Wherever you look today, the Kohli-Kohli chant runs paramount. Dhawan is back on fire and the spinners- Kuldeep and Chahal- have made fans sit back and take notice. Indian team, especially in the wake of their impressive ODI showing in South Africa have reinforced the view that the team is beyond just heroics from the bat. In so doing, India have finally ended their jinx by winning an ODI series in South Africa. To undo the odds- whatever might’ve been the reason for India’s rather ordinary showing in Protea land- the Men in Blue took nearly 28 years to banish an indifferent past.
India are just the second team from Asia, apart from Pakistan to have won an ODI series in South Africa. But what is most impressive about South Africa’s thumping at the hands of India is just how incredibly one-sided have been the games. It’s true Virat, wherever he bats and whichever his opposition, seems to be on a purple patch. But if there was another occasion where one sought to find the hunger in him to win, than India’s famously meaty overseas victory has highlighted that.
India haven’t just been dominant. They’ve been utterly dominant. The series has been historic particularly since Virat Kohli has notched up an astonishing record by scoring the most runs in a bilateral series. He isn’t merely a batsman; he’s literally a run-machine. One that induces fear in the minds of his opponents. The stylish batsman scored 558 runs in six matches at an astonishing average of 186. This is some serious math and not rudimentary number crunching. Kohli’s curiousness to stay at the crease has beautifully rubbed off on Dhawan, it ought to be said, who produced stunning knocks of 51*, 76, and 109. That said, is it an everyday sight to see India set South Africa an improbable target of 304?
But importantly, the showmanship of the series victory has been amplified by Virat’s aggressive and uncompromising brand of leadership. How often do we see both seamers and spinners being rotated with such shrewd efficiency?
Complementing an in-form batsman’s swashbuckle has been the cunningness of India’s bowling attack- probably the best it has been in over a decade- to mow down South Africa. Fans can note with ease that India sucked the flow of runs from the Protean batsman’s blade. Surely Markram instead of the regular opening face de Kock wasn’t the most destructive. But instead of leaving things to chance, the likes of Bumrah and Kumar tempted him to hold out in the deep.
This, coupled with the loss of another one or two quick wickets only added pressure on relatively newer bats like Klaasen.
Kohli’s enthusiasm and belief in his spinners is equally thrilling, a great demonstration of which was served in the final ODI, where South Africa plummeted from 3-105 in 21 overs to 7-151 by the time the 37th over was complete. Not only did Chahal and Yadav eat up the Protean middle and lower-middle order, also finely supported by newcomer Thakur, but they successfully forced a complete surrender of the bat over the ball.
If you notice, then you’ll find that not always does one see an ODI series where both the bat and ball compete closely for edging out one other.
Where batting stands, then taking a leaf from Virat’s book, Dhawan stroked a brilliant 323. What’s more? It was ideal to see Rohit clearing some doubts- if only in his mind- courtesy a fluent, quick-fire 115. It seemed even funny that he hardly looked tense as prior to his 17th hundred, his highest score in the same series was 21.
But all that said, spare a thought for two of India’s most potent forces to have emerged from the South Africa tour. If there was a series away from the flat, green tops in sub-continental land where the likes of Chahal and Yadav needed a boost as an indicator of their own talent, then this was it. While Chinaman spinner Kuldeep Yadav took 17 wickets in six games, his partner Chahal scuttled 16 wickets from 6 games.
Bumrah- with his barrage of variations- checkered by the ability to come in handy during death overs- didn’t disappoint either.
Throughout the series, the likes of Bumrah, Kumar and Pandya kept things tight for the Proteas while Chahal and Yadav kept plucking wickets from one end. How often have you seen a side with an Amla and Duminy being kept as silent as someone being tied in an isolated dark spot?
But the series may not have turned out the way it did- it could be said- had it not been for the key absences of many of South Africa’s A-list stars. With a talent pool as rich as Faf, De Villiers, Steyn, Morkel and de Kock, you got to acknowledge the whole bundle of talent being literally star-studded. India did particularly well to capitalise in place of these big absentees. It was a rare moment of rejuvenation particularly where India’s overseas record stands; something which to South Africa didn’t even bring a solitary moment of reprieve.
However, a pragmatic Team India will sit around to understand how it’s middle order failed to soak in the pressure when the top order failed. If India wants to enjoy success in 2019 World Cup they have to fix their middle order fiasco as soon as possible and clearly understand what might be a reality that’s often overshadowed by the glitter of these hard-fought successes. Isn’t the side clearly overly reliant on Virat?