Even the most loyal Proteas supporters might have struggled to predict three straight victories to kick of this historic tour, but that is the reality which the home side have to deal with.
I don’t think for a moment that India have been complacent or taken South Africa lightly — their pre-tour camp showed how seriously they took their preparation — but I still think they may have been surprised by the intensity and competitiveness of the visitors.
I had a sense that JP Duminy has never been more determined or better prepared to make a lasting impression, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him make such a strong start to the tour.
As for Kagiso Rabada successfully defending 11 runs in the final over against the great MS Dhoni, it is the sort of experience he will remember and be able to draw on for the rest of his career.
AB de Villiers was typically brilliant with the bat, but it was the coolness of his captaincy which did as much to win the game. Body language can be so important and the way he calmly chatted with Rabada before that final over sent such a strong message of confidence and belief.
AB de Villiers and his senior pros came up with the game plan for those final six balls but they couldn’t bowl them — it was still up to the youngest man on either team to put them in the right place. It’s hard to believe he’s still only 20-years-old. Much has been said about managing his workload but sometimes you just can’t hold a player back and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make his Test debut soon.
Criticism a joke
Equally unbelievable is that some people are beginning to question Dhoni. It is understandable — I suppose everybody gets questioned towards the end of their careers — but personally I find it almost laughable in the case of this man.
He knows himself and his game as well as anyone who has ever played professional sport and if he felt he couldn’t contribute to his normal standard or was no longer the right man to lead in the limited-overs formats, he wouldn’t be there. It’s as simple as that. It’s very important for India to bounce back in the next game. If South Africa go 2-0 up, then they will be able to play some high-risk, high-reward cricket for the rest of the series and will be hard to stop.
Winning the first three games was a surprise, but not as much of a surprise as going into the Test series with both the T20 and ODI series safely secured. As India know only too well, losing is as much of a habit as winning and they need to make sure it doesn’t become one.
(The writer is a former South Africa all-rounder)