CHENNAI: The tour of South Africa, which started with plenty of hope, has turned out into a reality check. After the reversal in Test series, India on Sunday suffered a whitewash in the ODIs, a stark reminder of where the team stands 18 months ahead of the 50-over World Cup.
Like it was the case in the first two ODIs, India lost their way in the middle-overs with the middle-order failing to capitalise on the start provided by the top-order. Deepak Chahar made a valiant 54 off just 34 balls in at No 7, but his dismissal with 10 to get changed the tide as Temba Bavuma’s side won by four runs in the last over.
To say India have a job in their hands with regards to rebuilding their white-ball cricket will be an understatement. In fact, this series has only highlighted how much they have to dig deep as regular captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid have plenty to ponder before the series against West Indies commences in Ahmedabad on February 6.
For starters, India need to zero-in on their personnel; they are going to build the team for the World Cup. Their batting order is far from settled. It is not clear who their preferred combination for the openers slot with Rohit Sharma being a certainty. In the middle-order, there are multiple options, but again they are far from identifying their No 4 and 5. Ditto with No 6 and 7, two positions expected to be filled by all-rounders if India are serious about six bowling options.
This series was supposed to provide a fair picture of the way they are headed. Instead, there were contrasting signals. After talking of the need to have six-bowling options, India used only five in the first ODI before using Venkatesh Iyer in the second match. On Sunday, in Venkatesh’s absence, India asked Shreyas Iyer to send down three overs.
There are two ways to look at it — India trying their options and other being their desperation to search for a batter who can send in five-six overs in case one of their regulars have an off-day. Similarly, after stand-in captain KL Rahul revealing Shreyas will bat No 4, in all three matches he came in at No 5, a position which seems low for a player who likes to get his eye-in before shifting gears.
These uncertainties have led India into some sort of combination lock. If India are content enough with five-bowling options, with a fit-again Ravindra Jadeja batting at No 7, it will open up one more batting slot. It will not only strengthen their batting, but it should also allow them to fit-in another aggressive player in Ishan Kishan or Suyakumar Yadav or even Prithvi Shaw at the top should Rahul be deemed fit for middle-order.
Similarly, with the ball, India seem to have come to a point where they will have to look beyond Bhunveshwar Kumar. Picking up wickets in the powerplay continues to be an issue with Chahar showing again how much he can offer to this team with the new ball. While the absence of a full-strength squad may have ruined their plans, the series against West Indies should be a fresh start for India.
South Africa Innings: De Kock c Dhawan b Bumrah 124, Malan c Pant b Chahar 1, Bavuma (run out) Rahul 8, Markram c (sub) Ruturaj b Chahar 15, Van der Dussen c Iyer b Chahal 52, Miller c Kohli b Prasidh 39, Phehlukwayo (run out) Shreyas/Pant 4, Pretorius c Suryakumar b Prasidh 20, Maharaj c Kohli b Bumrah 6, Magala c Rahul b Prasidh 0, Ngidi (not out) 0; Extras: (lb2, w13, nb3) 18; Total: (all out in 49.5 overs) 287; FoW: 1/8, 2/34, 3/70, 4/214, 5/218, 6/228, 7/272, 8/282, 9/287; Bowling: Chahar 8-0-53-2, Bumrah 10-0-52-2, Krishna 9.5-0-59-3, Jayant 10-0-53-0, Chahal 9-0-47-1, Iyer 3-0-21-0. India innings: Rahul c Malan b Ngidi 9, Dhawan c De Kock b Phehlukwayo 61, Kohli c Bavuma b Maharaj 65, Pant c Magala b Phehlukwayo 0, Iyer c Phehlukwayo b Magala 26, Suryakumar c Bavuma b Pretorius 39, Chahar c Pretorius b Ngidi 54, Jayant c Bavuma b Ngidi 2, Bumrah c Bavuma b Phehlukwayo 12, Chahal c Miller b Pretorius 2, Krishna (not out) 2; Extras: (lb2, nb2, w7) 11, Total: (all our in 49.2 overs) 283; FoW: 1/18, 2/116, 3/118, 4/156, 5/195, 6/210, 7/223, 8/278, 9/281; Bowling: Ngidi 10-0-58-3; Pretorius 9.2-0-54-2, Magala 10-0-69-1, Maharaj 10-0-39-1, Phehlukwayo 7-0-40-3, Markram 3-0-21-0.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)