What is lost is not just a series

There were theories regarding this Indian Test team being the best so far to compete in and against South Africa. There were talks as to how each player of the current lot understands his role and responsibility in the team. There was confidence to the extent that the idea of playing a warm-up match was shelved. 
But within a span of 13 days, things have changed. Well, the results have forced us to think likewise for what is lost is not just a series, but, an aspiration. An aspiration to continue the current form in overseas conditions and the greater aspiration of winning a Test series in South Africa.
Selection conundrums? Plenty! They were, they are and they will remain until and unless they are worked upon. Be it the openers, the middle-order or the wicket-keeper, there is no set procedure at the moment.
India were banking heavily on Murali Vijay (69 runs in two matches at an average of 17.25) and Cheteshwar Pujara (49 runs in two matches at an average of 12.25) before the series. This duo was expected to see through the new ball in a bid to make things comparatively easier for the batsmen to come. Their returns are the proof that the top-order never really saw through the new ball.

Pujara became the first Indian to be run-out twice in a Test.
Amongst the current Indian batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane has the best Test batting average (54.66) outside Asia. As luck would have it, he warmed the bench in the first two Tests. Virat Kohli scores runs at 46.30 outside Asia, Lokesh Rahul at 42.22, Murali Vijay at 36.78, Shikhar Dhawan at 28.84, Cheteshwar Pujara at 27.42 and Rohit Sharma at 23.90. The fact that he was sacrificed in place of Rohit Sharma (lowest batting average outside Asia) was appalling.
But Rahane is not the only man who would be itching to be included into the playing eleven. During India's 13-test prolonged season in 2016-17, someone who was part of 12 of those matches was Umesh Yadav. The 30-year old pacer had bowled 355.5 overs on wickets which offered less or almost no assistance. In 12 matches, he picked up 30 wickets at an average of 36.76 and was the backbone of the Indian bowling line-up. With the series now gone, he deserves a chance to bowl on the Johannesburg wicket which is likely to be supporting.
What Wriddhiman Saha was at Cape Town, Parthiv Patel was at Centurion and Dinesh Karthik is most likely to be at Johannesburg. Does it speak about the dearth of this craft in the country? Only time will tell!
Apart from series and the aspiration, all is not lost for Team India at the moment. If the batting and fielding have let captain Virat Kohli down, the bowling has come out as his biggest strength. We, as a nation, hankered to see our bowlers take 20 wickets in an overseas Test. That has been effectuated twice in two matches.
More than anything, pride will surely be at stake in Johannesburg. Considering the fact that India are set to travel to England and Australia later this year in mind, a significant amount of learning can be incorporated from this series.

Photo Credits - ESPNcricinfo.


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