Why India’s Loss to South Africa is an Eye-Opener

Needless to mention, India’s second consecutive ODI series loss (after losing to Bangladesh in Bangladesh) and their first-ever bilateral home ODI series loss to South Africa is perhaps their biggest wake-up call of 2015

Till the final ODI, they were on equal terms, but collapsed in a heap at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai in the deciding match. But one must remember that South Africa missed their key players, JP Duminy and Morne Morkel, for the last two matches, and still managed to upstage India on their own turf in devastating fashion. Yes, the Proteas are the best travelers in cricket, but they aren’t known to win one-day matches everywhere; they’ve always been a hit-or-miss limited-overs team, and the world’s best Test team. With this win, they will perhaps find that extra gear to win an ICC tournament – but will also contain themselves because they know that this Indian ODI team hasn’t posed their greatest test. 

India had virtually no consistent performers throughout this series, which should be their biggest concern as they embark on a future without any senior and ‘experienced’ players very soon. 

Highs for India:

Rohit Sharma’s good form, which he converted into a century and a fifty. Unfortunately, his team lost both those matches. He needs to capitalize further on his purple patch, because he isn’t even assured of a test spot with Cheteshwar Pujara back in form. 

Ajinkya Rahane’s spunky effort. He has been uneven and even unfortunate through the series, but no. 4 looks like a good spot for him, and he finally seems to have found a range of shots that could help him keep his place in this side. 

Virat Kohli’s morale-boosting century in Chennai means that he will enter the Test series with confidence. Till then, he had averaged a mere 20 since the first World Cup match back in February this year.

Lows for India:

MS Dhoni is way past his sell-by date, both as a captain and a batsman. His batting has been woefully short of his own high standards, and his inability to finish games has been exposed in this series by the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir. He must surely contemplate his own future for the sake of his younger team. 

– India’s ‘pace’ attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were brutally slaughtered in Mumbai after an underwhelming series. India lacked raw pace and intimidation, and these two simply kept their places because two spots needed to be filled, and India didn’t have more than 3 spinners after Ashwin’s injury. 

Axar Patel isn’t the bowling all-rounder that India are looking for, at least not yet. He has a lot of learning to do, and his flat, non-turners were treated as they should be by a cramping Faf du Plessis in the final ODI. 

Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina need to regroup and find their way back into form away from international cricket. Dhawan will still play as an opener for the Test team, but everyone knows that he looks under-confident, scratchy and clueless at the crease. Raina, meanwhile, needs to have a chat with someone other than Dhoni about his bad form this year. The CSK players, except Ashwin, have been overworked and listless all year. 

– The team needs to look further than Harbhajan Singh for a spinner – who has never really looked like taking wickets except for the odd game. He has kept the runs in check, but at times, you need more than a defensive spinner to win matches. 

– Dhoni’s lack of trust in out-and-out pacers like Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron is justifiable, and he is short of options in that department. His post-match interviews smack of his lament for a world-class fast bowler, a breed rarer than Oscar contenders in India. 

There’s no reason for Indian fans to breathe a sigh of relief after their record-breaking Test series win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. Even though the visiting West Indies team lost both the matches to Lanka, they bowled out the home team for 200 on both occasions in the second Test match – which only goes to show what India was up against in a series that got lost amidst the melancholy and memories of the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara. 

Up next is the Test series, but what should worry the selectors and team management is the 5-match ODI series in Australia early next year. They are the top team once again in this format, and despite India’s strong performance in the World Cup there, there’s nothing to suggest that they will ever go on a seven match winning streak again on those pitches. India need the likes of Shami and Ishant Sharma in the squad, despite their dips in form and accuracy, if nothing – only to bring in a fast bowler’s aggressive body language onto a field.