Team India was humbled for the first time in Johannesburg by Dean Elgar and co. on Thursday. Former Indian batter Gautam Gambhir reckoned that the defeat may have been on the back of three major talking points.
Coming into the second Test on the back of a win and no Virat Kohli, India lost the match by seven wickets as South Africa bounced back to level the 3-match Test series 1-1. Speaking about the defeat, Gambhir told Star Sports:
“India missed a fourth seamer. If Mohammed Siraj would have been 100 percent fit then the captain would have been able to rotate his two key pacers better. And you know that once the ball gets wet, it won’t help Ashwin anymore.”
“So literally, you were playing with just three pacers. And when you expect only three pacers to pick the remaining eight wickets, you can’t expect any of them to have an off day. So had Siraj been fit, we would have seen a better performance from the pace attack.”
Another huge concern for the visitors is their fragile batting which was blown away for 202 in the first innings. This didn’t help their cause one bit as they were always playing from behind after that.
“But the problem area is the batting. If you win the toss, opt to bat, and then get bundled for 200, it is there where you lose all the advantage. KL Rahul rightly pointed it out. The difference between Jo’Burg and Centurion was India’s score in the first innings.”
“In Centurion you scored more than 350 and you won the Test. And every time you cannot expect the bowlers to bail you out every time you set a target of 200-220. Especially when one was injured, leaving you with only four bowling options,” Gambhir asserted.
Gautam Gambhir reckons height difference among bowlers also made a difference
On South African pitches where the bounce is quite spongy and tennis-ball-like, having pacers who can exploit them is advantageous. While the hosts had Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi who are naturally tall, India didn’t quite have the same level.
“You want your pace bowlers to test the opposition batters with short balls. But when South African pacers were bowling, they had more height, and hence did not have to press enough.
“You can expect that from Bumrah, but these kinds of deliveries do not come naturally to Shami and hence most of his short-pitched deliveries went over the keeper’s head. Bumrah’s strength too lies in fuller deliveries.”
“If you look at Marco Jansen or Kagiso Rabada, their natural length is the back of length deliveries. This was also a major difference between the bowling of the two sides. On one side you have South African pacers, who are tall and are hit-the-deck bowlers and on the other hand, we have the Indian bowlers, who aren’t that tall are their natural length is the fuller deliveries,” Gambhir analysed.
The third and final Test will be played in Cape Town with both teams having an equal chance of snatching the series.