The way Team India performed in Johannesburg, there is a need to learn a lesson from it, especially for the Cape Town Test. Indian batsmen were unable to score 300 runs in this test in both the innings. If they had scored 50 to 60 more runs, the story of the match would have been different. Not only this, our bowlers bowled 53 per cent short pitch deliveries. Batsmen get lot of time to spend on the crease because of such deliveries. On the third day when Pujara and Rahane were playing well, the score should have gone up considerably. We should also keep in mind that we are the number one team in the world. The performance of such a team should not fluctuate so much.
The way our bowlers performed in Centurion and KL Rahul scored a century, we should have been aiming for a clean sweep in the series. If Pujara and Rahane scored runs in the second innings at Johannesburg they should have continued for a longer time to get a winning total on the board as they have long experience in Test cricket. The question here is whether they should have been dismissed in that way after scoring half-century. Did the team not expect a bigger innings from them? Anyway, if such an experienced batsman gets so many chances, he will certainly hit a half-century at some point of time despite being out of form, but we follow the same mindset over and over again that with time everything will be fine.
How long will the bowlers cover up for their shortcomings. The truth is that now all I would say about Pujara and Rahane is that the time has come to take tough decisions. Our middle order has been struggling for a long time. For the last several months, our middle order has not scored a century. It was only made by our openers. Due to these shortcomings at Johannesburg, the morale of South Africa’s youth team was very high.
Now with the inclusion of Virat Kohli in the next Test, would it be right to drop a batsman like Hanuma Vihari? I think the team should take a bold decision. Regarding the wicket of Cape Town Test, it is being said that it will be spin friendly. I don’t think it will be that spin friendly. Yes, Ishant Sharma can get a chance in place of injured Siraj but it will depend a lot on how Ishant is bowling at the nets. We should not only strategize against Rabada and Oliver but also keep other bowlers in mind. Only then we can expect a better performance.
The writer is a former Indian wicket-keeper batsman and now a cricket critic.