No 1 Test team in the world Team India succumbed to a 72 runs defeat at the hands of the Proteas in the opening Test of the three-match series at the Newlands in Cape Town. In a literal sense the match was over in 3 days with one full day being washed out and despite a spectacular performance by their bowlers, India failed to seize the advantage and eventually started their tour with yet another loss which has been the case for the team in most of the overseas tours in the recent past.
The visitors were skittled out for a paltry 135 runs in the 2nd innings but not before the Indian bowlers bowled superbly and bowled out the Proteas for a mere 130 runs in the 2nd innings. South Africa managed to take a crucial lead of 77 runs in the 1st essay which eventually proved to be the turning point in the match.
It was always going to be tough for India to chase anything above 150 and especially after the fall of Kohli’s wicket it was always going to be an uphill task. Before coming to the Rainbow nation India had played a 3 match Test series against Sri Lanka where they claimed that they were preparing pitches which were somewhat similar to the pitches expected in South Africa. However the barring the Kolkata Test, both the pitches in Nagpur and New Delhi evened out and became flat and mostly assisted the spinners.
Following the Test series, captain Virat Kohli got the much-needed rest and got married to his girlfriend and Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma during that period. Kohli returned to the training field just after a couple of days before heading to South Africa on 27th December.
The visitors were scheduled to play a two-day warm-up game on December 30 and 31st but that was cancelled on the request of the Indian team management. The visitors decided to opt out of the warm-up fixture and rather try and test with the training sessions ahead of the opening Test.
“There is no point wasting two days in which guys go out and score quick fifties and come out. We would rather have them do two sessions and get into the Test match zone and test ourselves. We can try and prepare the wicket the way we want to but if you are playing a two-day game then there is no room for changing the wicket at different times of the day.”
However, this move by the Indian team has now been questioned by cricket pundits as they believe that it was impossible for a team to compete in alien conditions without proper preparations.
However, the move has been questioned by cricketing pundits as they are of the opinion that proper practice match is required especially in alien conditions and a team cannot be expected to win without proper preparations.
“India had a golden opportunity. There were periods in the game when Virat and Rohit, and Ashwin and Bhuvi were batting…208 was gettable. It was a disappointing batting performance by India, especially in the second innings,” Ajit Agarkar was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo on a post-match show.
“Preparation was not good. When to pride yourselves on doing well abroad maybe you don’t get the best practice games but then it’s in your hand how you plan it. You can’t just turn up in you first real competitive innings in conditions which are so alien to you. You have not actually travelled at all in the last few months. For playing in those conditions you got to prepare yourselves a little better. Your first innings can’t be almost a shock to you and these were proper South African conditions. The preparations not being good enough for going abroad and compete in first Test itself,” he further said.
Former South African middle-order batsman Daryll Cullinan also expressed the same view with that of Agarkar and added that India needs to change personnel for the 2nd and the must-win Test for the visitors if they have to harbour hopes of winning their 1st ever Test series in South Africa.
“India need personnel change. There were some soft dismissals. If India are to be effective they need to look at Shikhar Dhawan. Going forward, if they continue to have bad starts they are not going anywhere in the series. I am exactly on the same page as Ajit on this. You can’t just expect to walk in and be on top of your game. India will get better. Tour games are invaluable. You play two, three, four hard games then you play second best XI in the country in a game just before the Test match. Those moments, the practice time around it set you up for the rest of the tour,” Cullinan said.
India has bounced back strongly in the past but given the series scenario, it will require a monumental task from India to come back and win the series from here.
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