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India vs South Africa: Five positives and three pointers for Virat Kohli & Co.

Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team defeated South Africa by 63 runs in third Test at Wanderers on Saturday.

cricket Updated: Jan 28, 2018 22:42 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India,Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli (R) and his Indian cricket teammates celebrate after winning the third Test against in Johannesburg.(AFP)

India lost the Test series 2-1 but there were more than enough moments to suggest they have improved vastly. We look at some of the positive taken from the series, and also some worries.

READ | Virat Kohli says win at Wanderers vs South Africa ‘massive milestone’ in India’s journey

FIVE BIGGEST POSITIVES

Kohli a class of his own

Virat Kohli might be the highest run scorer this series but don’t allow statistics narrate the entire story. On two different pitches, in Centurion and Wanderers, he adjusted to conditions so well that Kohli’s approach to batting could well make it to the coaching manual on how to succeed in South Africa. Getting close to the line of the delivery was crucial but more importantly, Kohli never allowed a bowler to get on top of him. That spelt out the difference between him and the rest.

Bhuvi the seaming all-rounder

With 101 runs in this series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has one run more than Cheteshwar Pujara and one less than Murali Vijay. But both played one more Test than Kumar. And we all know how well he has bowled in this series. Not jumping the gun but India could look at the prospect of weighing Kumar as not only a seamer but more than a handy bat in future, especially with the England series coming up in June.

READ | ‘Proud prouder proudest’, says Virat Kohli; Twitter lauds India for Johannesburg win vs South Africa

Blooming Bumrah

This one came out of syllabus but hats off to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri for identifying the red ball talent in Jasprit Bumrah. Possibly the first name in every Test, Bumrah pulled off a performance that has made the world take notice and a permanent dent in Dean Elgar’s helmet. He is quick, can surprise with the fuller deliveries and bouncers, and has clearly learnt a lot from the first innings blunders in Cape Town.

Thank god for Monk and Puj

Ball darting around? Bouncers peppering batsmen? No problem. Just send Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. Aggression to some batsmen is walking down to bowlers. But to the likes of Vijay and Pujara, it’s about wearing blows on your body with pride and smiling back. They are India’s strongest shields in the most alien conditions. And they are also the safest batsmen when it comes to shot selection. Just don’t cloud their minds about strike rate and they will do the job.

READ | South Africa’s quota system in selection making team stronger

Rahane’s menacing calm

Ajinkya Rahane wears so much body armour that it makes you wonder how he runs or bats so freely. It’s about mental strength. And Rahane is possibly the strongest one around. When his slow scoring was questioned, Rahane scored truckloads in the IPL. His running between the wickets was doubted. On Friday, Virat Kohli was forced to turn down a second run. At one time, Rahane’s strike rate was over 100. Intent ticked too. And those hands, you can’t get any safer than that pair. Drop him at your own risk.

THREE BIGGEST WORRIES

Dhawan or Rahul?

Shikhar Dhawan was sacrificed after Cape Town when he should have played at Centurion. KL Rahul was expected to handle Wanderers better but he couldn’t. He should have flourished at Centurion but failed there too. It’s a proliferating problem that needs to be quickly sorted before Virat Kohli’s patience runs out and he goes for a young gun like Prithvi Shaw.

Who is our Test wicketkeeper?

Despite the BCCI sending a tardy mail that said Wriddhiman Saha had to leave mid tour due to an upper left hamstring tendon injury, there is still a lot of doubt over the extent of his injury. Saha is still our best wicket-keeper. Parthiv Patel, who replaced Saha, sometimes doesn’t go for catches to his left. But he can blunt out a fast bowler or score a quick 30 odd. Saha is either likely to take more time or get dismissed soon. But he also has a hundred in an IPL final. So who will be our top wicket-keeper? Only clarity of thought can find an answer to that question.

A fixed slip cordon please

We have a musical chair in the slip cordon due to the constant chopping and changing in the team. Ajinkya Rahane in gully, Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip are the two constants India must have if they want an improved slip cordon. Virat has to choose if he prefers mid-off or mid-on to second slip. Murali Vijay too needs some permanence. But there can be no place in the cordon for a fielder who goes at a catch with hard palms.

First Published: Jan 28, 2018 21:40 IST