain enhanced his already lofty reputation and is rightly considered the best batsman in the game today across all three formats. The quartet of Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shammi and Jasprit Bumrah heralded the golden age of Indian pace bowling with a performance that was as effective as it was heart warming.
In the ODI series it was again Kohli who could do little wrong while running up an aggregate of 558 runs in the six matches with three hundreds and a half century. In the process he notched up his 35th ODI hundred in just 200 innings and his career average crossed the 58 mark – feats unheard of in limited overs cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar’s records thought to be unsurpassable have come sharply into focus with Kohli being in hot pursuit with batting of the ethereal quality. At 29 one can only speculate on the kind of records that he is likely to create when his career ends.
Basking under the batsmanship of their captain several other players too made sizeable contributions to the victory notably Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma both of whom got hundreds.
The bowling too backed the batting but here there was a major surprise. It was not pace but spin and the unlikely duo of wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal who caused almost all the damage.The combination of the left arm unorthodox bowler and the right arm leg spinner proved to be deadly and the South African batsmen were as helpless as a butterfly in a gale.
They just had no clue while trying to tackle this double menace and in taking 33 wickets between them the two highlighted the bench strength of the Indian squad for they were coming in for Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin – not long ago considered essential to the Indian attack in ODIs. Of course Bumrah considered a limited over specialist before graduating to the Test ranks during the tour was not to be denied his share of the spoils.
With all the T-20 cricket being played by the players - including ten years of the IPL – it is clearly not the format the Indians seem to excel in. It is the one format that they are not ranked No 1 – they are placed third in the ICC rankings – but on the tour where a lot went right for them they raised the level of their game just that much to take the three match series 2-1.
The victory in the decider was particularly commendable. For one thing they were without Kohli and second the manner in which the team kept their nerve in a tight finish earned them kudos aplenty.
While praise must be given where it is due at the same time a cautionary note has to be sounded. One does not wish to be a wet blanket but it must be said that the cricket played by the South Africans in the ODIs left much to be desired. The manner in which the batsmen shaped against Chahal and Yadav made them look like novices. Even a batsman like Hashim Amla was frequently found wanting. They were not at their strongest too for injuries saw Faf du Plessis playing just one match, Quinton de Kock two and AB de Villiers three.The bowling too was weakened by the absence of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Still posterity will record it as an emphatic 5-1 victory and I suppose that’s what matters in the end.