IT WAS a tour that promised a lot but delivered very little for Team India as South Africa took the Test series 2-1 and then whitewashed the visitors 3-0 in the One Day Internationals. It was certainly not a scoreline that even the diehard South African cricket fans would have hoped for when India landed in their country as the top-ranked Test team and placed above the Proteas in the ODI list.
Fort Centurion was where India started the tour. The ground had seen South Africa steamroll their rivals with ease winning 22 and losing just two of the 26 Tests played at the venue. India, too, had been decimated in the previous two Tests in 2010 and 2018 there.
With history against them, the Virat Kohli-led India delivered the knockout punch to the Proteas on December 30, 2021, raising the hopes of winnings their first-ever Test series in the Rainbow nation.
It seemed that the rift and bad blood in the power corridors of Indian cricket, which came out in the open just a few days before the start of the tour, were no longer a matter of concern.
But things went downhill for the tourists from then on.
First Kohli missed the second Test due to injury which India lost and even when he came back for his 99th red ball match, the result was no different as South Africa pocketed the series with ease.
India boasted of an extremely strong batting line-up along with a world-class bowling attack with incisive pacers and wily spinners. On the other hand, Dean Elgar’s team was not only lacking in experience but was also way behind in terms of quality.
Yet, it were the South Africans who came out on top in both the departments. The losses in the second and third Tests at Johannesburg and Cape Town by seven wickets each were mainly due to India’s inability to put enough runs on the board to give their bowlers a chance to go for the win.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, the mainstay of the Indian middle order were woefully out of form and except for a glimmer of hope in the second Test, did nothing to prove their detractors wrong.
KL Rahul, Kohli and Rishabh Pant performed only in patches, which left the rest of the batters too much to do. The bowlers had too little to defend and South Africa ensured their home record against India in the Test series remained in their favour.
Despite the small targets what was baffling was the inability of the Indian pace attack led by Jasprit Bumrah to make inroads into the South African batting line-up.
Kohli’s outburst following Elgar’s DRS in the second innings of the third Test exemplified what went wrong for India in the Tests.
The tour was only going to get worse from there.
Kohli Vs Ganguly & BCCI Flares Up
Another chapter in the Kohli versus Board of Control for Cricket in India chief Sourav Ganguly and the selection committee unfolded a few hours after the Test series loss.
The batting maestro, who had given up the T20I captaincy a few months earlier and then was stripped of the ODI team leadership by the BCCI selection committee a few days before the South Africa tour, announced he was stepping down as the skipper of the Test team with immediate effect.
For the Men In Blue, already without their newly appointed ODI captain Rohit Sharma who was back home nursing his hamstring injury, the Kohli bombshell was like a body blow.
It was a news that seemed to have sapped out whatever little fight was left in the Indian team.
ODI Series Agony
Rahul, the stand-in ODI skipper, would have wanted a proven match-winner like Kohli to not only contribute with the bat but also bring his leadership qualities to the field. Sadly, both were missing and understandably so.
A player who had lorded over Indian cricket for more than half a decade and turned it into a team capable of winning bilateral series with ease overseas, had been cornered for reasons which are yet to see the light of the day.
Batting collapses, Pujara and Rahane’s failure, inabIlity to forge big and match-winning partnerships, missing Kohli in the second Test as well as Rohit and Ravindra Jadeja out of the entire series due to injury, and bowlers failing to deliver at crucial intervals are the obvious factors behind the Test series loss.
When it came to the ODIs, a few from the above and some new causes ensured that a disaster was waiting to happen.
Rahul looked like a captain who had been forced to take up the charge. Looking disinterested and clueless on most of the occasions, he was neither innovative with his field placing, nor was he willing to experiment with the bowling attack.
Instead of going for the jugular, he waited for the luck to turn his way, which unfortunately failed to happen.
Indian bowling, just like the Tests, lacked teeth. While the pacers found it tough to break South Africa’s defence, the spinners took just three wickets in the ODI series with Yuzvendra Chahal picking two and Ravichandran Ashwin just one.
This was in stark contrast to what the Proteas spinners Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi did to the Indian batting line-up. The duo bagged seven Indian wickets.
Kohli’s aggressive and animated captaincy is history, and the lack of leadership in the absence of Rohit is a cause for concern.
India are without a Test captain while the limited-overs performance of the team in the last few months is nothing to write home about.