Success has many fathers, failure is invariably an orphan. For Fans of team India, who wish to see the team to do well abroad away from the sub continent, overseas tour remain a recurring nightmare. For us the fans, repeated half-baked performance in away test match is a Déjà vu, the grips of which don’t ever seem to relent. An elusive test (not A Series, a test, one 5 day match) win abroad is now Unicorn.
This series was more about the men in charge, the sober and phlegmatic Faf Du Plessis vs Virat Kohli. On the onset, one believed that the Teams on the whole looked competitive. Just in case, Number one and Number two teams in test cricket were competing. Perhaps we tricked ourselves into believe our fragile batting order would stand up to incisive SAf bowling. We hood winked ourselves on the batting prowess that’s hardly turned up this series.
Faf is an assuming leader. When ABD and Steyn were out due to injury he was excellent, Smith & Co didn’t even have a chance. I mean, imagine best bowler and best batsman (in the world) out due to injury when you are touring Aus, perhaps a very tough place to tour. ABD till then wanted to have captaincy till then. SAf under Faf did well and he cemented the captaincy. Faf is perhaps not the best stroke playing if you compare with Amla or ABD or Markram or out of form de Kock. He has his game sorted out though. He sticks around and can change gears quickly. On the fourth day it looked odd when he and Elgar came together and slowly batted India out of the game. He looked good for more. Faf has been a very good captain and very gritty and determined with the bad. He was ringing in the changes on the button. He has lead SAf to a brilliant series win.
ABD on his part did what best, score runs, scores them when chips seem to be done. Twice in two matches he has managed to turn around a situation. He may not have a century to show, but he stood between SAf batting and Indian bowling with some purpose. He is now the top run scoring player for this series.
Rabada and Philander are a terrific combination. Morne Morkle may not be in full rhythm. Steyn won’t be missed for sure. Debutant Ngidi took a five on the debut.
Philander hardly bowl in the second inning of the second test. Indian batting in the second innings had a familiar feel of an impending disaster. The ball started to keep low, only thing bouncing lower was Indian batting line up.
Indian batting line up has consistently shown the tendency to wilt or crumble at any stage if the game. Kohli’s scored an outstanding 150. He has scored 191 tuns so car, other top batsmen have scored 186. Pandyas silly run out in first inning made a difference between trailing by 28 runs and leading by 30. One has got to feel sad for Pujara.
Two run outs in this match, run out on duck in first innings.
Board, selectors, captain and Coach.
For all his faults, Captain Kohli has a forceful personality. BCCI chose to have an ODI series, immediately after India had beaten SL in SL in Test, ODI and T20. How and why of that series are more belwildiring the more you see the score board of this test series.
Board has recently announced a future tour program. I hope they have not kept tour games as optional. Ideally a tour starts with an ODI series, then couple of first class games and then the test matches. Or in future, Board decides to send the team for the tour and flight lands near the pitch and captain walk out to toss first day of the test. A selection committee member is must on tour who has a vote to pick the team. Board/selection committee have done well, to have frontline bowlers battle ready, we were struggling for the long time. Dhonis team was reduced to one trick pony, bowlers were just not there. Fragile batting made the team a half trick pony. Obviously this is for matches abroad.
BCCI has also worked out two different teams – Murali Vijay, Che, Ashwin, Ishant are not playing ODIs anymore Jinx may be slotted in that same bracket. Perhaps it is fair for the Board to ask Kohli to choose the captaincy of any two of the three formats. If they can take it a step further, Kohli remains the captain either Test or ODIs (and T20s)
Ravi Shastri is another forceful personality. He is a sharp commentator and made his mark as English commentator. If he is to be blamed for test fiasco, since 2011 India has played 24 way tests and lost 17. We were hopeful that this series was different but wasn’t meant to be. It won’t help blaming Shastri the coach for the fiasco.
On the cricket field, onus is on the captain, the glory and doom is captain’s choice. If Shastri is pulling the strings from behind the boundary, Kohli’s captaincy will prove to be shittier than what it is, as off now.
Captain is as good as the team (selection).
The team selection under Kohli is now has a nature of systemic risk. If all sundries haven’t noticed as of yet, Winning single One test match abroad needs a separate template, separate preparation. Don’t think India will play two spinners in SAf, England, NZ or Aus (new term as read on twitter, SENA) Anyone who has followed Indian team for more than 4 seasons would know it. India sunk into the gulf of timidity that lies in a gap between Kohli the Batsman and Kohli the captain. Kohli the captain needs to up the game. How?
Ask him to think what the opposition would say if he presents the scenario.
Jinx was not selected even for the second test, KL Rahul, failed to amuse, Vijay looked sordid. Che has been such a big disappointment. In the first test he didn’t open with Ashwin in the second innings, Here he did. But then didn’t bowl Pandya for first 65 over, Shami hardly bowled in the second session on the fourth day. He should also relinquish the number coveted number four slot for the team sake. Kohlis game sense on his best day is 10% of Dhoni of what had on his bad day. Kohli has only once repeated his playing eleven in around 35 plus matches. The fragility of Indian top order is secret to none. Kohli aim for fitness in the team is bearing fruit. However, fielding needs to get better. How a team fields indirectly shows so much, half chances of Amla and ABD or anyone else can’t be spilled.
Keeping ODI like split slips is another example. Kohli the captain while on the field can’t be the lead instigator of low vibe jibes, jeering every incoming and outgoing batsman obviously takes its toll. Kohli needs to be wiser here and needle with some sense. I am, what I am! this excuse doesn’t work; you don’t play certain shots at certain stages of your innings. Kohli has to bite his tongue on this one.
The onus of this series is on Kohli and Kohli alone. He is currently writing cheques his team can’t encash. Kohli has to have a settled opener, a low risk accumulator of runs someone who doesn’t let bowler bowl maiden after maiden and just get into a rhythm, he must play percentage cricket shots and rotate strike. Che had that role, but failed here. Kohli needs to relinquish four, either play at three or control the situation from five. There is a slot empty for a left hander in the middle order. Pandya is a good find, provided he is given the ball in first fifteen balls Pandya looks innocuous and probably doesn’t know what he is bowling, but doesn’t give much away. There is only one spinner who will be playing abroad.
His selection of bowlers has been spot on. Bhuvi however must play every possible match that India plays. He is a very good bowler, can bowl long spells, if there is any swing, and he will exploit it. He is a decent bat and a good outfielder.
Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
Hopefully under Kohli’s captaincy Indian fans recurring nightmare would be vanquished for once. Kohli had the ingredients but messed up the recipe.