India vs SA: Top order, spinners shine but Hardik Pandya’s form raises concern
Some of India’s weaknesses are quite apparent even though India thrashed the hosts quite convincingly, 5-1, creating history in the process by becoming the first Indian side to win an ODI series here. Then they topped it up with a 2-1 win in the T20 series.cricket Updated: Feb 26, 2018 22:10 IST
At the end of the one-day series, Virat Kohli was asked if there are any chinks that need to be addressed ahead of the World Cup 2019. The India skipper admitted that there were some, but did not elaborate.
Some of the weaknesses are quite apparent even though India thrashed the hosts quite convincingly, 5-1, creating history in the process by becoming the first Indian side to win an ODI series here. Then they topped it up with a 2-1 win in the T20 series.
Here is a look at the hits and misses from the limited overs series:
Top order clicks
The tone of the series was set by skipper Virat Kohli’s century in the first ODI. That victory by eight wickets, while chasing 270, showed that the Proteas would require hard work to dislodge India’s top order. While the skipper made 558 runs, Shikhar Dhawan was second with 323. The top six partnerships in ODI series were by the Indian top order, four for second wicket, and Kohli featured in all of them. Dhawan was there thrice with Kohli, Rahane twice and Rohit once.
South Africans have historically struggle against spinners. But the way Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal pinned the Proteas down, picking up a record 33 scalps, was unprecedented. They gave the ball air and held back pace making it difficult for the batsmen to pick.
Bhuvi & Bumrah
Both, the seasoned Bhuvneshwar Kumar and young Jasprit Bumrah, showed they can adapt quickly. Bumrah proved his worth by not allowing the South Africa top order easy pickings. Bhuvneshwar on the other hand struggled to pick wickets in ODIs following a great Test series, even though he kept a check on scoring. But he roared back in T20s. Finding no help from the tracks, he used the change of pace and variations, eventually earning the Man-of-the-Series award.
Dhoni, Raina join party
Throughout the ODI series, MS Dhoni didn’t look like one who would finish off with big hits. But he proved he still has something in him, by scoring an unbeaten 28-ball 52 in the second T20, squeezing in some big shots in the final overs. The knock had three sixes. Suresh Raina, promoted to No 3 in T20s, showed he still remains India’s best option for Nos. 4 & 5 in ODIs.
India have been quick to rest players with niggles. Bhuvneshwar was rested for the last ODI as he was ‘feeling up a bit’. Kohli rested himself from the must-win third T20 hoping not to aggravate his stiff back. Similarly, India rested Bumrah in the second T20. Their replacements did the job.
Weak middle order
The Nos. 4, 5 and 6 have not fired. In fact, India could never get to 320 in the series despite getting a century partnerships for the second wicket in all the three games they batted first.
The seamer managed to carve out some wickets towards the end of the tour. His biggest contribution, besides the 90-odd he made in the first innings of Cape Town Test, was getting rid of AB de Villiers twice in the three games he played. Pandya struggled to provide the fillip towards the end of an innings, something he has been expected to do.
The opener got annoyed a bit when asked about his below-par record in South Africa after he got a hundred at Port Elizabeth. Barring that hundred, he was largely a failure on the tour even though he got his shots going. He averaged 28.33 with 170 runs in six ODIs. In T20s, he made 32 in three matches at 10.66.
The young crop
Although the team management has maintained that R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are still in fray for limited overs cricket, the team to Sri Lanka has quite a few young spinners meaning that India want to develop a strong bench. Apart from leggie Chahal and left-arm spinner Axar Patel who played in the last T20 here, India are taking off-spinners Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar.
With Pandya rested, India are going with seam bowling all-rounder Vijay Shankar.
Who will replace MS Dhoni if and when he quits? Although Dhoni will most likely play the 2019 World Cup, India are already on the look-out for his back-up at the next year’s mega event.
Although the forthcoming Sri Lanka tour will feature just T20s, the selection of Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant, a mix of experience and youth, shows they are casting their net wide.