South Africa agreed to host Pakistan for a short ODI series only because India crunched their original schedule due to differences between the two boards. However, Pakistan may have just done their traditional rivals a big favour by denting the confidence of South Africa with Wednesday’s series-clinching win.
South Africa are struggling to get their balance right in the ODIs, and will have much work to do ahead of the three-game ODI series against India starting on December 5. India are not overwhelming favourites even in the ODIs in South Africa but Pakistan have showed that the Proteas aren’t invincible at home.
Their record at home this year reflects that. South Africa have lost two of the three series they’ve played at home, the only success a narrow win against Pakistan earlier this year. Their overall record in bilateral series in 2013 is poorer – they’ve lost 10 ODIs and won 11.
In contrast, India have recorded six successive series wins, including the Champions Trophy. Although the venues have varied more for South Africa than India, it is the latter who are high on confidence.
“India have the perfect balance. That’s the key in One-dayers. I think India have a good chance of winning the ODIs in South Africa,” says former India stumper Kiran More, who was also a former chairman of selectors.
Coming to grips
No one seems to have adapted to the new rule allowing only four fielders outside the circle better than the India batsmen, which shows in the way they have chased down scores of over 350.
“It is a young side. They are carrying the confidence ahead,” says former Test opener Chetan Chauhan. “The way they are batting, they look unstoppable. I also think South Africa are playing really ordinary cricket.”
The problems for South Africa begin right at the top where the opening combine hasn’t clicked. Their Test skipper and opener Graeme Smith hasn’t looking good since his return from a layoff.
However, India will be mindful of the fact that they have won their ODIs mostly on tracks suited for batting. South African tracks will be different. India may not be playing in Cape Town, where the ball moves a lot, but the track in Johannesburg has good bounce. And teams batting second at Durban are at a big disadvantage because the sea breeze helps pacers gain appreciable swing, as demonstrated by Ashish Nehra, who destroyed England with a six-wicket haul at the venue in the 2003 World Cup.
Defending an issue
Although India’s bowling is showing signs of improvement with the arrival of Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar feels defending a total is still an issue.
“It will be a problem, India still don’t have the kind of bowlers who can defend targets,” he said. Even against West Indies, India lost the second game where they had to defend. Against Australia too, they could not defend a score of 303.
“The batting may be doing fine, but the fact is that Dhoni won’t be winning every toss,” Prabhakar cautioned.