3 ODIs and 2 Tests- that’s all the World no. 1 and no. 2 sides were allowed to play during a disappointingly-curtailed tour that promised a lot more.
This was supposed to be an important tour in the grand scheme of things for a young Indian team that was yet to play more than a few tests overseas. The golden generation was now well and truly over, and the home performances of this team meant that expectations were not exactly low despite a 0-8 drubbing abroad over two years.
India were well and truly destroyed by a lower ranked South African team in the ODI series- supposedly India’s favorite format. The tests, though, were a closer affair. The Indian team did not roll over and die as many expected them to, and found a new fighting spirit that allowed them to almost pull off the most significant upset of 2013.
But that didn’t happen at Johannesburg. On the contrary, India avoided an upset on day 5 when South Africa almost pulled off the greatest Test chase in history. Durban was what many expected from this Indian team, and sadly, after winning a few sessions, their backbone was broken on the last 2 days- leading to a heavy defeat.
Eventually, the report card coming out of this camp wouldn’t make for pleasing reading- though there were definitely bright spots during this 0-1 series defeat- their ninth match loss in their last 10 overseas outings.
Dhawan, the toast of the Indian team in 2013, disappointed majorly by not even crossing 50 in the tests- and struggling to get a move on in the ODIs. His failure meant that India didn’t get one decent opening partnership. This was the same country where he had recently struck a record breaking 248 in a domestic limited overs game. He was confident as ever; but his dismissals proved otherwise- the short ball in particular troubling him more than it should have.
Vijay surprised many with his patience and temperament, despite failing (scores wise) in the first test. He still weathered the new ball storm and made it easier for his in-form mates like Kohli and Pujara. He was the more successful and better-equipped of the two opening partners, unfortunate to miss out on his maiden overseas test century at Durban.
One can’t ask for much more from India’s new no. 3. There remained a question mark over his overseas credentials after he had failed here on his previous tour, but Pujara calmed nerves by playing some delightful classical test knocks. The first test dismissal was not his fault (run out by Kohli) and he made up in his next 2 innings, bringing India to the brink at Johannesburg. He remains India’s best test batsman of 2012 and 2013.
He was unfortunate in the crucial second innings in Durban, and displayed all the shots in the book otherwise during a series that saw him almost become the first Indian no. 4 to score two 100s in the same test. His partnership with Pujara is good news for India’s test future; both of them were heads and shoulders above the rest and looked comfortable at the crease.
He averaged a paltry 11 during the test series, and made some glaring errors to be dismissed during important junctures of each test. A career that began all guns blazing with two centuries on the trot tapered off terribly during Rohit’s first real test abroad. He must work on playing the swinging ball if he is to fill the huge boots of VVS Laxman in the batting order.
Ajinkya Rahane (8/10)
Rahane did what Rohit was expected to, with great grit and success. He showed immense temperament and rescued India on both occasions in Durban; though his efforts went in vain. The classiness of his 96 in Durban could be a turning point in his stop-and-start-international-career, and he could cement himself in the middle order with such technique in New Zealand. Rohit might feel like he was better at no. 6 where he was expected to bat with the lower order during his debut.
Defensive captaincy in Durban where he refused to take the new ball to try and force the Proteas into a slow-scoring draw means that he has now lost 9 of the last 10 tests in charge overseas. His batting didn’t help either, his ridiculous shot in Durban leading to the ultimate collapse while Rahane stood strong at the other end.
Ravindra Jadeja (6/10)
6 on 10 only for his brave 6 wicket performance at Durban and his relentless spell of a total of 58 overs in the first innings. If he was chosen at Johannesburg, India could have won the test, but his brainfade batting means that he is the only tail ender in the history of cricket to have 3 triple centuries in domestic cricket to his name.
Ravi Ashwin (3/10)
A nothing performance from him at Johannesburg prevented India from pushing for a much-needed win, after which he was dropped. He has picked only 8 of his 105 wickets abroad, and remains a home specialist that is more of a batsman in overseas conditions. His awkward fielding efforts don’t add to his value.
Zaheer Khan (5/10)
Many expected more from India’s premier quick, but his effort can’t be faulted. His age works against him, and he contributed as much as he could in Johannesburg- after which he looked too spent in Durban to make a difference. His batting efforts only showed that he didn’t care to stay at the crease for his team when they needed him. As a senior member, he is expected to contribute more in overseas conditions.
Ishant Sharma (5/10)
A great Johannesburg spell apart, Ishant once again succumbed to the usual flash-in-the-pan reputation. He was toothless at Durban, where there was arguably more help from the pitch. South African batsmen didn’t make the mistake of falling to him again, reading him well and milking him through the doomed test.
Mohammed Shami (6/10)
He was effective in short bursts, but could have done much more given his ability to swing the ball both ways. He failed at Durban against the determination of Kallis and AB- and proved that he is still a work in progress and has much to learn.
The return of the likes of Aaron will help boost India’s weak attack in New Zealand. Pacer Ishwar Pandey- much is expected of him after 3 great Ranji seasons.