Virat Kohli may continue to hit back at the media, but he cannot escape more than 'soft dismissals' his team committed
By Francis Adams
There are Indian cricket fans worldwide who may have missed following Team India's decimation in the Test Series in South Africa owing to studies, work, profession, business and other personal reasons. This includes the Indian diaspora.
You may be checking the news, reports, videos and various cricket sites for the exact reasons on why such a complete team, touted as the best ever to leave Indian shores and aiming to conquer all foreign frontiers, have been relegated to such a dismal state.
Here are 10 reasons why India are 2-down and have lost this three-Test Freedom series.
Leave aside the several stories about pitch and conditions behaving weirdly. They were supposed to.
And in Virat Kohli's words, if "We are prepared what we are going to get here. We are not under any delusion," then these 10 blunders get magnified more.
1. "Nothing shot" outside the off stump
|If all of India's frontline batsmen were as agile to the one in this pic, the result of Test matches in Newlands and SuperSport Park, Centurion could have been in India's favour. Pic courtesy: News18.com|
They did this repeatedly.
It wasn't a surprise to see Kohli sum it up in his post-match response to Shaun Pollock's query. "We failed to get a good partnership and take lead. We have let ourselves down. The bowlers have done the job but the batsmen have let the team down."
His submission only raises questions on what homework (read preparation) did the team, ranked No 1 in Tests, and management, including chief coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun, and assistant coach Sanjay Bangar do?
2. Talismanic Kohli's dismissals
|Virat Kohli wouldn't have had to ask for a review had he and the|
team thinktank made SA sweat for each of his wickets.
In the first Test, Vernon Philander strategized on bowling bluffs at Kohli outside the offstump and 11
deliveries later brought one back to have India's talisman plumb in front.
Faf du Plessis changed tactics in the second innings of the first Test and after letting Kohli taste Philander's Indian-bowler-type-of-bounce brought in Morne Morkel, who with his 6'5" height got the India skipper to chase one to be caught behind.
We fans, happy to see Kohli score a big hundred and expecting a repeat, were in for another jolt in the critical second innings of the second Test when Ngidi repeated a similar strategy that Philander used and got the better of Kohli.
Did India's think tank notice, study and prepare to thwart any such attempts at their price gem? We fans doubt they did, else Kohli would have been alert to such salvos fired at him.
3. Pujara's amateurish run outs
|Down and in deep trouble, Pujara created a dubious|
record of being the only Indian to be
run out twice in a Test. Pic courtesy: TimesNow News
Little said the better?
ESPNCricinfo went few steps further, running an extensive article titled "Pujara, the run-out specialist" and detailing how Pujara has been involved in six out of India's last eight run-outs in Tests.
It definitely hurts fans to see the anchor of the team get suicidal and push the team further into an abyss. We deserve better, especially when all players proclaim how passionately they play for the country.
4. Wonderboy Pandya's run out
Seeing is believing. See this corresponding picture. It says everything how a batsman playing a Test match for his country ought not to be taking the opposition casually.
|Such runouts seldom happen in Test cricket.|
India needed Pandya, particularly after his gritty 93 in India's first innings in the first Test
As cricket fans, we understand Pandya has been allowed to play his natural game, but repeating the ramp shot when not needed and getting out to it will now be seen as throwing your wicket when India required him to stay and save the Test match.
5. Ashwin's same-pace bowling in the second innings of the second Test
India's leading spin bowler returned figures of 4 for 113, second only to Graeme Swann's 5 for 110 at the SuperSport Park, Centurion in December 2009.
So remarkable was his bowling effort that 94% of his deliveries (219 from 233) were pitched at good length. And off the 219, 81 were pitched outside the off stump that fetched him his four wickets.
Suddenly, this feat dried up when South Africa batted second. Ashwin ended up with figures of 1 for 78 runs from 29.3 overs, allowing South Africa to pile up 258.
Why this difference?
It's because during the first innings the pitch was comparatively faster than the second innings. As a result, when Ashwin should have adjusted his pace and bowled quicker, he continued to bowl at the same pace, allowing the opposition batsmen, including tailender Kagiso Rabada sufficient time to play him.
Could coach Shastri, a respected spin bowler during his playing days, have read this change in pitch behaviour and alerted Ashwin? Yes. Shastri could have. Unfortunately, this did not seem to have happened.
6. Dropped catches. Hands on knees.
|India's slip fielders are known to have this habit of|
standing with their feet apart as this file picture shows.
Daryll Cullinan discusses India's slip-fielding woes with Sidharth Monga during the second Test in Centurion
What made, Kohli, Dhawan and the others stand with their hands on their knees while the bowler is about to deliver? Why did they continue to stand with their legs stretched out instead of being in the wicket-keeper stance? These are habits, not corrected at the international level but when these Test players were youngsters and playing domestic cricket.
7. Giving away runs at crucial moments
Could Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India's spearhead in the bowling attack in the first Test have spoken too much and lost his place in the side for the second Test due to this? It could be a possibility.
The paceman from Uttar Pradesh was only being honest.
Sent to address the media after this spell of 4 for 87 in the first innings of the first Test, Bhuvi in his candid manner said: "It is a concern for us. During the break also, we were talking about bringing the run-rate down because in Test cricket four runs per over is a lot. This is something we want to improve when we bowl in the second innings but overall we are happy with the lines and lengths we bowled."
Bhuvi felt that India's attack gave away, probably 30 runs more to allow South Africa reach 286 in their first innings.
"If we want to be hard on ourselves, then yes we did give away a few too many runs to South Africa. I think they scored 25-30-odd extra runs. In every hour of play, there were 2-3 overs, where we gave away easy boundaries. That is an area we can improve on," Bhuvi said.
It's an irony that while the only player who spoke so openly about this fault was rested for the second Test while those playing in the XI in the second Test continued to give away crucial runs at critical moments.
8. Shami, a second innings bowler
Mohammed Shami seemed to have suddenly found his mojo as he turned lethal in South Africa's second innings with excellent figures of 4 for 49 from 16 overs that included India's nemesis AB de Villiers's wicket.
This same bowler looked blunt in his first innings stint as he laboured, partly owing to a bout
of giddiness, with his runups and ended with 1 for 58 from 15 overs.
|Mohammed Shami's inconsistent bowling was a|
contributing factor in India's twin losses.
This pattern was a repeat of the first Test, where Shami turned dangerous for the South African batsmen only in the second innings, snaring 3 for 28 from 12 overs.
How did he bowl in the first innings? 1 for 47 from 16 overs.
Sunil Gavaskar, doing live TV commentary and an expert sharp at observing such irregularity, commented on how Shami looked labouring in his stride on a pace-friendly Newlands pitch in the first innings.
The term "Shami, a second innings bowler" was coined by Sanjay Manjrekar in his analysis from the SonyLiv studio.
Did this low-high from Shami affect India? Yes, it did.
9. Lack of bite from the other end
Twice, India's frontline bowlers, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah respectively, wreaked havoc on the South African batsmen.
The first golden opportunity for India was created by Bhuvi who had South Africa with their backs to the wall, reducing them to 12 runs and three wickets down.
The next wicket fell at 126.
The second such opportunity arrived during the second innings of the second Test when Bumrah pegged South Africa back at three runs for two wickets. He sent back first innings star Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla in quick succession.
The next wicket fell at 144.
On both occasions, Team India were found wanting an incisive and penetrative bowler from the other end who could have kept the relentless pressure on and dash any South African hopes of recovery.
This wasn't to be.
10. Rowdy screaming when SA wicket is down - emotional overflow
|India, under Kohli and led by his antics have been excessively vocal.|
The Indian team, led by their captain Kohli could be seen celebrating in a raucous manner, even when a South African tail-end batsman was out. This waste of energy wasn't needed, feel experts.
Kohli, who continues to be the most vociferous of such celebrations has been accused by former players watching the game as showing excessive "emotional overflow."
Such celebrations also cause distraction from the target you are aiming to achieve. This is not a comparison, but South African players did not start celebrating until they knew full well and were assured that victory was theirs during both Test matches.
Finally, if you are told by Kohli like he did to a South African journalist: "You tell me which XI, we'll play that," what would be your response?
My reply to Kohli would be: Now that your team is down 2-nil in this three-Test series, South Africa is out to avenge their 3-0 whitewash suffered in India in 2015.
They are asking for a pace-bowling friendly Johannesburg pitch for the third Test, starting on January 24, 2018.
Your pace bowlers have proved they are no less. And you have nothing to lose. So why not unleash all your pace bowlers in this match and have a go at the South Africans like Clive Lloyd's pace battery used to, so regularly.
The XI you should be playing is:
Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma.