Current Affairs

Shameless Test-show of India in South Africa

DN Verma

The much heralded Indian batting line-up folded like dominoes in the first cricket Test match against South Africa Jan. 5-8 in Cape Town.

The hosts themselves surrendered their 20 wickets to Indian bowling stars in two innings for a 286 and 130. However, the dismal display by India batsmen, barring the young hero, Hardik Pandya (with 93 runs in the first innings), was pathetic, to say the least.

The much touted, and of course capable, stalwarts like Captain Virat Kohli, steady openers like Murli Vijay and aggressive one like Shikhar Dhawan, the solid and dependable Cheteshwar Pujara, and the flamboyant Rohit Sharma, all fell in a heap with 209 and 135 runs in two innings.

The South African team registered a 72-run win in the first Test to go up 1-0 in the three Test series to put pressure on India. Their bowlers, especially Philander and Rabada dealt severe blows to India.

After the first innings debacle, the Indian batsmen repeated it in much ore sad manner and scored only 135 runs. It was left to two bowlers, Ashwin (37) and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, to score more runs than the established batsmen.  

It was a deplorable display of India team that had rejected a warm-up game ‘for waste of time,’ as Kohli had said.

The Indian team had arrived in South Africa about a week earlier but along with the newly-weds, Virat Kohli and movie star Anushka Sharma, who were continuing with their honeymoon, and Shikhar Dhawan (also accompanied by his wife and kids), the others also seemed to spend time in partying, sight-seeing, shopping and other non-cricket activities. On the match days they seemed to be in a hurry to get out.

It was a sight to see the top batting stars of South Africa such as Hashim Amla, ABD Villiers and de Cock not doing much though their team managed to reach 286 runs – not a formidable score at all.

However, the Indian batting line-up was probably, still, had the hangover from the last few days and fell in a heap. Only Pandya shone with both bat and ball.

After the third day’s play was completely washout out due to rains, the second innings was again an excellent show by Indian bowlers who shot the hosts out for a mere 130 runs. It was only not a herculean task to score 209 runs to tie and adding one more to win. The Indian team meekly surrendered to score only 135 runs and lost the first battle by 72 runs.

What a start!

Blame continuing honeymoon, partying, sightseeing and shopping. Blame lack of application, caution, thoughtful play, unfamiliarity with the pitches, or display of over-confidence. The result was a disaster; a battle that could be won was lost. In the process Team India, lost face also and now face a daunting task of turning the tables on South Africa and score more in the other two Tests to win the series.

I wonder if Coach Ravi Shastri (who doesn’t seem to have the upper hand) and the Captain, with the senior players, had a serious discussion about the lost match. Or is it sufficient to issue statement by Captain Kohli saying that taking 20 wickets is not enough, the batsmen have to score more runs.

Of course that is obvious but what happened, why it happened, and what are you going to do about it for the rest of the tour? That discussion and post-mortem is absolutely essential. Discuss the strong and weak points and enforce discipline.

Remember, there are the two remaining Tests and then ODIs and T-20s.

We, Indians, can only wish and hope that Indian players and their coaches have learnt good lessons that while on a cricket tour the first priority is cricket – other things make a vital difference between a victory and defeat.

And the team’s focus should be to win.