Wrong team selection and ordinary captaincy from KL Rahul contributed to India’s 31-run loss against South Africa in the first ODI on Wednesday.
Twice the Indians surrendered the initiative in this game. Allowing South Africa to make a spectacular recovery, through twin tons of Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen, was the first. A sub-300 total was still pretty gettable on a sluggish Boland Park pitch. Failure to build on the partnership between Dhawan and Kohli hit India even harder.
South Africa crushed India both strategically as well as on skills and therein lay serious questions about Rahul’s wares as captain.
At the pre-match press conference, India’s stand-in skipper had spoken about how a seaming all-rounder could be an asset to the team, offering words of praise for the newcomer. Iyer was handed his ODI debut, ostensibly to have an extra bowling option, while Suryakumar Yadav warmed the bench. The debutant, though, was left unused despite Yuzvendra Chahal and Shardul Thakur were being taken to the cleaners by Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma.
Rahul’s tactics were questionable as he was looking clueless, once the dup of Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen started taking Indian bowlers to the cleaners. There wasn’t a singular inspired bowling change unlike Proteas who introduced Aiden Markram’s off-breaks first-up and bottled up the Indian skipper.
When India batted, the game was lost at the halfway stage once Dhawan and Kohli were out in quick succession following their 90-plus stand. Suddenly, the strip where batting looked easy became difficult. Shreyas Iyer’s well-documented struggles against the short ball were again exposed on the day and the Mumbaikar would know that a place in the Indian playing XI comes at a premium and he can’t go on wasting chances like a millionaire.
The other difference between the two sides was how the spinners fared – Indian spinners were outbowled by their South African counterparts. While Ashwin and Chahal gave away 106 runs between them for a wicket; Shamsi, Maharaj and part-timer Markram – he opened the bowling – accounted for four scalps, conceding 124 runs.
A couple of positives for India were opener Shikhar Dhawan, who batted like he never left. The veteran southpaw scored a 84-ball 79 and put ton a breezy 92-run stand with the former India skipper Virat Kohli. Kohli made 51 off 63 deliveries, but yet again, he failed to convert. An attempted sweep against Tabraiz Shamsi was a little uncharacteristic. The ball hardly arrived and hit the toe-end of the bat.
With Inputs from PTI