The surrender to South Africa on a pitch that Virat Kohli himself described as flat, being bowled out for only 151, under scored in the disingenuous manner in which Team India finds itself at the top of the International Cricket Council rankings. Since 2015 World Cup, India have played test cricket either at home, or away in West Indies or Sri Lanka. They have trumped all comers with great gusto, but failed at the altar of overseas tours in the past. You can accept defeat but not the way we played and threw away the advantage and finished on the losing side — this is not acceptable. India’s phobia of certain conditions like seam, swing, bounce and pace trouble them all the time.
The route was complete that in 24 Tests in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand since the start of 2011, they have only one Test match while losing 17 times. And yet, when a question was posed about the playing XI, the captain rises like Phoenix and showed the cricketing world that they are tigers at home and paper tigers abroad. The team could not last one full day and just needed 50 overs to polish them off. IPL cricket failed to boost our morale; instead we are lambs to the slaughter when we touch a foreign land. The surrender at Centurion is an eye opener and whether we will learn a lesson or still believe on slam bang cricket all the time.
If the Newlands match was a closely-contested thriller, then the Centurion duel was one where South Africa clearly emerged as the superior team. There was only so much that Kohli could single-handedly pull his team out of trouble, and the Indian batting line up once again got horribly exposed once he fell cheaply, with the pitch doing its tricks with its two-paced nature. There are a lot of questions for Kohli to answer when he takes to the mic at the press conference. As far as the Proteas are concerned, they’ve just discovered another gem in their long line of quality quicks, as Ngidi makes a dream Test debut, running through the Indian batting line up in the second innings to walk away with figures of 6/39.
There needs to be an inquisition in this defeat. The pitch wasn’t unplayable. India’s approach needs to be questioned. Did Pujara show too much eagerness to score and was off his game? How about Pandya who was lackadaisical in both innings? And the rest of the batting line-up, barring Virat Kohli, has been very shaky. Shami, Ishant and Ashwin are the only ones to come out of this with their heads held high. But India’s pride as No.1 Test side should be hurt. They have looked like lambs here, not the tigers as they pretend to be at home.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)