South Africa has been the best traveling team over the past decade or so. They had hardly shown any weakness over the years irrespective of the surface they play on. The South African team of the past had stalwarts like Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher who were wonderful players. This team though lacked the experience and class of the SA teams of the past. It was always clear when the series began that it will be a battle between the Indian spinners and the SA batsmen. This time though the visitors fell well short and got hammered 3-0. For Indian team and Kohli though this was their second consecutive test series win and a step in the right direction.
So let us look at the good and the bad from the series as far as the Indian team is concerned.
Ravichandran Ashwin (Matches – 4, Wickets – 31, Ave – 11.12, 5 wickets – 4):
When we are talking about the series we cannot look past Ravichandran Ashwin. He has been phenomenal for the team this year and once again was the highest wicket taker for India. He bowled beautifully and troubled the SA batsmen throughout the test series. He picked up 31 wickets at a ridiculous average of 11.12 and overall has a record of 176 wickets in 32 games. He has had an amazing run in Indian colors and within a short period of time has become India’s spearhead. Kohli and the Indian team would be hoping that he continues to do well for India in all formats.
Ravindra Jadeja (Matches – 4, Wickets – 23, Average – 10.82, 5 wickets – 2):
When the series began everyone knew that the all-rounder spot was the most crucial part of the X1. Virat Kohli’s 5 bowler theory meant that he needed someone who not only could bowl well but also contribute with the bat. Jadeja did that brilliantly throughout the series. His bowling was outstanding and his batting was decent enough. He made few crucial contributions later in the order to help India to decent totals. This biggest asset of Ravi Jadeja is his accuracy, he hardly gives anything away. Especially on pitches which help the spinners it is almost impossible to score of him. His economy rate of 1.76 is an able testimony to his accuracy and when you add 23 wickets at an average of 10.82, it becomes a deadly combination.
Ajinkya Rahane (Matches – 4, Runs – 266, Ave – 53.2, Hundreds – 2)
Ajinkya Rahane was the star of the Indian batting this series. He was the highest run getter in the series overall and was the only batsmen to score hundreds in this series. Rahane along with Kohli and Vijay was India’s mainstay during the overseas tours last couple of years but for some reason he never found his range in India. This series has hopefully changed that trend. Rahane was brilliant in Delhi where he batted amazingly well in both the innings to notch up back to back hundreds. He ended up with most runs with an amazing average of 53.2.
Virat Kohli (Captain) (Matches – 4, Runs -200, Average – 33.86, Hundreds – 0)
Virat Kohli as a batsman alone had an okay series even though he ended up as 4th highest run getter for India in the series. Virat as a captain though he had an outstanding series. The way he marshaled his resources on the field was very commendable. The way he kept attacking, his bowling changes, his field placements were all brilliant. He has had a dream start to his test captaincy. Even in Australia, even though we did not win, his captaincy was good. His conviction on using 5 bowlers at all cost is also helping India to be more attacking and have more options. He now has a weight of expectation on his shoulders and when India tour again, everyone would expect them to do better than what they did last year.
Murali Vijay (Matches – 4, Runs – 210, Average – 35, Hundreds 0)
Murali Vijay once again was India’s pillar at the top of the order. He started of brilliantly with crucial contributions in both the innings of the first test. He did go off the boil a bit at the end of the series but his contributions in the first couple of tests cannot be taken lightly. He once again proved that he is one of the linchpins of India batting and had a decent series as the opener under some touch conditions.
Honorable Mention – Cheteshwar Pujara.
Indian Batting Overall:
Even though there were some bright spots in the Indian batting department overall there were too many cracks. The Indian batting struggled and often collapsed from good positions to let SA back into the game. This was noticed in the Sri Lankan series too. India needs to look at a reliable opening partner for Vijay. Dhawan had a very poor series with the bat but probably deserves one more series before we look for a replacement. Rohit Sharma was disappointing with the bat again. He hasn’t been consistent in this format and the management must be running out of patience with him. Finally Wridhiman Saha who has a wicket keeper is brilliant but as a number 6 batsman he falls short. India needs to rethink the 5 bowler strategy if we have Saha as the keeper. Even though he looks good enough to make some useful contributions down the order but does not look like someone who would make big scores. Number 6 looks little high of a position for him in the batting order. He would be a good number 7 if we are playing 6 batsmen. Something for the Indian camp to think about before their next tour which is not for a while.
The use of Pacers:
Even though Virat Kohli has a lot of faith on his fast men, they hardly bowled in the 4 test series. Let us just look at the number of overs each pacer bowled. Ishant bowled 62 overs in 5 innings in this series which amounts to 12 overs per innings. Yadav bowled 42 overs in 4 innings which amounts to an average of 10 overs per innings. Aaron bowled 20 overs in 3 innings which amounts to roughly 7 overs an innings. These are poor numbers. The bowlers did well in the limited opportunities they got. I understand that the pitches were not conducive to fast bowling but again to underuse fast bowlers so much is not going to be good in the long run. In the 90’s India did something similar where the pacemen were just in the team to bowl with the new ball and then disappear for hours before they are brought back to give the spinners some break. We surely don’t want to go back to that era. Javagal Srinath mentioned in his recent interview how that strategy was detrimental to India’s performance overseas while winning in India was easier.
So overall it was a good series and a win against the number 1 side in the world will be sweet for the young team. They now have a long break from this format and few things to ponder over before they play test cricket sometime in 2016. Till then it has been a decent year for the Indian test team. Winning a series in Sri Lanka after 22 years and beating the number 1 side in the world should cap off a good year for Virat Kohli as the test captain.