Australia beat India in a bilateral series in India for the first time in ten years, becoming just the fifth team to come back from 0-2 down to win a series 3-2.
In tennis a bagel is a 6-0 score where a player wins a set without conceding a game.
Cricket almost saw a bagel in the 2018 South Africa-India One Day International (ODI) series where the visitors – led by Virat Kohli – triumphed 5-1. I present to you my SWOT analysis of both sides.
The Top order is indeed India’s greatest strength in ODIs. Virat showed that he is easily the best batsman in the world in this format with an incredible display.
He hit three hundreds, a big 50 and became the first player ever to cross 500 in a bilateral ODI series. Hiss average for the series was an incredible 186.
Shikhar Dhawan left his Test horror behind and played freely in the 50 over format. While Rohit Sharma came good in only one match with a big hundred and had five failures he remains a hit-man in ODI matches and his match-winning ability is such that he will be an automatic opener.
The two spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav too were super and excelled throughout the series barring the truncated game which India lost. Ian Chappell gave them an ultimate complement by comparing them to Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly and Clarrie ‘The Fox’ Grimmett. The duo took as many as 33 wickets at an economy of less than five in a commanding display.
Virat’s captaincy was very good and it is evident that he enjoys leading from the front and the team looks a happy unit with him at helm of affairs with MS Dhoni’s calmness complementing Virat’s exuberance.
Middle order was not up to the mark. Ajinkya Rahane was brought back to the number four position and Shreyas Iyer was tried at 5. They were followed by Hardik Pandya and Dhoni.
However the Indian middle order’s performance by and large did not impress and it more often than not failed to capitalise on the super starts given by the top order. Fielding was another area of weakness with crucial catches being dropped.
The Indian think tank needs a long, close look at improving the aspect.
Under Kohli, the team looks fit and strong. The skipper himself is super fit and he wants to instil that discipline in the rest of his teammates. In this journey, tough decisions need to be taken such as not selecting players who fail the fitness tests and the team management has done exactly that, not hesitating to drop senior players.
The results have been good and this ruthless attitude needs to continue.
The major threat is lack of a finisher, a role that Dhoni used to do so well. Added to it is that with passage of time, Dhoni’s ability with the bat has understandably gone down. His running between the wickets may still be awesome, but does that suffice?
India seriously needs to have a thought about Dhoni’s successor in both ODI as well as the T20 format.
As of now it seems that the team management – as well as Dhoni himself – want him to continue until 2019 and therefore the need is to carve out a role where he can be valuable. Virendra Sehwag says Virat should play Dhoni consistently at Number 4. Would that help?
South Africa is a team which can explode and it is capable of scoring 200 runs in 25 overs. The side’s fielding is top class with the ability to turn a match their way with a brilliant catch or a run out.
If South Africa can explode, they can implode as well. The batting may well be able to score 200 in 25, but they don’t seem to be able to have the ability to last 50 overs, especially if the opposition has quality spinners.
South Africa has a couple of exciting youngsters such as Kagiso Rabada, Adile Phehlukwayo and Heinrich Klaasen who have the potential of doing well on the world stage for some time to come.
Two years back their National Academy coach Shukri Conrad had said Klaasen who was the captain of South Africa’s emerging squad had potential to be ‘South Africa’s Dhoni’. Klaasen indeed showed glimpses of Dhoni’s most well known quality, coolness in the few chances he got.
Lungi Ngidi did well in the Tests and maybe South Africa can play him in ODIs as well, keeping in view that the 2019 World Cup will be at England.
The seemingly strong decision to give captaincy to a young captain Aiden Markram appears to be a hasty one, more due to gut feeling than strong reasoning.
Comparisons were drawn with Graeme Smith but Smith himself says that South Africa could have thought of Hashim Amla or JP Duminy for the first three games and De Villiers after he returned.