“We were blown away by Dale Steyn,” said India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, shortly after India were, well, blown away by Steyn. But it wasn't only the South African paceman's ability to swing the ball and render the sluggishness of the pitch ineffective that cost India the game. There was more.
“This was the best available squad at that time… this is your bench strength,” said Dhoni.
But while Badrinath & Vijay both look like prospects, given time, at this point they weren't (and couldn't be expected to), be replacements for Dravid and Laxman — or even give you Yuvraj's international experience, especially in a pressure situation. Saha, unfortunately, was thrust into the spot of a specialist Test batsman, when that was never intended.
Rare opening failure
Gambhir and Sehwag are undoubtedly the world's premier opening combine. A rare double failure by Gambhir and the lack of a big opening stand was always going to put pressure on the rest.
While Zaheer looked lethal in the first half hour of this Test, later, he tired and was unable to get anything out of the wicket. He also had no real backup. Dhoni admitted that Ishant was “coming back to form” and “learning the tricks (of the trade)” but added that the difference here was Steyn. “As far as I am concerned, this was the best display of conventional swing bowling in the last 12 months.”
That man Kallis
While India have managed and managed quite well with four bowlers and some part-timers, Dhoni pointed out the value that Jacques Kallis brought to the Proteas. “He's a specialist all-rounder and they play with a 3-1 combination. Actually, they play with four bowlers and have the perfect all-rounder, which is a luxury we don't have.”
Lack of quality spinners
Let's be frank here. If spin is India's traditional strength at home at the moment, you know what creek we're up. Unless there is a dramatic return to form from Harbhajan Singh in the Kolkata Test, and there's no reason he can't do it, India have a problem.
While both Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten apparently saw nothing wrong with Harbhajan's bowling, as did the Proteas (quite naturally), everyone else did.
While Harbhajan looked completely defensive, Amit Mishra beat the bat a few times but also bowled too many loose deliveries. The second spinner will have to play a big support role, as Harris did.
“Harris is one bowler who's capable of bowling 30 overs in the day out of 90 and you can't really look to score just 45 or 50 runs from those. He binds one end up for them,” said Dhoni.