South Africa clean sweep ODI series
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South Africa clean sweep ODI series

Team India round up with yet another defeat for biggest series whipping in memory, reports Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2006 23:35 IST

There's beena lot of talk about the importance of consistency and India seem to have finally got the hang of it.

On Sunday, on a gloriously sunshiny day, to the sound of rocking music and watched by a home crowd who couldn’t stop laughing, India completed their one-day journey in South Africa by handing the Proteas a massive nine-wicket win, which also marked a 4-0 series whitewash for the hosts.

The loss was India’s 12th in the 15 completed games since that ill-fated tour of the West Indies this summer and as mentioned earlier, it at least proves they’re consistent in something.

Or maybe a couple of more things, as they look like they can’t bat, can’t field and their bowling, which looked like it had come together somewhat in this series, comprehensively fell apart the first time they were asked to defend a target.

In a quaint coincidence (or perhaps the DJ has a sense of humour), the song that was playing as the last completed over of the series began was Country Roads, Take Me Home and more than a few players who are staying back for the Tests could be forgiven for wishing they were joining Mongia, Raina, Kaif and Agarkar on the plane back to India.

First, India crawled to and collapsed exhausted at the finish line (with Kumble’s wild swing off the last ball of the 50th over) for 200. And then Graeme Smith (79) rediscovered his form and, with AB de Villiers (92*) put up a blistering 177 ball, 173 run opening partnership that savaged India.

By the time he left, a process was practically complete and the Indians had been left thoroughly shell-shocked, their bowlers made to look like unfortunate club bowlers (or make that clubbed bowlers) called up to give the Proteas some net practice.

South Africa are obviously pitiless, and not very gracious hosts — they made sure they inflicted perhaps one of the worst drubbings possible right at the end and left India so badly battered that they did not have the heart to raise a whimper.

From an Indian viewpoint, the games have been strangely insipid and (one-sided as they are) all the dramatic action has not been between the teams, only intra-team, whether it was South African selection committee convenor Haroon Lorgat and Smith having it out in the middle, or of course, the whispering Camp Divided that was once Team India.

In the only ‘positives for India’ (given the number of times they use this, this is evidently the Indian team management’s favourite phrase) they actually managed to bat 50 overs, and managed to get to 200 for the first time since getting here.

That they did was due to a painfully slow rebuilding process by Tendulkar and Mongia after the amazing Shaun Pollock had taken out both Sehwag and disappointingly, Laxman, in similar fashion (pushing at a ball moving away).

Both Mongia and Tendulkar looked unsure and (dare one say it about The Man himself?) insecure out there in the middle but they put up 85 runs together after India were 18-2. But it was a crawl: Between overs 10 and 15, India got a solitary run to move from 25/2 to 26/2.

For a man ranked among the all time greats, Tendulkar has looked distressingly mortal and rather fragile in the recent past. He tentatively pushed at deliveries, played and missed every now and then and seemed generally indecisive. He twice changed his bat and got his first boundary with his third bat only in the 16th over.

And if Tendulkar can be this way, what to say of the others?

For the South Africans, the highlight of the tour so far has been Pollock’s marvellous bowling that has set up game after game for them early on and also, their fielding. They have backed each other up superbly.

On Sunday, AB de Villiers dived full length to his left at cover to see off Tendulkar, Nel came running in from the long on fence and dived forward full length to hang on with both hands to a Dhoni skier, Pollock slid forward to his left to take a Harbhajan edge that went up to third man.

There was verve and nerve, things that India have patently lacked. And the results have only been a reflection of this — India are just not good enough.

The happy part? Thankfully, we do not have to see any more shambolic one-day displays and can hope (somehow, it never dies) that the Tests will be better. Doubtful, but we could start praying!

First Published: Dec 03, 2006 20:31 IST