Here are the bare facts: three ODIs, two Tests, no wins. But there’s no way on earth you can use the adjectives ‘disastrous’ or ‘terrible’ to describe India’s tour of South Africa.
If anything, it was a learning experience for a largely young side comprising talented batsmen who didn’t get the required support from their pacers. Yes, India have now lost nine straight overseas Tests, but it would be foolhardy to look beyond MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher now. With 11 more Tests (two in New Zealand, five in England and four in Australia) coming our way, they have showed promise that they will deliver.
After going down tamely in the one-dayers, Dhoni and his boys came back strongly to stun the Proteas on a lively pitch at the Wanderers in the first Test. Come to think of it, India ‘won’ four out of the five days. But for their failure to counter that overwhelming display of guts by Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers on the final day, India did everything right.
Virat Kohli showed what he’s made of. So did Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and, to a large extent, M Vijay. It’s time we stopped calling them ‘flat-track bullies’. Yes, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have some work to do.
It was smooth sailing in Durban before Dale Steyn did something only he can. Taunted for an unprecedented long wicket drought, Steyn breathed fire, leaving the Indians burnt and blistered. If not for that inspired spell of bowling, which saw India go from 198/1 to 334 all out, we would have batted South Africa out of the match.
Ravindra Jadeja impressed with a six-for, but as South Africa took a commanding 166-run lead thanks mainly to Jacques Kallis, an Indian win was out of the question. A combination of awful shots, questionable umpiring decisions and Steyn (again!) in the second innings cost India the Test and series.
Dhoni summed it up well. “We performed really well. There were a couple sessions where we played badly and that had an impact on both the Test matches… It was a fantastic performance, but, yes, we could have done better,” he said.
All was not rosy. The contribution of the lower order –– especially Zaheer Khan –– was a big negative. Ditto with swing bowling.
Fast bowling has always been a concern. Yes, Zaheer, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami bowled well at the Wanderers. But they looked tired in Durban.