Lessons from the India-South Africa ODI series

South Africa were the well deserved winners of the tightly contested ODI series with India. This is because in Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe, they had three bowlers who were on top of their game and dominated the Indian batsmen barring the likes of Kohli and Pathan. In the batting department, Amla and Duminy got the runs when it mattered, and the fielding was better than the opposition’s (as expected). On the other hand, India relied on Kohli to put runs on the board, and if it wasn’t for two scorching Pathan knocks, the scoreline could have looked even worse. The bowling ranged from disciplined to non-threatening, and ultimately the home team managed to put the touring side away, destroying any Indian hopes of a historic series win.

  • Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma justified their non-selections for the World Cup with their continued non performances, despite umpteen opportunities. They are a select band of cricketers, who seem to do well only in the IPL and will be pleased that the 4th edition is coming on the heels of the World Cup.
  • On the other hand, Parthiv Patel continues to impress in the limited opportunities that he gets, despite not making any substantial scores. He deserves to be India’s 2nd choice keeper.
  • Sachin Tendulkar figured in all of two ODIs and looked stable without threatening to make a big score. Calm before the storm, perhaps?

  • Along with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli will be expected to form the backbone of the Indian middle order in the years to come, given his proclivity for standing tall amidst the ruins of batting collapses. Before the series, it was a question of whether Kohli can be accommodated in a line-up of big hitters during the World Cup; now, the question is as to which batting position he should hold.
  • Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni were big disappointments, failing to muster even hundred runs in the series. India can only imagine the state of the series, if they had fired. If they maintain this kind of form over the next two months, India can kiss their chances of winning a World Cup at home, goodbye.
  • While Kohli played himself into the WC playing XI, Suresh Raina has played himself out of it. Once, he was considered the trump card for the tournament, but with the emergence of Pathan and a dip in form and confidence, it is hard to see him being picked ahead of the other contenders.

  • Yusuf Pathan was India’s biggest positive of the series. Despite scoring a thrilling century against New Zealand in the last ODI series, it remained to be seen whether he could reprise these kind of performances against tougher oppositions and in foreign conditions. In a series where he scored two violent innings taking India to victory once and nearly there in the other one, he cleared all doubts and looks set for a big tournament at home.
  • As is the case most often these days, Harbhajan Singh didn’t end the series with a bucket-load of wickets; but he did exert a modicum of control over the batsmen, who seemed hesitant to attack him. If he can transfer this aggressive bowling to the World Cup, India’s chances are much brighter. Finest moment in the series, was helping India to a win at Cape Town – with the bat.
  • Once again, Zaheer Khan was India’s finest bowler in the series. He led the attack well and his mental hold over Grame Smith is as amusing as it is predictable. Along with Pathan, he gave India hope at Centurion. Might have a handy role with the bat at the WC, as well.
  • India’s leading wicket taker was, surprisingly Munaf Patel. With 11 wickets at an average of 18.72, he might just have booked his slot in the playing XI at the WC. Discipline, accuracy and a knack of picking wickets at crucial moments are all valuable assets in pressure situations; and he might yet star in the next two months.
  • After a stellar 2010, Ashish Nehra has been off-color in ODIs since the NZ series. Like Harbhajan, his finest moment came with the bat in Cape Town, but it is his bowling which is under scrutiny. With the good performance of Munaf and Dhoni’s reliance on Praveen Kumar as an ODI specialist, Nehra faces a stiff contest to figure in the playing XI in the WC.
  • An interesting choice for the 15th spot in the WC squad, Piyush Chawla did nothing to justify or rubbish his selection.
  • What is it about Zaheer Khan that Graeme Smith cannot understand? Whatever it is, South Africa will hope that he sorts it out before their clash against India in the World Cup. Otherwise, he had a middling series with just one fifty and will hope to sign off as captain, in glory at the WC.
  • He might be of Indian origin, but Hashim Amla has no qualms about scoring plenty against them as he rounded off another ODI series as the leading run-getter. Going into the World Cup, he will be one of South Africa’s main weapons and it will be a delight to follow him over the next two months.
  • Colin Ingram and David Miller were two players I was looking forward to following more closely, but they couldn’t even last till the end after disappointing in the first half of the series. In Miller’s case, he was not even selected for the World Cup, while Ingram might have just lost his slot in the playing XI to Du Plessis. Still, I believe that Ingram will be one of the players for the future.
  • Morne van Wyk had just two games to make a name for himself, and he grabbed his opportunity with a valuable fifty in the decider, which might see him slot in to the playing XI next month. He is what Ravi Shastri would call a ‘busy’ cricketer with aggressive strokes while batting and lots of bustling on the field. He could become a critical component of South Africa’s World Cup campaign.
  • AB de Villiers capped off a disappointing summer against the Indians with an average of just over 22 in the ODIs. I still maintain that he is going to be one of the players to watch in the World Cup, but he sure does have to regain his mojo fast.
  • Faf du Plessis made a bright entry in international cricket with a fine looking fifty, but after that didn’t really bother the scorers much. With the ball, he looked decent enough without being threatening; but it is a safe bet that he will figure in the starting XI next month.
  • He might have lost his spot in the Test XI but JP Duminy is still going strong in the ODIs. Apart from Amla, he has been the most consistent bat for the Saffers, and his off-spin is a valuable asset to have in subcontinental conditions.
  • The almost-million dollar man for the Rajasthan Royals and the ODI skipper in waiting for South Africa, Johan Botha batted at one position too high for him (at no. 7) and still managed to get some crucial runs particularly at Port Elizabeth. With the ball, he was not extraordinary; then again, it is not expected from him. His finest moment – getting Tendulkar out bowled; forgettable moments – getting the violent treatment from his IPL team-mate Pathan, at Cape Town and Centurion.
  • Wayne Parnell and Robin Peterson didn’t impact in any major way, though Parnell definitely made the series memorable by choking at Jo’burg.

  • It is an amazing transformation by Morne Morkel to become a fearsome operator in the shorter formats, which he sucked at for a long time. With a bowling average of just over 11 and economy rate of less than 4, it is safe to say that he dominated the Indian batsmen so much so that they never really got off to a flyer in any of the five games. Only Pathan seemed to know how to handle him, and even he treated Morkel with more respect than he did with other bowlers. It will be interesting, though to see how he will fare in the subcontinent.

  • Like Munaf Patel, L Tsotsobe (aka Lopsy) was the surprise leading wicket taker for his side, and for the whole series with 13 scalps at 13.53. Over the course of this summer, he has earned a lot of respect from his opposition and a lot of love from the home supporters. He could turn out to be a game changer at the WC if he can adjust to the subcontinental pitches quickly.
  • Dale Steyn was outshone by Morkel and Tsotsobe in this series, but by no means was he inferior to them. His economy rate of under 4 shows a man who is in control of his skill, and it was clear that he had a mental hold over the Indian batsmen. He will still remain as the speedster to watch, at World Cup 2011 and how he fares could determine how far South Africa will progress in the tourney.

As you can see, this series was all about how the two teams were shaping up for the big one – World Cup 2011. India might have lost the series, but as Dhoni said, the emergence of Pathan as a reliable allrounder and the disciplined bowling at the death were the two major positives, keeping the World Cup in mind. I wouldn’t be too worried about the batting – the return of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir will inspire confidence in the middle order, who in any case will regain their form upon setting their sights on familiar pitches. As for South Africa, I’m not too convinced about their middle and lower order. Botha is batting way too high and du Plessis/van Wyk will have tougher tests against better bowling attacks. The inconsistent form of Smith and de Villiers will also be a worry. What will give them a lot of confidence is the way the bowlers and Amla/Duminy are shaping up. All in all, I still consider them to be one of the favorites for the Cup. After all, they did win two deciding ODIs against Pakistan and India and might have just laid the dreaded C word to rest!

12 comments

  1. Good review as usual.

    Yup…Zak’s death bowling and Pathan’s form were the biggest positives. Munaf and Bhajji too are in good form. But I’m still worried about our overall bowling + Dhoni’s captaincy when we bowl 1st…looks very non-threatening (sometimes even mediocre) against good sides.

    On SA…I too feel they can at least be contenders. But as u said…the lower order looks iffy, and a far cry from the days when they had Boucher, Klusener, Pollock or even an Albie Morkel who could really make an impact.

    1. I don’t know what gives me so much optimism, but I feel the Indian bowlers will do pretty well..yup, they can look mediocre when they are having an off day, but overall they have the discipline needed to succeed in home conditions
      I believe SA made a big mistake by dropping Albie Morkel..lot of pressure on the new guys (du Plessis and Ingram) to succeed on the biggest stage of them all…

  2. I wonder how AB will cope up while keeping wickets during the World Cup. He was decent behind the wickets during this series… but the sub-continental wickets will not afford as much bounce as he is used to. It will be interesting to watch him during the World Cup… on both sides of the stumps!

  3. Good point about AB keeping. And the opposition will be very happy if he keeps…won’t be a menace at backward point or cover…and will be at least a little tired if they bat 2nd.

  4. I think Yusuf will have tough time in the WC – he won’t have as much batting time with our top order back to full strength, and that hasn’t exactly worked out well for him before. Raina fits the team balance better IMO.

    1. In terms of confidence and form, Pathan is a better bet…he can be used as a floater too, so the problem of him not getting much batting time doesn’t really arise…I would love to see Raina in the XI but there is simply no way that he can replace any of the others..

    1. Well, since the middle order gets to face the likes of Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar in the nets often, they shouldn’t have too much problem with Trott’s “bowling”🙂

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