The year-ending loss at Durban meant India had now lost their third successive overseas Test series. But even the harshest of critics will say that the defeat to South Africa was unlike the previous two 4-0 humiliations in England and Australia.
This young Indian team had shown that they were ready for a fight. That they were game to face adversity head-on and not back down. And it wasnt surprising to hear that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni talk about how in his opinion,India had exceeded expectations.
It was a fantastic performance but yes we could have done better. The batting looked good,bowlers worked hard. When the pitch offered something,like in Johannesburg,the pacers were able to get the opposition out. It was a great exposure for most of the batsmen and bowlers who were touring for the first time, he said. Like always,he also had his unique take on how his team had gone.
With this side,all ingredients are there. This series we didnt cook the food well. But apart from that we have got fantastic ingredients just have to make sure we are cooking in the right way, he added. Dhoni wouldnt have been the only one to admit that India had exceeded expectations. They had after all gone into the Test series as virtual no-hoppers. Not many gave them a chance to get back up after the pummeling they took in the three ODIs.
Rain in Centurion had saved them the ignominy of a 3-0 whitewash after all. The batsmen had looked all at sea against the South African pace barrage while their bowlers had been taken to the cleaners repeatedly by a baby-faced assassin in Quinton de Kock. And as India slumped to 24/2 on the first morning at Wanderers after Dhoni had elected to bat first,the alarm bells were well and truly ringing.
The resurrection started with Kohlis 119 in the first innings before he shared 222 with Cheteshwar Pujara in the second. Then it was the turn of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami along with Zaheer Khan to give the Indians the upper-hand. They even managed to blunt Steyn and keep him wicket-less to the tune of 71 overs. He did make up for it by taking nine wickets and turn the tide of the series in Durban.
India will also take great heart from the fact that three of their next-gen middle-order dynamos ended the series with averages over 60. This was the youngsters first real test in foreign soil. And they had come out with shining colours.
Not to forget the progress made by Murali Vijay on this tour. Though he averaged only 37 over the two Tests,he saw off the new-ball in all but the last innings in Durban. It was he who laid the brickwork for the likes of Pujara and Kohli to dominate. Vijay was also unfortunate to miss out on a deserved maiden overseas ton in Durban. He had shown enough gumption and skill during his 97 though to ensure that Indias opening worries look sorted for now.
There were a couple of failures inevitably with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma not making the cut. The fast bowlers too couldnt sustain the pressure in the latter half of Durban. In the end it was just a case of two or three bad sessions that let India down,like Dhoni agreed. There were couple sessions where we played badly and that had an impact on both the Test matches. So as the players play more Tests and get more experience they will make sure that its important to capitalize when you are on top, he said.
As he watched Jacques Kallis being carried around Kingsmead on the shoulders of his teammates,Dhoni is sure to have been reminded of similar scenes that panned out at the Wankhede Stadium only a month earlier. Back then India had just taken their unbeaten Test run to 6-0 in 2013. As they said hello to South Africa a month back,most expected them to lose,and lose badly.
In a way,those predictions did come true. But as Dhoni & Co say goodbye to the Rainbow Nation,they will do so with their head held high and their reputations enhanced.