Wednesday, 09 December 2015

Was the India tour a triumph or disaster?

A crushing 3–0 loss against India in the recent Test series would have left many South African cricket fans distraught, shaking their heads at how such a powerful batting line up had been easily brought to its knees. It would be very easy to forget that the Proteas won the T20 series 2–0 and the One Day International series 3–2 just weeks before.

One thing is certain: The 72-day tour was highly competitive, with both SA and India being hurt by the other side on several occasions. While the shorter format matches were closely contested, the Test series was one-sided. Batsmen scored freely, as the T20 and ODI series turned into a run contest between AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis for SA against Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli for India. The Test series dissolved into one-way traffic – South African batsmen toiling, struggling to survive as long as they could against lethal Indian spinners on pitches with nightmarish turn and bounce.

Proteas Test captain Hashim Amla will feel the heat after our Test series defeat to India.

But was the tour a victory or failure? I argue that it was both.

Before the tour, South Africa had not lost an overseas Test series since 2006. In this regard, the Test series loss was definitely a failure, especially as we fell so hard. Man of the series Ravichandran Ashwin was unplayable. The Indian spinner tore our batting line up apart with his intelligent bowling, and use of variety. Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra supported him well, ensuring that our batsmen had no room to breathe. The series showed that South African batsmen still do not know how to play great spinners on turning wickets. Our batsmen were bamboozled.

Having said this, the Test series did highlight a weak point for us. The Proteas coaching staff must identify it and correct it. India had not played a Test series at home in two years, so perhaps it was an honour to be selected to compete with them, whatever the result. Furthermore, how often does a team go to India and win two series? India is very strong at home, and several cricket captains such as Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith have alluded to this. Winning any series there is an accomplishment. Thus I feel that we also succeeded in India. Our T20 and ODI series wins showed the world that we have what it takes to also be successful in the limited overs format.

At the end of the day SA won five matches, and India won five matches. Both sides would have wanted more wins.