Prasad Moyarath

Bangalore

25 January 2011

India playing five one day internationals against South Africa in South Africa, just one month before the World Cup in India raised the eye brows of many Indian cricket aficionados. In the past, India could never do well against the hosts in the fast and bouncy pitches there. What will Indian players gain by playing matches on fast and bouncy pitches when the World Cup is going to be held in the flat batting tracks of the subcontinent? – This question puzzled many except those in BCCI. To the Indian surprise, all the matches were held on comparatively slow pitches and the Indians came out of the series winning 2 out of the 5 matches. Only the time will tell what the Indian team gained out of this series but a post mortem of this series reveals many interesting facts.

Sehwag, Praveen Kumar and Gambhir returned to India even before the start of the series with injuries. With Piyush Chawla, Ashwin and Rohit Sharma in the squad, the first two matches were looked upon by many as chances for the Indian selectors to try out these players before declaring the Indian team for the 2011 World Cup.

Team composition for the first two matches clearly proved that the selectors or the team management didn’t have any well thought out plans. Ashish Nehra looked completely out of sorts and Rohit Sharma sent in as replacement for Sehwag batted at No.4 and No.7 in the first two matches. Indians were beaten outright in the first match but won a thriller in the second despite Dhoni’s lackluster captaincy almost presenting a victory to South Africa. Even when it was very clear that India’s only winning option was to bowl out the South Africans, Dhoni kept persisting with part time bowlers and brought back Munaf only when the South Africans were very close to a victory. Luck was with Dhoni and India on that day.

Tendulkar returned to India with an injury and Parthiv Patel was sent in as a replacement. Indian team for the World Cup was announced and that seemed to confuse the team management more. Lack of a specialist opener forced the team management to thrust the role of an opener on the World Cup discard – Rohit Sharma and Dhoni didn’t have the gumption to use this contingency to test the disaster management skills of his team. He could have opened with Kohli and promoted himself to No.3. Though India won a thriller in the third one dayer through some hard hitting by Yusuf Pathan and presence of mind of tailenders, rain denied a century to Kohli and an outright win for South Africa (though they won by D/L Method) in the fourth one dayer.

Fifth one dayer showed the display of individual brilliance by Amla and Pathan. Cricket fans wondered what would have happened had Amla been caught by Ashwin at 70 and Duminy given out in the second ball he faced and rain not interrupted South African innings. Though South Africa won a thriller as shown by score card, apart from Pathan and Parthiv Patel to a small extent, none of the Indian batsmen took the fight to South African camp. Though the official Man of the Match was Amla, there was no doubt that the fifth one dayer would always remain etched in cricket lover’s memory for Yusuf Pathan’s innings.

India lost yet another one day series in South Africa but the fact that this team went down fighting even without 3 reputed players is a consolation. Indian team management and selectors never had a plan and was confused on the selection of players. They neither selected the team with an aim to win the series nor with an aim to give exposure to World Cup players. But with days to go for the 2011 World Cup, this series also exposed many weak links in the Indian side. Ashish Nehra’s lack of form and the inconsistency of Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni are sure to create sleepless nights for the team management and selectors. Lack of a good fifth bowler was clearly visible from the way South Africa recovered several times after an initial collapse. A world class side should be able to overcome any eventuality and this Indian side’s inability to overcome the opening problem that surfaced due to the injury to openers will pose a question mark on the quality of team selection. Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay turned out to be complete failures and it got forgotten due to the fact that they were not included in the World Cup team. Kohli, Pathan, Zaheer, Munaf and Harbhajan did something of note.

A diffident captain, a brittle middle order and a bowling attack with inconsistency written on it, this Indian side has flooded the minds of Indian cricket aficionados with doubts. “The big learning from this game is to keep wickets in hand for the last ten overs” – the parting words of the Indian captain summed up the whole picture. Did Dhoni become Indian Captain without knowing the basics of the game?

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Comments
  1. goutham says:

    It is almost strange that the combinations put forth by the teams in the matches more resembled the ones that will eventually take the park in the subcontinental conditions. Teams tried out players and combinations with the world cup in mind.

    Indians will be disappointed with losing games in a lopsided manner and the fitness and form of some of their key players, South Africa will be disappointed in not being able to win close games. If anything, it showed both the teams that their players can be exposed on conditions they are not used to. The form of their key match breakers will count for more coming the latter half of the world cup.

  2. John vd W (South Afr says:

    Agree with overall sentiment you conveyed BUT your third last paragraph starts with 3 separate “ifs”. If at The Wanderers, Botha wasn’t given out BAT BEFORE WICKET, SA would have won that and turned the series on its head. In conditions unlike they’re gonna face in the WC, I agree that neither team was at their best though.

  3. Prasad Moyarath says:

    John,
    That 3 ifs was not to mean that India would have won.There were very few contributors and I was wondering what would have happened.I feel that if rain was not there South Africa would have scored more.The fact that there were only 4 overs left after rain seemed to unsettle SA batsmen. Dropped catches are part of the game and nobody can take the credit away from Amla.This write up is a postmortem by an “Indian doctor”. A “South African doctor” can reveal more from the other side.

  4. Chandra says:

    Funnily, I looked beyond what had happened on the field over the span of the 1st 5 ODIs. It is always tricky to announce a world cup squad in the middle of a series, a crucial one as well, for it may have morale effects on those players who haven’t made it.

    In my eye, not playing Yusuf in the 1st two ODIs (in other words, until the WC squad was announced) was a fantastic decision, for had he failed in those two games, his place ‘might’ have been under risk – you can never trust these selectors! But … what a century that followed!

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